Beercation 2012: Thailand Edition

Where in the world was TYIB?

The fourth and final Asian destination was the truly exotic and intoxicating Thailand. Well, those are definitely not words I would use to describe the beers of Thailand. I’ll be honest, beer reviewing (not drinking) took a back seat on this leg of the trip. Time normally spent thinking about the nuances of malts and hops was replaced with endless site visits to temples and pad thai street stalls. Regardless, the following photograph accurately depicts the beer scene in Thailand.

Beer is a relatively modern phenomenon in Thailand. The first brewery, Boon Rawd Brewery, was opened in 1934. This is likely due to the fact that Thailand was the only country in the region not subjected to European colonialism. Boon Rawd, producer of ‘premium’ Singha, ruled the beer market for most of the 20th century, only facing competition from Chang in 1995, the sweetheart of ThaiBev. Boon Rawd also began producing Leo, a ‘non-premium’ and cheaper lager later in the game and ThaiBev countered with its own ‘non-premium’ beer, Archa. While the aforementioned beers are the heavy hitters in Thailand, there are regionally-produced brews as well (which are generally the more interesting ones). For example, Phuket Beer (yes, found in Phuket) is actually brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot (German purity law). Unfortunately for me, I did not travel south and was unable to find Phuket.

There are very few foreign options, as Thailand imposes a heavy duty on foreign imports. As a result, a number of large international beverage companies have made deals with the Thai beverage industry (ahem, ThaiBev and Carlsberg) in order to get in on the beer market.

One country simply cannot be home to both the best food and beer in the world (just look at Germany as an example). Thus, the fate of Thailand’s beer is to be mediocre and flavorless for years to come. Don’t cry over this unfortunate situation; just go to the closest noodle station instead. You’ll forget there was ever a problem in this world.

Beer: Leo
Brewery: Boon Rawd Brewery
Style: Pale Lager
ABV: 5%

A Thai favorite (their website is iloveleo.com), Boon Rawd’s budget beer is not any worse than, let’s say, Milwaukee’s Best or Coors. Like many beers in the region, the body is pale gold and the flavor profile is predominantly corn and grain. The mouthfeel is a little thinner than other Southeast Asian lagers, and actually a bit oily. Despite the adorable leopard on the label, I would not drink this again. It was almost a pour-out, but my hotel room was hot and I forgot to buy water at the nearby 7-11.

Beer: Singha
Brewery: Boon Rawd Brewery
Style: Pale Lager
ABV: 5%

Singha is indisputably the best mass-produced beer in Thailand (sorry, Chang). While it also comes attached to the highest price tag, it’s worth the extra Thai baht. Singha is light, crisp, and is free of any unpleasant aftertastes. There’s actually a trace of hops in there, and it’s not impossible to detect an aroma. However, Singha is best had in Thailand; I purchased a six-pack the other day to indulge in my Southeast Asian nostalgia. The mission was a complete bust, as it didn’t come alongside a carton of mango sticky rice. Also, at the end of the day, it is just a pale lager.


Beer: Chang
Brewery: Cosmos Brewery (ThaiBev)
Style: Pale Lager
ABV: 5.0%

While Singha might be the best beer in Thailand, Chang is the most readily available. I’ll be honest, 90% of the time I drank a cold Chang alongside a large plate of Pad See Ew. This pairing was deceptive: I was convinced that Chang was best beer I’d have ever tried. However, the illusion was shattered when I went to a bar and ordered a Chang sans noodles. Turns out, Chang tastes like water and sweet corn. It does have an exceptional mouthfeel, but it fails every other “premium quality beer” test.

All in all, do not go to Thailand for the beer. I can give you a hundred other reasons to go…just try to sneak an IPA or Tripel in your suitcase.

TYIB, exploring mediocre lagers, one beer at a time.

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: