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by Dipsophilia's correspondent in Asia, Peter G.
Bangkok, January 7, 2007
Okay, I've been to the beer section in the Emporium, which is as good a marker for the market as any, and have collected a number of brews for comparisons. (Bear in mind, I've been drinking the excellent Beer Lao for a week, and so may be hard to please).
Here's what we have available:
Chang (Elephant) - The standard bearer of bad headaches the nation over. there are now three to choose from (Changs, that is…there are many, many headaches). Light - 4.2% - Comments: why bother? Draught - 5.0%
Comments: softer than the normal Chang. It releases the odd, occasional flatulence of a bubble, but is generally still, holding a nice frothy head for about five minutes, which then breaks down into a still- appetizing surface scum. Regular - 6.4% - Comments: very good bubblosity, with a crisp but short-lived head. A slightly repellent backwash on the palate that goes away if you drink enough. I've had a number of very good evenings drinking this from the back of a pick-up truck with the kitchen staff of my favourite 5 star hotel.
Leo - 5.5% - Comments: Poor head, good bubbles. Again, it's sweet for me, and it tends to come across as mildly bilious. This beer came out (coincidentally?) as Leonardo diCaprio was in Thailand filming The Beach. I don't think I've ever seen anyone drink this of their own free will.
Archa (Horse label) - 5.4% - Comments: general swill, a little on the sweet side for me. Bubbles aren't bad, but head isn't very good. Do you really want head from a horse?…….
Cheers - 5.6% - Comments: Fairly smooth, with a reasonable head. Not memorable, but not unpleasant. Chilled down enough, this would be fine for a lot of Thai dining options.
Thai - 6.5% - Comments: this was brought out in direct competition with Beer Chang for the hardcore market. It tastes like it, too.
Asahi - 5% - Comments: A Japanese "dry" brewed under license. Palatable, and a beer of choice for soi 33. Unfortunately, outside of the Japanese bars and restaurants (and soi 33 - the Dead Artists' Street) it's difficult to find. Crisp, and with that tell-tale dry taste that can help you get over a very hot day.
San Miguel The well respected Filipino is served in three forms: Pale Pilsner - 5% - Comments: A fair Pils. Generic, but it does the job. Not great bubbles, but the head is good enough for a short time. Light - 5% - Comments: They're selling a "light" with the same alcohol content as the regular? Why am I even bothering trying this? Blue Ice - 6.4% - Comments: Didn't this name come from the Zoolander movie? The label is very (any lawyers out there?) reminiscent of Labatt's Ice from Canada, which isn't something I'd want to associate myself with. Obviously, the people brewing San Mig in Pathumthani decided that if Beer Thai was going to go head to head with Chang, they weren't going to miss out on a fight. A fairly leprous head, mottled with a variety of bubble sizes, with inconsistent bubbles being released. the flavour, however, is as advertised, fairly smooth, but with a sodden backdrop of wet flowers.
Heineken - 5% - Comments: your general "as long as it's not Singha, okay" beer. It's a little sour as you take it, and the bubbles die quick. Don't pour this beer, but keep it in the bottle, and it'll get you by. Good bubbles, but no head to speak of.
Tiger - 5% - Comments: again, brewed under license. Good, with a reasonable head, good bubbles, and fairly crisp, but slightly "not there" in your mouth when you take it anything but very cold.
Kloster - 5.2% - Comments: we'd thought that they'd driven a stake through the heart of this veteran of the Thai beer years, but I found bottles of it in the cold section. It's still, well.....Kloster. A slightly different taste from Singha, but it doesn't really do much for me. Perhaps it's a shade more golden, but I could never see the "German style" they claimed.
Singha (pronounced "Sing") - The flagship beer for Thailand, and their ads are very good. I see those scenes of the stockbroker back humping a six pack through the hills, and it almost makes me forget the taste. Regular - 6% - Comments: the first time I tasted this, I was immediately reminded of Egyptian Stella. I may be scarred for life.
Light - 3.5% - Comments: I actually might prefer the taste of this over the regular. Being lighter, it's more watery, but on a hot day, with this served very cold......no, I'd still order a mickey of Maekhong, some coke, and a spritzer of soda.
Beyond the shelves........
You can find this beautiful central European lager dotted about the lower part of Sukhumvit. An excellent beer, with few detractions to speak of. Heck, this passes the "would I drink this warm" test.
I haven’t actually had any of this myself. I’d heard of it, and I did see it on offer in Tokyo Joe’s, but was way too far into the cold sake at that point.
On Tap: - I'm going to avoid the places that provide the standard imports on tap. There's now a good selection of Guiness, Kilkenny (Southpark), and others available across town. I'll concentrate here on locals:
The Londoner - I'm a fan of the cream bitter. I appreciate that it's a compromise bitter between the North and South, so no one's going to be completely happy, but I still like that beer. They also do a good Pils. At happy hour, these are very good value.
Tawan Daeng - good German micro-brew. The beer will come out in these things that look like the old service station gas pumps: a tall cylinder with a spigot at the bottom.
RoadHouse BBQ - Dana has the Strong and the Honey Bee Pils from the people that used to have the Brew House on Sukhumvit, and the Brew House at Don Muang Airport. Okay, technically, it's not brewed on premises, but this is still a good place for a pint.
There used to be a beer called Amarit. I can't recall seeing it since the 80's though.
Also, there was the German brewhouse, Taurus, on soi 24, with a reasonable selection of home brews.
And there was the BrewHouse (BrauHaus?), both the one on Sukhumvit and the one at Don Muang. A half dozen very good beers, and excellent Thai food.
And I noticed today on Silom that the Paulaner that used to be there seems to have passed.
These last lists are very short, and now's the time for everyone out there to chime in with their favourite small brews (and any of the big ones I've missed).