Beware of hitting these beer bottles

By Li Yanhui Source:Global Times Published: 2011-9-21 0:17:00

Police find empty Budweiser and Tsingtao beer bottles waiting to be filled at the Fengtai workshop Monday. Photo: CFP

Fengtai police raided a fake beer-bottling operation in Xiaojing village Monday, and arrested four. 

Officers from Yuegezhuang police station went to the small village workshop after receiving a tip-off, and found many boxes of empty beer bottles, mainly labeled Budweiser, Corona and Carlsberg. Some were labeled as Tsingtao beer.

Four people were found filling 330-milliliter bottles from larger 600-milliliter bottles, all purchased from a beer company in Hebei Province, priced at only one yuan ($0.15) a bottle. 

The fake beer was sold to karaoke clubs (KTV) and bars, according to a Fengtai district public security bureau press release on Tuesday.

The workshop owner, a woman surnamed Wang, bought the bottles from a recycling station. Each box of 24 empty bottles cost 10 yuan and caps cost 700 yuan for 10,000.

Wang, her husband, son and brother all worked filling the bottles, usually managing about 30 boxes a day in the 15-square-meter courtyard. Police discovered 2,184 bottles of fake branded beer, and a further 8,700 empty bottles.

Efforts to reach the Budweiser China sales headquarter in Shanghai failed on Tuesday.

"Fake beer certainly affects our marketing greatly," an employee surnamed Ma with Beijing Dinglixing Trade Company, a major foreign wine agent in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

However, Ma said her company usually chooses their KTV or bar clients very carefully, in a bid not to harm their reputation if the clients sell fake beer. "We could not survive if we fight with the fake beer over prices, so we only keep long-term business with some larger KTVs or bars," she said.

In Sanlitun Bar Street, many bar  goers suspect that some of the cheaper bars are selling fake alcohol. They often sell beer or mixed drinks for less than 10 yuan each.

"It's very hard for people to figure out 100 percent what is fake alcohol," said bar goer Carlos Ottery.

"If the branded Western alcohol is so cheap, you would image it would be very, very difficult for them to use real alcohol," he said. Ottery said he was sure he had inadvertently drunk fake alcohol, and it was extremely difficult to tell if you had been served real beer or spirits.

"Not all the bars in Sanlitun are selling real beer or wine," agreed a bar manager, surnamed He, at Comma Bar on Sanlitun Lu.  

He also claimed that if beer was cheaper in Sanlitun, it was likely to be because import taxes had been evaded, and was therefore cheaper. Bottles of fake beer cost around 10 yuan, He said, but genuine foreign brands cost at least 35 yuan a bottle.

He said customers could distinguish genuine beer from the color, density and the packaging, and claimed more fake beer could be found in the south Sanlitun bar area.

However, Huxley Yuan, who has owned several bars in Beijing in the last decade, and now owns Nanjie in Sanlitun Nanlu, told the Global Times that "fake beer was probably mainly sold to some nightclubs, but not to bars."

"Selling fake beer in the bar is likely to damage its only business, nobody would like to do it," Yuan said. "Selling fake beer also would push out the relatively fewer customers in the south street."

Posted in: Society, Metro Beijing

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