Tag Archives: Beer

Thailand’s underground home brew & microbrew craft beer scene

Coconuts Bangkok just published this excellent video on the underground and illegal craft beer home brewing scene in Thailand. This is something that I investigated, but never got into due to the dubious legal situation with brewing beer yourself (Especially as a foreigner) and importing hops from overseas. The team at Coconuts Bangkok did a great job in explaining the situation, and profiling some local brewers.

While the fine is small (only 200 baht for brewing), there is a potential 6 month jail term if you sell home brew – a penalty that puts many home brewers off even trying, or at least keeps the practise underground.  There are however a few new home brew or craft beer collectives popping up over the place – though officially they don’t sell beer to the public, unofficially however – you’ll have to try your luck.

I never spotted these when I was living in Thailand, only hearing rumours of them and the odd Facebook post of someone brewing on their roof in Bangkok.  Instead I settled on the wide range of imported beer that was popping up in bars around Bangkok.

Brewers profiled include:

Team Alpha Brewing (Location Unknown – Bangkok):

Established in September 2013 according to their Facebook page. These guys are brewing a few different beers at the moment “Bangkok Sunburn” and “Single But Unavailable” both APA style beers. They are currently working on a new brew “Lion Funeral” which should be ready about now. These beers aren’t available for sale, you’ll have to get in touch with them via Facebook, convince them that you are a home brewer and earn their trust.

Team ALpha Brewing BKK

Chit Beer (Ko Kret, Nonthaburi)

These guys are interesting as they appear to brewing very openly, serving their beer in a retail bar and selling it to the general public. They are located on the small (2km by 1km) island of Ko Kret which is actually on the Chao Praya river in Nonthaburi, 20km north of Bangkok. You can find out how to get to the island on this blog.  They appear to brew the largest range of styles in Thailand.

Chit Beer appear to be brewing a wide range of beers as well as operating a shop where you can purchase home brewing kits and supplies. Their beer styles include include an Amber Ale, Porter, IPA, Stone IPA (is this a clone of the famous San Diego beer?), American Wheat, Stout, Wisen, Kolsch, Pilsner, Vienna Lager, Dunkel Munich Lager, Chrysanthemum Ale (an APA), Pandanus Ale and even a seasonable Pumpkin ale!  They are serious about brewing, even teaching the locals how to make their own beers with specialist home brewing classes.

Chit Beer

Sandport Beer (Location Unknown – Bangkok)

Another one that I had not heard of until this short documentary. Formed in 2014 Sandport appears to be more a club of mates brewing for themselves, and sharing their creations at the odd party, clandestine event and pop up shop.

They’ve got a few different beers on the go, including Broken Sword Red Ale & Bang Bang IPA in bottles as well as Rah IPA and Wheat Boom White Ale.

Who else is out there?

Do you know of any more home breweries or bars selling locally produced craft beer in Thailand? Add them in the comments!

House of Beers – Loads of Choice For Sukhumvit Beer Lovers

We ended up at House of Beers quite by accident.  Sarah had wanted to check out Wine Connection’s free flow Wednesday, and had just picked up her Burmese Visa so was in the area.

We’d come in via the BTS, had purchased our ticket (Wine Connection is limited to 250 people) early and had an hour or so to kill.  Walking upstairs for something to do we spotted HOBs and walked in for a bar snack.

I hadn’t heard of the place before, and was impressed the minute I saw the fridge – full of imported beers from Belgium and beyond.

The Beers

House of Beers carries a wide range of beers from various breweries that are now being imported into Thailand including BrewDog, St. Bernardus, Chapeau and Krombacher.

If you’ve read any of my previous beer related posts, you’ll be aware that I’m a beer drinker who loves IPAs and beers with high IBUs while Sarah isn’t too much of a beer drinker, but is partial to Lambic fruit beers and a crisp lager. HOBS6 I grabbed a Brew Dog Hardcore IPA, while Sarah got herself a Chapeau Pêche Lambic BeerHOBS4 Followed by a Mikkeller The American Dream lager which was perfect in the hot Bangkok afternoon sun. HOBS3 Sarah grabbed herself a Krombacher Radler, which while too sweet and weak for me, was a nice and refreshing primer before we went downstairs for Wine Republic’s all you can drink free flow event. HOBS22 and a half hours of wine and we were ready to go back to the beers (I’m not a wine drinker after all), with a couple of new friends we’d met downstairs, they tried Lambics and Brewdog’s Punk IPA while I tried the Tokyo, which unfortunately just wasn’t my think and ended up getting ditched, a reminder of why I stick with the IPAs.

Beers ranged in price from around 195-430 Baht depending on the beer, with the Brewdog beers being at the top end of the scale.

