Wednesday, May 21, 2008

In search of.... the Yanjing Brewery

Today I fulfilled a long-held ambition to visit the home of my regular tipple, Yanjing Beer. Their rather grandiose headquarters (below) is an hour or so outside of Beijing, and I took a mini-bus trip out there with a friend this morning.

It was a little worrying that our driver clearly had no idea at all where the place was. He seemed to take a wrong turning at almost every opportunity, even leading us irrelevantly out to Terminal 2 of Beijing airport at one point. It wasn't an encouraging sign that, having picked us up at 8.30am outside The Den, he immediately turned left towards the 2nd Ringroad rather than right towards the 3rd..... and it just seemed to get worse from there. At one point, as we realised we were getting near because of the increasing frequency of beer lorries on the road, I suggested simply following one of these. However, our driver insisted on continuing to try to follow his instincts, with the result that we drove around in circles for a bit longer. Even when we finally got there, he managed to drive right past the main gate, and had to execute one last U-turn in the middle of the road (there had been many by this point). Rather a stressful start to the day.

And I hadn't been completely confident that our excursion would be allowed to go ahead. This was the last of the three days of national mourning the government has decreed to honour the Sichuan earthquake victims, and all forms of "public entertainment" have been suspended. The flags flying at half-mast outside the brewery headquarters were a sombre reminder of this.

It's an awesome spectacle, though. I visited the Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado a few years ago, and I seem to remember that that boasted of being the world's largest single site brewery, or one of them. I think the Yanjing HQ must be even bigger (though perhaps it's not all devoted to brewing beer; in recent years they have been diversifying more and more, entering into the bottled water and soft drinks markets as well) - as evidenced by the funky model of the site below. It is pretty much a self-contained city, with its own full-sized football pitch, and several tennis and basketball courts.

It's all very gleaming and modern (I wonder what I would have seen if I'd managed to come, as I first planned to, 5 or 6 years ago) and highly automated. There are hardly any people to be seen at all. And those that there are (like this poor guy) look severely underoccupied and extravagantly bored.

This is the very high-tech control room, definitely like something out of a Bond villain's lair.

And the man in charge of it all, almost comatose with boredom and not looking as if he has a clue what any of the switches do, is irresistibly reminiscent of Homer Simpson!

Thanks, by the way, to Tracy of the Ambassador Mandarin school for organising this. She has several other out-of-town excursions in the offing. A visit to one of China's largest steel plants sounded particularly interesting (although it is shortly to be relocated further away from the city, so the current site will probably start decommissioning soon; we're hoping we might be able to catch it still in operation if we can go in the next 3 or 4 weeks). And there was some talk of an ice cream factory too. What's that, Homer?
Hmmm, ice cream!


The British Cowboy said...

Will it be a gay steelworks?

This message brought to you by the Gay Steelworkers of America. Keep Chasing That Rainbow!

Froog said...

Well,since China is The Gayest Country In The World, I think it's highly possible. I doubt if they'll have choreographed musical numbers, though. But you never know. I'll keep you posted.

Froog said...

During this trip, I was frequently reminded of the Frank Scorpio episode.