History of Tsingtao Beer


Tsingtao (pronounced as “Ching-Dao”) Beer is one of the oldest existing beer brands in China, and currently holds the position of being the top-selling Chinese beer in the United States. Its past is also interesting and it will be worth your time to read about it. The beer brand’s history may be paralleled to the formation of modern-day China.

Facts About Qingdao

  • The coastal city has a population of 8 million and is a popular tourist destination for its seascapes, beaches, sailing, and seafood. The city name Qingdao in Chinese means “azure island.” Qingdao is famous for its Tsingtao beer and its flavorful seafood: catfish, abalone, conch, clams, oysters, squid, shrimp, crab dishes, and more. With its fresh taste and unique flavor, Qingdao seafood is popular with locals and tourists. 
  • Qingdao was the only German colony in the Far East. Even today, China’s big cities still show traces of the German colonial era. In 1897, the German government, ambitious in the region, sent troops to occupy Qingdao. The following year, the Chinese government was forced to pay reparations and lease railways and mining rights in Jiaozhou Bay and its surrounding areas, Shandong Province, to Germany for 99 years. Qingdao was declared a free port in 1899, and modern port facilities were installed. In 1904, the railway to Jinan was built. 
  • In 1984, Qingdao was named one of China’s “open” cities as part of a new policy to attract foreign investment. The highway surrounding Jiaozhou Bay connects the city with other routes connecting Jinan to the west and Yantai and Weihai to the northeast. Since then, the city has experienced rapid economic development. The region’s economic and high-tech development zone is located on the west bank of Jiaozhou Bay, facing central Qingdao. Prominent companies headquartered in the city, such as the Haier Group, enjoy respect at home and abroad. It is home to multinational electronics companies such as Haier and Hisense. Qingdao ranked 47th in the 2020 Global Financial Centers Index and continues to boost its economic growth, focusing on different industries.

Tsingtao Beer’s maker, the Tsingtao Brewery Company Limited, is located in the city of Qingdao in the province of Shandong, east of China – also the birthplace of Tsingtao whose name is derived from that city.

The Chinese beer brand in fact has colonial roots. In 1903, a group of entrepreneurs/beermakers from Germany and Great Britain settled in Qingdao, where they founded Tsingtao Brewery. They brought all the equipment and raw materials from their home countries to Qingdao and there they continued to brew their beer in the European way. The only Chinese component of the beer was the pure, fresh water that came from the Laoshan Mountain; this still applies today, but only in the city of Qingdao and not in Tsingtao’s other affiliated breweries. The first Tsingtao beer was served in December 1904.

During the First World War, Japan seized China from Germany, as the two countries were opponents. So in effect, the Japanese took control of Tsingtao from the Germans as well. You may take note that China had been also a part of the Japanese Empire until after the Second World War, when Japan surrendered to the Allied powers and their plans to further invade China went into a cloud of smoke, so to speak.

Becoming a state enterprise, and then a privatized company again

For a time, Tsingtao went into the hands of the Tsui family who controlled the company. But this won’t be around too long as the People’s Republic Of China was established in 1949. Under the new Communist rule, all of the privately-owned firms, including Tsingtao, would become state-owned enterprises.


Tsingtao became a privatized company once more during the early 1990s, with the formation of Tsingtao Brewery Company Ltd.; being the result of the mergers between Tsingtao and three other breweries in Qingdao. It launched its initial public offering to Hong Kong Stock Exchange that same year. Despite the rising prices in raw materials that the brewery used in making its famous beer, Tsingtao nevertheless saw significant profits during the first half in 1994 due to the increasing overseas sales, as beer enthusiasts outside of China recognized Tsingtao as one of the trusted Chinese beer brands.

By 1999, Tsingtao was producing over a million tons of beer. As the 21st century loomed, China entered into the World Trade Organization, which further opened doors to Tsingtao as it had already been competing in the beer world markets. Since 1993, Tsingtao has been launching aggressive marketing and promoting the brand, as well as legally winning trademark battles against some competitors who stole and imitated the Tsingtao brand.

Tsingtao’s flagship brew is the Tsingtao Beer – a pilsner which is also a type of lager. It accounts for most of the brewery’s production as well as profits. Its other product is the Tsingtao Pure Draft, which is a light-tasting beverage.

With its rich company history and the past lessons, Tsingtao Brewery is continuing its success, having achieved its goal as one of the top beers in China as well as its standing as one of the most well-favored beers around the world.

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