The Food

The food menu is mainly bar snacks and pub grub, we weren’t really looking for too much with the all you can drink/eat downstairs later on, but grabbed the cheesy fries which were tasty, but quite pricy at 195 Baht.HOBS5

All in all, I like the place – its a little pricy, but you get a wide selection of imported beers (which a considerably amount of their cost is excise taxes) and its a really nice atmosphere.  They didn’t appear to have any proper vegetarian meal options, so that would be a nice addition to keep Sarah happy – I’m pretty sure we’ll be back again if we are in the area.

You are charged a 10% surcharge in addition to the standard 7% VAT which seems to be a habit in many of the hi-so type Bangkok bars (Wine Connection downstairs does it, so does Brew – I think the only place that doesn’t at the moment is Mikkeller Bangkok, which actually has the best service out of any place I’ve been to!), which quite frankly is silly considering that you are merely paying a 10% premium on a beer for them to open it with a bottle opener – then again, this seems to be the norm in Bangkok nowadays.  Bars should either give additional service to justify the surcharge or include it in the cost of what they are selling – I have no problem with tipping if I receive good service, but having it forced upon you is a bit strange for a kiwi.

How To Find House of Beers (HOBs)

Take the BTS and get off at either Thonglor or Phrom Phong stations then walk towards Soi 47 (which is roughly in the middle of the two stations), you’ll find it above Wine Connection in the Rain Hill Plaza.

Rain Hill Plaza, Soi 47 Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok

Brew on Thonglor – Beer, Beer and more Beer (Did I mention BEER!)

Brew, located in the Scene Space on busy Thonglor 13 is host to the largest collection of imported and craft beers in Thailand.  Stocking both big name foreign brands on tap and a wide range of microbrewery beers in bottles –  its one of my favourite places to spend way too much money on a night out.

Brew 1

Its the third time I’ve visited and I’ve always walked away with a full belly and am empty wallet, but I simply love the place. Beers generally range in the 200 Baht-350 Baht range for most imported beers, with Brew Dog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin at a whopping 5500 baht, but you get what you pay for – this isn’t cheap Thai piss water, its the real deal.

When you consider that about half of the price is excise taxes thanks to the massive protectionism here for local breweries – pricing isn’t really that expensive.  A 7% Service charge is added on top of the bill in addition to menu prices.

We ended up ordering:

Sarah isn’t much of a beer drinker so loved the peach beer, a Belgian Lambic style fruit beer (declaring it the best beer she’s had) while I found the Dai Dai IPA a little bland and more of a day time beer (I’m used to really hoppy IPAs with a high IBU) and the Brew Dog Punk IPA just fine.

Food is great, but as per usual for Bangkok beer type places, there aren’t really any real vegetarian meal options (chips and salad are not a meal) and even the salad came with Bacon (which I was able to eat).  Chris if you are reading this, add a vegetarian meal option to the menu so Sarah lets me come back for more!

Brew 3

3 Imported Beers,  Sausages, Garlic Bread and a Caesars Salad came to approximately 1400 Baht.  There would have been some potato sides but due to Scene Space exploding in popularity with local hi-so Thais Brew was absolutely rammed – not a single spare seat.

Brew 2

With all the orders the staff forgot to cook my dish, or at least weren’t planning on bringing it out until half an hour after we’d finished everything else we ordered, we managed to get it taken off the bill – but the staff did seem confused that we didn’t want the entree that we’d ordered served after dessert – mainly due to a clash of cultures, Thai food is served as its cooked and shared on a table, which is different to our western expectation of food to be served in the order which it is ordered. Next time we might see if there are some Vege options from the neighbouring restaurants while getting epic beer from Brew.

The outdoor courtyard is shared with the neighbouring cocktail bar “Clouds” and had a great Thai DJ (something that Thankfully, the Thonglor area has a few of) playing classic hip hop, soul and funk.

How to Get There:

Located on the first floor of Scene Space Thonglor 13, 1.5km walk from the Thonglor BTS station, so you are best to take a taxi or a motorbike as its a bit of a walk.

Brew_map_web

Other branches include:

Mikkeller Bangkok, Gypsy Brewbar in Ekamai

About Mikkeller Bangkok

Mikkeller is famous for its gypsy brewing practices, that is, making one off, niche craft beers in other peoples breweries… and they are bloody good at it!

It turns out that the guys from Mikkeller have a bit of a think for Bangkok, and after a few years of supplying their beer via their distributors Hopsessions, they decided to open their very own bar in Bangkok.

There are two things that brought Jacob Mørkenborg Rasmussen and Mike MacDonald together: an enthusiasm for beer and a respect for innovation. The business partners met a few years ago—Rasmussen had been importing foreign beers and holding numerous events that Mike MacDonald, a self-described beer connoisseur, would regularly attend.

….

“My partner and I are both in this business less so from a financial perspective and more so from a beer culture perspective,” MacDonald said. “We really wanted to build something that we would go to every night.”

