This is the story of how my friend Ossie and I - possibly - became the marketing face of a Shandong based beer company. The events in question took place at the Tianjin beer festival, where we consumed a frightening amount and an impressive variety of Chinese beer. They culminated with me half on my couch and half face down on my living room floor. Therefore, my recollections are a little hazy.
Things began with us sitting on shaky plastic tools around a rickety picnic table tucking into bottles of Tsingtao and enjoying a few plates of various snacks. Away to our left was a giant stage with a team of dancing girls strutting their stuff to some impossibly loud dance music. For a while, this seemed like all we would need for a very enjoyable evening. However, as the Tsingtao's began to disappear with alarming regularity, we began to hanker after something a little different. After all, Tsingtao was our brew of choice on most normal evenings. We decided that we would go in search of something different.
At first, our search proved relatively fruitless. All we could unearth was a meager selection of well-known foreign beers and the standard Chinese offerings - Tsingtao, Kingway and Snow. We were about to give up and make our way back to our table when we happened on a area of tables surrounded by unfamiliar logos. We decided to peak inside and see what was on offer. Bottles of a beer we did not recognize were a very respectable 8rmb. So, we decided to take the weight off our feet and enjoy a couple.
As we took a few sips, a young Chinese woman who spoke good English came over and asked if she could introduce us to the owner of the company. "Sure" we replied. A few minutes later, a large and rather rotund gentleman arrived at the table carrying a case of beer and a camera. He thrust the beers into our hands - not an unwelcome gesture at that stage of the evening -and slapped us heartily on the back. We chugged away on the beers communicating via the young lady, who turned out to be the company's marketing manager.
After we had polished off the third beer, the owner suggested a photo. So, we staggered to our feet struck a pose either side of his rotund frame. I have not seen copies of the photos. However, after the amount of beer we had consumed, I cannot imagine we looked too great. After the marketing manager had snapped a couple of pics we sat down once again and went back to our chilled bottles. But, the woman did not stop taking pictures, At first, this did not bother us. We were chugging away on free beers so few things could possibly have bothered us. Yet, eventually, after what felt like the fiftieth shot, I felt compelled to ask why she was taking so many pictures
"Oh", she exclaimed. "We cannot afford to get a celebrity to advertise the beer. So, we thought the next best things would be to have two handsome westerners to use on our pictures. Do you mind?" For a few seconds, things did not compute. Firstly neither Oz and I are what you would describe as handsome. Secondly, we were astonished at their plan. We were not sure whether we should agree to their slightly outrageous scheme. However, we were swayed by the arrival of another tray of ice cold free beer.
Sadly, neither of us have ever been to Shandong to see if we actually are the stars of the marketing campaign. I would like to think, though, that I have tempted a few Chinese guys to open a cold bottle of whatever beer it was.