Cheers to CHEERS: Wine Shop Chain Celebrates Fourth Birthday Tonight

cheers fourth year anniversary

Cheers to CHEERS! This chain of wine stores will celebrate its fourth anniversary on Saturday night at its Gulou outlet. Since opening its first store, CHEERS has grown to more than a dozen outlets in Beijing, expanded last year to Chengdu and will soon open in Shanghai. Get your party ticket for rmb20 from one of the CHEERS shops or for rmb30 at the door tomorrow night. The party starts at 8 PM and includes free sparkling wine.

Check here for the address and directions.

IV is VI: The Irish Volunteer Turns Six This Weekend

first charity corntoss cornhole bean bag tournament beijing china at irish volunteer hockey bar (4)

It’s been called everything from the “best local in Beijing” to the “home of Canadian Pizza” to the “site of the most ferociously and valiantly fought corn hole tournaments ever held in China”. It’s The Irish Volunteer and it’s celebrating six years in business with a weekend of fun and games.

An extended happy hour starts on Friday afternoon (today) at 3 PM (now) and goes all the way until The IV closes on Sunday night.

Friday also features an NHL PS4 tournament at sibling The Hockey Bar next door. Sign up your two-player team by emailing Conor at conorsmith21 (at) gmail.com.

Saturday afternoon includes a full slate of activities, including:

  • Corn Hole (2 PM). Enjoy a sport that combines the accuracy of lawn darts and the excitement of curling. Seriously, this is addictive. Sign up your two-member team by emailing Trish at trishsmithus (at) gmail.com.
  • Beer Pong (3 PM). Do you like to drink beer? Do you like to bounce ping pong balls? Can you do both in a single afternoon? This game is for you!
  • Sjoelan (3 PM). A game of precision that also goes by the name “Dutch Shuffleboard”. More here.

There will also be a Power Hour on Saturday, from 1 PM to 2 PM, with TsingTao beers and Penalty Shots at rmb6 each.

Finally, on Sunday, catch NHL playoff games in the morning and play Blackjack in the afternoon from 2 PM.

And if even activities sound like too much, do what I usually do at The IV, which is grab a drink and a seat by the window and chat with fellow pub goers while watching both the fun inside and life going by outside. That atmosphere is what makes The IV such a good local.

The Irish Volunteer is on Jiangtai Lu, close to Metropark Lido Hotel Beijing.

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Merrett points: Deep-fried baijiu experiments at Jing-A

Deep-fried baijiu with Dustin Merrett of Windy City at Jing-A Taproom Beijing China.jpg

Deep-fried baijiu might sound weird, gross and even dangerous to some but it tastes pretty good, at least that’s what we discovered during a tasting session led by Windy City chef Dustin Merrett at Jing-A Taproom this morning. In short, after amassing an armada of baijius, some slabs of roulade (think: angel’s food cake) and a few toppings like whipped cream and blueberries, Merrett went wild in the kitchen and deep-fried three kinds of baijiu, a Bourbon, a tequila and a beer, thus following up on this earlier baijiu experiment.

The recipe is the same in each case. Cut the roulade into one-inch cubes, soak them with booze until they’re dripping wet, and pop them into a deep fryer (Merrett said the one at Jing-A was 190 degrees and he figures results would be even better in the 220-degree to 250-degree range). Wait until the sides are golden brown, then remove the cubes,, sprinkle them with icing sugar, and top with any other ingredients you wish (like whipped cream).

Baijiu is quite pungent and turns many people off. I was surprised at how deep-frying tamed the smell and taste without masking the essence of the alcohol. I found the Xiaohutuxian smelled savory and a bit like sesame sauce and tropical fruit. I felt those elements came through in the deep-fried squares, with a slight pineapple cake effect. It turned out to be the favorite deep-fried baijiu.

This obviously calls for more experiments, including playing with different alcohol grades (we had everything from 35 percent to 67 percent on the table and didn’t use them all) and toppings (it would be fun to try some jams, fruits like hawthorne and pomelo, maybe even some local honey). All in all, a fun way to spend a morning.

(By the way, the deep-fried Bourbon was rich and flavorful, and the tequila was okay, too. Someone needs to try rum, schnapps and other booze!)