They also of course have two bars in Denmark (Their home) one in Sweden and another in San Francisco.  The Bangkok bar offers 30 different craft beers on tap (This has got to be the most craft beer on tap anywhere in Thailand) and a load of limited release special edition beers available by the bottle or to take away.  Beers are on rotation, so you are more than likely going to spot something new every time you visit.

The place is a home for the educated beer connoisseur, its simplistic, clean, with quality music at a low volume.  Expect no flashing lights, smoke machines or hi-so kids getting table service bottles of SangSom, just quality beer, quality conversations and quality food – something thats definitely needed in the Bangkok bar scene.

Getting There

Mikkeller Bangkok is definitely a “destination” type bar, being that its a little bit out of the way, down a couple of side sois, so make sure you take a map with you when looking for them.

Mikeller BKK Map

The easiest way is to take the BTS to the Ekkamai stop, go down Sukhumvit 63 (Ekkamai) and turn into Ekkamai Soi 10, follow it down to Yaek 2, and you’ll find them down the road.  You’ll spot loads of Mikkeller stickers on power poles, lamp poles and power boxes, so you’ll definitely know if you are heading in the right direction.

Mikeller 1

Mikkeler Bangkok Co., Ltd
26 Ekamai Soi 10 Yaek 2, Ekamai Road
Bangkok 10110, Thailand

The Beers

I’ll be straight up an say these are the best beers I’ve had so far in Bangkok. Its one thing to offer imported beer, another thing to offer imported craft beers, but stick it on draft and you’ve got a happy Mike.

Mikeller 4

With 30 beers on tap, and even more in bottles in the fridge there is literally something for anyone with a minimal amount of taste.  You won’t find cheep 50 baht beers here, so cheap charlies can go elsewhere, what you will find is amazing, craft beer with a difference, that considering the heavy tax you get on imported booze in Thailand is remarkably cheap to purchase.  They don’t even charge a service charge (which is rare in Bangkok).  Expect beers to be in the 200-350 Baht per glass range, with bottles ranging from250 Baht to 1500 baht for the crazy rare beer nerd specialities.

Our selections for the night included:

  • Nelson Sauvin IPA (With hops from New Zealand)
  • American Dream IPA
  • Ris A’La Malle Fruit Beer
  • Honey Mead

The Food

Food is mainly finger food with a couple of sandwhich/slider/burger options available. Speaking to the manager he tells me that they plan to open a full kitchen down the line, and also (fitting with the gypsy foodie concept) have guest chefs doing pop up kitchen type nights, so follow them on Facebook to keep in the loop.

By now you will have noticed that my girlfriend Sarah is a Vegetarian (with vegan tendencies) and most beer places in Bangkok don’t really cater to our meat deprived brethren.  Right now they don’t have vegetarian options on the menu, but the staff seemed happy about the idea of whipping something up on the fly, and the manager Pete (or Tap Master as he prefers to be called)  is definitely keen to offer some rabbit food down the line to keep the vege crew happy.

Mikeller 3

We ordered a platter of cured meats, cheeses and pickles along with fresh bread, which was more than enough to keep both of us happy.  The cheeses were absolutely amazing, easily the best I’ve had in Thailand and the cured meats (Salami, Proscuitto, Pate & more) were amazing.  For 450 baht it was completely and utterly worth it, so much so that we ordered another cheese platter to pig out on.

Mikeller 5

Their desserts include some amazing chocolate cakes made out of a vietnamese chocolate that is absolutely to die for.  The name escapes me now (it wasn’t included on the receipt) but make sure you ask for it.

The Service

The service was easily some of the best I’ve had in Bangkok.  The bar staff really know our beers and were able to suggest the right beer every time.  They were able to pick me the perfect hoppy beers with high IBUs, with Sarah taking a fruit beer and some Honey mead with dessert.   We simply described the taste we wanted the staff gave us tasters and we were good to go.

Speaking to Pete the bar manager (sorry Tap Master), he said that they are more than happy to do private beer tastings at a very reasonable price for groups of 6 or more, getting you a chance to try a bunch of beers, with an expert, along with some awesome cold cuts and cheese – I’ll be doing this next time!

The Verdict

Easily the best beer bar I’ve been to in Bangkok.  The place is clean, the food is amazing, the staff are friendly and know their stuff and above all the simply have the best beer I’ve tried.

Mikeller 6

I enjoyed the stuff so much that I ended up spending another 2000 baht on takeaway beers, which of course I left to the staff to choose for me.   And being the good dudes they they are, they gave us complimentary glassware too!

