The scent of freshly grilled seafood and sizzling sausages wafts through the air, mingling with the unmistakable aroma of hops and malt and whetting the appetites of thousands of revelers at the annual Qingdao International Beer Festival.
Ranked among the four largest beer festivals in the world, alongside Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, this feast for the senses is now taking place in the coastal city of Qingdao, East China's Shandong province.
Since its inception in 1991, the festival has evolved into one of the biggest events in the city's calendar. The festival, now in its 33rd edition, is being held in the Qingdao West Coast New Area, where rows upon rows of beer tents are pitched along a pristine beach and decorated with intricate designs honoring both traditional Chinese culture and brewing heritage.
A delegation of expats from five countries, including the United States, Canada, Italy and Bangladesh, joined in the festivities on July 27, indulging in a wide range of beer offerings and enjoying a myriad of live performances.
Douglas Dueno, a foreign expert at the China Daily Website, expressed his delight at being able to attend the celebrations.
"It's amazing to be here at the extraordinary Qingdao International Beer Festival. Tsingtao Beer is a world-renowned beer, not only in China but in the US where I'm from. As an expat working in China, I love it," he said.
Dueno spoke highly of the commitment of the local government to make the event a success, noting that it is "extremely well organized".
Beyond enjoying the beer festival, the group of expats embarked on a journey to learn more about the Qingdao West Coast New Area from July 27 to 28.
Their journey began with a visit to a development and planning exhibition center that offered them a comprehensive overview of the area.
Inaugurated in June 2014 as a national-level new area, the Qingdao West Coast New Area is located on the western shore of Jiaozhou Bay and faces Japan and South Korea across the sea. In 2022, the area's gross domestic product (GDP) amounted to nearly 469.19 billion yuan ($65.63 billion), accounting for 31.45 percent of Qingdao's total.
The group's trip saw them visit the China Movie Metropolis (CMM), a testament to Qingdao's emergence as a national hub for the cinematic arts. Covering a vast area of 3.76 million square meters, which is equivalent to the size of 500 soccer fields, this expansive movie and TV production industrial park boasts 40 studios, including the world's largest 10,000-square-meter studio and an underwater studio. Blockbuster films such as The Wandering Earth I&II, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Pacific Rim: Uprising were filmed in this impressive facility.
Immersed in a creative space where artistry intertwines with business, expats like Angela Patterson, an American who currently teaches at the International School of Qingdao, were enthralled by the cutting-edge infrastructure and facilities.
"CMM absolutely reminds me of Hollywood in the US! The things that impressed me most were the facilities, the size of which are so large, the professionalism of the individuals working within, and the quality of work that they are able to produce," she said.
The group also had the chance to explore the Qingdao West Coast New Area's other pillar industries like shipping and aquaculture. For example, they visited Qingdao Port before heading to Qingdao Bright Moon Seaweed Group and the Luhaifeng Marine Ranch to discover the region's aquatic wonders. There, they were captivated by Asia's first fully automated container terminal powered by hydrogen and 5G networks.
The sprawling Qingdao Port handled 687 million metric tons of cargo and 26.82 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), the fourth and fifth highest in the world respectively, in 2022.
Dean Munk, a Canadian who once worked in Qingdao, said he was amazed at the high level of automation at the port.
"Looking at how the containers are moved and how massive ships are unloaded at port is truly mind-boggling," he said.
"I first came to Qingdao West Coast New Area about six years ago, and it's amazing to see today how quickly it has developed. It's so modern now."
Some of his companions during the trip even compared the area to the iconic US West Coast, given its robust economy, thriving film industry, bustling ports, and booming tourism sector which has been bolstered by unspoiled coastal views and rich beer heritage.
"The similarities between the two places lie in the excitement and energy of the seaside. They both offer a harmonious blend of urban convenience and seaside relaxation," said Patterson.
Echoing her sentiments, Karen Anderson, Patterson's colleague from the US, said, "I love both the west coasts of the US and Qingdao. The weather in Qingdao is absolutely splendid, and the breathtaking beauty of the ocean here is reminiscent of Southern California."