Note: Thanks to the team at Jing-A Taproom, which will make a “qu brew” for World Baijiu Day this August, to Steve Schwankert and Richard Ammerman for being tasters, to Mariano Larrain at La Cava for providing one of the baijius, to Stefan Schmid at Q-Mex for a last-minute icing sugar donation, to Mike Signorelli of Sig Wines for sending me the post about deep-fried tequila that spurred this idea, and to Dustin Merritt for making the roulade, trucking it and a bunch of other stuff to Jing-A, and going on a deep-frying frenzy. More details on this session and other foods using baijiu will appear in the next The Beijinger.

(Follow World Baiju Day on Facebook here or Twitter here.)

Deep thoughts: Table legs and candy bars, chewing gum and Chinese booze

deep thoughts wine

Sometimes deep thoughts keep me awake at night.

Like, if people in Guangzhou will eat anything with four legs except tables and chairs, as the saying goes, why haven’t more pigs and cows grown a fifth limb? And is this proof the theory of evolution is flawed?

Or, could we somehow combine the properties of cocoa and baijiu to create a candy bar that makes burps taste like chocolate for three days?

Or, what is the market potential for a chuanr-flavored chewing gum? Would it need to include meat? Should it come on a tiny stick?

My current deep thought is less profound: Why are so many China wine distributors unresponsive about issues they claim are urgent?

Case in point: Wine distributors tell me all the time they need more clients. But when I share contact details for a new bar or restaurant, these same companies fail to follow up more than half of the time.

You know who does follow up? That new bar or restaurant. The owner usually calls and asks why I didn’t give his or her details to any wine distributors, and that puts me in the painful position of apologizing.

It’s the same with Chinese wines. I often hear distributors say they need a local wine in their portfolio or, with a sigh after a tasting, that they wish they could stock this or that Chinese wine just tried. Connecting them to the winery usually ends the same as connecting them to a new bar or restaurant: no result.

A stunning example happened two months ago. A distributor held a tasting that included samples from a Chinese winery in which I played the middleman. To hear the owner, as I stood beside him, tell customers “it took a lot of time to track down these wines” was galling.

That was harsh. Because it didn’t take him any time. After a tasting, during which he lamented about the difficulty in getting Chinese wines, I connected him to the winery owner. I then followed up several times with nudges to both sides. Four months later, that tasting finally happened. Six months later, the wines are still not in the portfolio. And these are wines with which I have done over a dozen tastings and have had people ask where to buy them.

Anyway, that’s the deep thought at the moment. And I feel another one coming on, one that might solve the issue at hand. More on that in the morning…

Sips & Bites: National Beer Day at Corner Melt, plus Tavalin, La Cava, Grand Hyatt

National Beer Day in the United States is April 7 and you can mark it here in China at The Corner Melt. The first 50 customers who wish the staff “Happy National Beer Day” get a free Pabst Blue Ribbon. The cans will be labeled with the shape of one of the fifty states. Guess the state and win a prize! Another PRB? You’ll have to see for yourself. (By the way, these beers are just the chasers for World Baijiu Day!)

La Cava de Laoma wine shop in Sanlitun Soho can be so much fun. On Sunday, the staff hid corks around Soho, Easter-egg style, and those who found them were rewarded with wine. On top of this, we held a dual organic Australian wine / baijiu-based liqueurs tasting while 30 other customers popped open bottles. I often describe La Cava as the United Nations and it felt like it Sunday as I drank with people from Australia, New Zealand, The United States, Uganda, Germany, China and Chile. It’s not always this busy on weekends but this place is fun when it draws a crowd. Plus bottles of wine start from rmb50.

The new Tavalin is now open and the bagels are as tasty as ever. Even better, the place still had “everything” bagels in stock when I visited last Friday. They are still rmb12 each, with or without butter, and the small patio out front is a nice place on which to relax and enjoy your baked goods. You can find the new shop just around the corner from the old one, in that alley beside Revolution Bar.

Former owner Julian Tavalin sent a message to approximately 700 of his closest friends — kindly copying all of their email address into the CC field rather than the BCC one — to say he is no longer involved but happy that former staff members Hanbing and Xiaochao have taken over, with baker Xiaozhuan handling the kitchen duties. He says the website will soon be back online and that delivery is now available. Did I mention he put copied 7 million email addresses in the CC field?

Finally, and also in wine news, the Grand Hyatt will host a dinner on April 7 with wines from Ningxia operation Helan Qing Xue. This winery gained worldwide attention in 2011 when it became the first from China to win an “international trophy” at the World Wine Awards. Try that winning wine and four others with winemakers Zhang Jing for rmb675. More details in the flier below.

JBL Wine Dinner @ Grand Hyatt BJ_588-01 (1)