For 2150 Baht I ended up with:

  • 1 Mikkeller Bangkok Tasting Glass
  • 1 Mikkeller – k:rlek Pale Ale 2013
  • 1 Mikkeller – Solt Gul
  • 1 Mikkeller X Bedow  – Wild Winter Ale
  • 1 To Øl – Ridiculously Close To Sanity
  • 1 To Øl – Dangerously Close But No Cigar
  • 1 To Øl – Dangerously Close To Stupid
  • 1 Birra Del Borgo –  Re Ale
  • 1 Birra Del Borgo X Dogfish Head – My Antonia

I highly recommend checking the place out, and if you do go there, tell them that I sent you… maybe they’ll be nice and shout me a beer.

Disclaimer: This post was written under the influence of a wonderful glass of ice cold Mikkeller k:rlek Pale Ale 2013 from the comfort of my home.  Craft beer for the win! 

Steve Cafe and Cuisine – Hidden Gem in Rama 8

Sarah and I were planning to go out for dinner last night at The Wine Connection, but ended up deciding against it due to the protest locations, and her class timetable.

We decided instead to give Steve Cafe and Cuisine a try, a restaurant that we’d often spotted from the Thewes pier when vegetable shopping but never actually tried out in the year I’ve been living in Thailand (of which I’ve spent more than 6 months less than 800m away!).

Steve10

The Steve Cafe and Cuisine Story

The Cafe opened in 2012 and has quickly built up a reputation as one of the top places to eat in Bangkok.  Named after its Thai owners English nickname, the restaurant offers Thai/European fusion meals by the water, and aims to provide the owners hearing impaired son with a career and business in the future.

I’m unsure of the exact situation, but I’ve seen Steve branding pop up on an old boutique guesthouse down the street by the Thewes Pier, so perhaps we will be seeing some growth from the business in the near future.

The focus is on quality and nothing is prepared in advance, so expect to wait a little longer for your meals, don’t worry though as the result is definitely worth it!

Finding the Cafe

TW8

If you come via the Thewes pier it can be hard to find. Google maps isn’t much help and we ended up getting lost down an alleyway walking down the klong and past various huts until we ran into some locals fishing.  It turns out they are used to lost foodies trying to find the place and sent us in the right direction.

Steve2

The easiest way to find it is to make your way to the temple next door, either come via Samsen down Si Ayutthaya or take the boat t Thewes, walk down the side of the market and in the direction of the 7/11.  Turn right into the temple (Wat Thewarat Kunchorn Worawiharn) and talk through the grounds towards the Chaopraya River.  You will find a small soi that has Steve Cafe as well as another small restaurant.

Steve 3

For those who require the actual address: 68 Sri Ayutthaya Road, Soi Sri Aytthaya 21 (Devet/Thewes), Vachirapayabaan, Dusit, Bangkok, 10300

Steve Map

Some of the best Thai fusion food in Bangkok

What can I say, the food was absolutely amazing and dinner was 1300 baht incredibly well spent (This says a lot when we usually feed the both of us on 300 baht a week, its got to be really nice to justify this sort of spend!) .  I’ve heard that the place is often fully booked, and you need to book in advance, but we had no problem securing a table by the water – I’m guessing the lack of tourists in Bangkok due to the political situation probably had something to do with this.

If you are prone to getting bitten by mosquitos, remember to wear repellent as you are right next to the water!

Steve9

Black Pepper & Ostrich Meat Stir Fry with white rice.  Absolutely amazing and the first time I’ve seen Ostrich meat for sale in Thailand.  200 Baht

Steve8

Southern Style Bean Curd Yellow Curry with Lai Bua.  This was Sarah’s and she ordered it extra spicy (Ped Mak Mak), the staff gave her a strange look and asked if she was sure, and after explaining that she had lived on the border of Mexico they were satisfied that it  wouldn’t kill her.  Sarah LOVES to throw heaps of chilli powder on her food, so I know she enjoys it spicy, that said even this one was a little too spicy for her, but she still loved it.  (150 Baht)

Steve6

Paulaner Beer (180 Baht).  Its always great when a place has a selection of imported beers, as I often get bored of the local stuff.  Sarah rated the house wine as well, and after trying her spicy curry I had to down a bottle of Leo on ice to stop my mouth from burning!

Steve5

Purely in the interests of science we decided to try three desserts.  We ended up with Frozen Strawberry Yoghurt (130 Baht), Chocolate Mint Gelato (80 Baht) and Dark Chocolate Ice cream (120 Baht).  While all three desserts were great The Dark Chocolate was absolutely amazing, as it was filled with a dark chocolate sauce and rolled in cocoa powder.

Dinner was great, the service was excellent (the staff speak impeccable english) and the selection of local and imported food and beer made it value for money.  To put it in context, the entire meal cost us around the same as what it would cost for us to take a taxi into town and eat a burger king meal, a couple of 7/11 beers and a takeaway dessert.  I highly recommend checking the place out if you are anywhere near the Old Town area of Bangkok and can see why this is rated as one of the top 15 restaurants  in Bangkok.