Video #43 | July 5, 2018
In this video I’m going to give my opinions on the controversial subject of the best beer in Thailand.
Click on the following link to check out more on Important Advice For New Visitors.
Welcome to the forty-third video of Bangkok Unmasked! The YouTube channel that helps you get the most out of your visit to Bangkok city! If you’re new here, please consider subscribing! In this video I’m going to give my opinions on the controversial subject of the best beer in Thailand.
Let’s get started!
An emotional topic…
If you get a group of long-term Thailand expats together, they’ll eventually get on the subject of the best beer in Thailand. I’ve participated in this discussion more times than I care to mention over the past 19 years. Contenders are basically all the top selling Thai beers namely; Leo, Chang and Singha. [In that order].
I must state upfront that I’m not a fan of lager. This means that right-off-the-bat I’m never going to fall in love with any of the top selling Thai beers. My opinion is that all the top selling Thai beers taste like ass, and Chang is of note for being particularly nasty. Singha beer is, in my opinion, only popular because it’s usually drunk with very spicy Thai food which means that you can’t properly taste it. I very much doubt that Singha beer would ever be paired in a fine dining restaurant with European cuisine.
Anyway. To give you some background on what’s available in Thailand I’m first going to go through the top selling Thai beers. Then I’m going to talk a little bit about the craft beer market, and why it’s pitiful. Finally I’m going to recommend what you should drink. [Especially if you’re like me, and don’t much care for lager].
Singha [pronounced ‘sing’] is Thailand’s oldest and best-known lager. It’s produced by Boon Rawd Brewery which was started in 1933. You can find Singha in standard [5 percent ABV], light [3.5 percent ABV], and draught versions.
Leo is also produced by the Boon Rawd Brewery. It’s a cheaper version of Singha, and basically a standard lager [5 percent ABV]. Leo is, by quite a margin, the top selling beer in Thailand.
Chang beer is produced by Thai Beverage [better known as Thai Bev]. It’s known globally for its sponsorship of Liverpool’s Everton football club, as its name and logo have appeared on the team uniform since 2004. Interestingly Chang used to be 6.4 percent ABV, but recently it seems that the cans in 7-11 are now 5.2 percent ABV. It’s been a good long time since I last drank Chang, but this beer is well known for resulting in a ‘chang-over’. If you drink this beer to excess, it won’t end well the next day.
As of 2017 Thai Bev started production of Federbräu. More on this beer in a bit.
The other top selling beers…
All the other top selling beers are produced by The Thai Asia Pacific Brewery [also known as The TAPB] at its Nonthaburi plant. The TAPB produces; Heineken, Tiger, Cheers, and Cheers X-Tra. [Cheers X-Tra is a hangover-inducing 6.5 percent ABV]. The TAPB is also the sole importer of Guinness and Kilkenny.
The pitiful craft beer market in Thailand!
If you’re wondering why there are so few Thai craft beers, here’s why. Due to Thailand’s 1950 Liquor Act, only two types of licenses are available for would-be beer producers.
License #1. Beer can be made in a factory that produces more than 1,000,000 liters per year.
License #2. Beer can be made in a brewpub that produces at least 100,000 liters per year. All beer sales must be made on-site, with no bottling permitted. Basically brewpub beers cannot be sold off-premises.
In 2000 the Finance ministry made matters worse by ruling that in order to obtain a license producers must be a limited company with at least 10 million baht of registered capital.
The final nail in the coffin for craft beer producers in Thailand was a law passed by the National Legislative Assembly [NLA] in December 2016. This raised the maximum penalty for illegal production to 100,000 baht or a prison sentence of six months, or both. The maximum fine for selling illegal beer was raised to 50,000 baht.
Small brewers basically have two options; either hire an overseas factory to make the beer, or build a factory abroad on their own. Then they have to import the beer and pay duties of up to 60 percent.
What I drink.
In my opinion there are three drinkable beers in Thailand. At reasonable prices. I’m a big fan of wheat beers which is why the first two are wheat beers.
Best beer in Thailand #1. Kaiserdom
Kaiserdom is produced in Gaustadt, a quarter of Bamberg, Germany. Georg Morg founded the brewery in 1718. Since 1910, it has been managed by the Wörner family. In 1953, they brewed 6,000 hectoliters. Production today is a massive 250,000 hectolitres. The Brauerei Kaiserdom [Imperial Cathedral Brewery in English] is the biggest brewery in Bamberg.
Kaiserdom [thankfully] now seems to be everywhere in Bangkok. All the major supermarkets, and most importantly, 7-Eleven’s sell it! One of the great things about Kaiserdom is that you get 1 liter of amazing tasting beer for around 195 baht. A bargain for Thailand due to the sky high import taxes.
I love, love, love the Kaiserdom Hefeweizen, or wheat beer. That said, Kaiserdom’s current lineup has 5 other different kinds of beer.
Best beer in Thailand #2. Snowy Weizen
Snowy Weizen is a wheat beer produced by Est. 33, a division of the Boon Rawd Brewery [who produce Singha beer]. You can buy 490ml cans of this beer for around 55 baht in 7-Eleven. It’s a 4 percent ABV. Snowy Weizen is a shockingly drinkable wheat beer! I was staggered when I found out that it was brewed by Boon Rawd. Maybe there’s hope for Thailand to produce drinkable beer moving forward?! Note. They import all the main ingredients which might explain why the beer tastes so good.
Best beer in Thailand #3. Federbräu
Apart from Phuket Beer, Federbräu [which is produced by Thai Bev] is the only Thai beer brewed in accordance with the German purification law. The Reinheitsgebot. I suspect that this is one of the key reasons why it’s drinkable! It must be noted that while Federbräu is far better than it’s Thai produced peers, when compared with the best of Europe it’s very far from a good brew!
If I’m at home I’ll pretty much just drink Kaiserdom. Though that said, I’ll buy a few cans of Snowy White every so often.
When out it can be very tricky. If possible I’ll go for Federbräu. This beer though isn’t widely available so plan B is often Heineken. Not a great option, but less worse than Leo, Chang or Singha. Note. Thai produced Heineken doesn’t taste the same as Heineken in the UK and Holland. It’s not nearly as good in my opinion.
Worst case scenario is Singha, though if possible I’d rather go elsewhere that resort to drinking this beer.
If I have to drink Leo, Chang or Singha I’ll do what the Thai do and add ice to it. This takes off the edge, and also minimizes the inevitable hangover.
Anyway, that’s it for this video. Expect a new video next week.
For all you techies out there, this video was shot on a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, and edited using HitFilm Express.
To check out details on arranging a bespoke Bangkok tour with experienced tour guides, please click on the link in this video’s description section.
Finally, please don’t forget to subscribe to this channel through the button below! Also, I’d like to hear from you if you have any thoughts or comments on the best beer in Thailand. Please do reach out to me through the comments section of this video!
Thank you very much for watching. I’ll see you next week. Goodbye.