If you would like to get a stern lecture, tell a drunk Australian that their country makes great beer. Then, cite Fosters — not Little Creatures — as an example of a great Aussie brew. They will inform you that 1) it’s not made in the Down Under, and 2) depending on where you buy a can, the rights are actually owned by Heineken or Miller. Fosters is Aussie in name only. There is a parallel that can be drawn to Changzhou, here.
Tianmu Lake Beer claims to be from Liyang City, which is part of greater Changzhou. The claim is that the beer itself is made from Tianmu’s water. So, while it’s made locally, it does have a claim to being a local beer. However, its actually owned Chongqing Brewery, which was is basically Carlsberg. The Danish brewer bought an ownership stake because it wanted entry into the rapidly growing Chinese beer market. So, Tianmu Lake Beer is NOT locally owned.
There is also nothing unique about Tianmu Lake Beer. It’s bland, it’s watery, and it tastes just like Snow and most other Chinese beers. It comes in with a 2.5% alcohol level, so if you actually drink a bunch of these, you would feel more bloated than drunk. That is likewise true for Snow and a lot of other Chinese beers. They tend to be flavorless. The truth is this: Changzhou recently got a better beer, and it has a greater claim at being truly local.
Riguli is launching a line of craft beers. Right now, they offer an urban wheat beer, and they have IPA coming out very soon. So, what about this wheat beer? Any good? Well, you can easily say it’s 10,000 times better than Tianmu Lake. But then again, every craft beer made in China is better than Tianmu Lake.
The easiest comparison would be to Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale out of Chicago. Both that and Riguli’s 0519 Urban Wheat Beer have a smooth, easy-drinking taste while still maintaining a complex flavor profile. If I was forced to compare the two, Goose Island is still the better beer. Riguli is still very enjoyable. You can draw a very subtle connection between the two by way of labeling and branding. The numbers can be taken as a homage and a nod to Goose Island. In Chicago, 312 is a phone area code. In Changzhou, the area code on landlines would be 0519.
Both beers have another distinction. European wheat beers, especially German ones, have a very powerful taste. Some people, myself included, have developed an aversion to those wheat beers over time. As a flavor, I have found that people either like it or dislike it with no middle ground. Both Riguli and Goose Island does not taste that way, and both are proof that you can’t judge a beer on the word wheat alone.
Since Riguli is still in its launching phase, it does not have wide distribution. Personally, I tend to drink it while at OK Koala in Xinbei. They have a wide and international selection of craft beer. However, since this is China, the easiest way to buy Riguli is through their store on Taobao.com.