Thailand’s Beer: What Are You Drinking?

With Bangkok’s hot and sticky climate one can be excused for enjoying an ice cold beer at the end of a hot and hectic day at the office.

But which beer should we choose to consume?

Should we add ice, and what chemicals can we expect to be digesting with our next glass of liquid gold?

The problem is that the more I drink Thai beer the next day I feel that I am being punished for a crime worse than drinking Thai beer. The headaches acquired from a good session of Leo or Chang seem unfair. Of course the conspiracy theories abound, my favorite being the use of embalming fluids to sterilize our sacred brews.

A good session on European lager or London ales will not hammer you quite like Thai beer does. Why is this? Is there a way to escape these beer relentless headaches? Should I just quit the beer and nourish myself on sin tax-levied soda pop instead?

Below I walk you through the various beers brewed in Thailand and how they stack up against one another.

thailand beer

By Maria Eklind (Creative Commons)

My first introduction to beer in Thailand came in the shape of Singha; I tried it a Thai restaurant back in my home town. Singha is a bitter lager and one that I’d reserve for emergencies. It isn’t really the type of beer you could drink every day. There is just something not quite right about it, but if you like your beer or lager with a bite to it, Singha may be the beer for you.

Heineken I drank for years in Thailand thinking that it was somehow better quality than the local brands owing to the European label.

But don’t be fooled.

I’ve drunk Heineken in Amsterdam, the foamy head of the beer sliced away from the glass by a buxom blonde with a lollypop stick. What is served in Thailand may seem safe, but it is ultimately tasteless and boring and I didn’t come to Thailand for tasteless boredom.

You are in better hands with Leo. It has a distinctive taste, it is rather strong, and it delivers the drinker to oblivion without the detours associated with the so called premium brands.

thailand beer chang

By Mark Fischer (Creative Commons)

The hangover factor is high with Leo and it seems to have overtaken Chang as the beer mostly likely to bite back in the morning.

A tale of two Changs. The old Chang didn’t mess about. Two or three of those bad boys and hell knows what will happen. I’ve had hangovers so bad with Chang that it has felt like my hangover has a hangover.

You ever woken up with the feeling that your head is inside a vice? That’ll be the Chang.

I’ve apologized to people I’ve never met for doing things I’ve never done after a session with the old Chang. So it came as a complete surprise when Chang rebranded itself as a drinkable, sweet but tasty, hangover-free beer. Chang is finding itself now in a position it has never held before – perhaps the finest beer in the country.

Carlsberg: see Heineken.

Tiger is a popular pub pint option. The quality is usually good, the beer has a reasonably good taste and the price point is affordable. Tiger, brewed under license, has never made a big splash with the local beer drinkers, but is well represented in the expat bars.

The Tiger Light brand is popular, with a high water content, and a good option if out for a late night.

San Miguel has been with us a while. The Light version is also a popular clubbers and long distance drinkers drink. Tiger Light is pretty much the same ball game as San Miguel Light, both are a good choice for the lightweight drinker.

The regular non light San Miguel is a good drop if you can find it in the large bottles. Recommended.

Phuket beer is a rare visitor to the bar shelves here in Bangkok but it can be found at some retailers. The brew is lively, fruity, and more than drinkable.

Think of it as an exotic beer to be sipped on the beaches of Kata rather than gulped down on the steps of 7-Eleven in Phra Khanong.

New kid in town is Cheers. Three types are up for grabs: blue classic, a darker beer called Riceberry and the super strength Cheers Extra that rivals Carlsberg special brew or Super Tenants on the rock-bottom-might-as well-get-smashed-and-look-at-the-moon-from-the-balcony-potency-level.

Cheers Extra, which has recently reduced its potency levels to a pedestrian 6% from 8%, is still a raging bull and I advise you, gentle readers, don’t take it by the horns.

Last but not least in the Cheers catalog sits my new temporary favorite Thai beer. All hail the Cheers Riceberry, it comes in a brown can, and is appearing at a 7 near you soon.

For some reason Cheers doesn’t furnish me with the hangover that other beers do and what makes things just awesome is that the Cheers Riceberry is a dark beer — anyone who has tried Beer Lao Dark knows that that isn’t a bad thing.

It tastes kind of watery, but what the hell, it’s a dark beer and it delivers no hangover. Where do I sign?


Featured image by Gemma Amor (Creative Commons)



About Author

A writer of several stories and film scripts, James is currently experiencing a midlife crisis and producing an acid folk concept album to prove it. He's also the author of crime noir book Fun City Punch. Read his blog and follow him on Twitter.

Comments are closed.