Tag Archives: Craft 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!

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! 

The Expats Guide to Beer in Thailand

I’ve been living in Thailand for over a year and enjoy the odd beer, and by odd I mean the odder the better. Most tourists and expats only encounter the more well known brews in Thailand, and blog posts on Thai beer tend to ignore many of the interesting beers available in Thailand if you know where to look.  There are literally hundreds of beers available from various restaurants, bars, retailers and wholesalers in the capital and beyond.

Here is my Expats Guide to Beer in Thailand.

UPDATES: This page is getting a lot of traffic and will be updated regularly with readers comments and suggestions for improved accuracy. 

  • Added Wishbeer
  • Updated regarding Belgian Beers
  • Corrected ABV percentages for Thai Beers
  • Fixed error regarding Brew Dog importer

Local Brews

While Thailand’s cheap beer is an attraction for the average backpacker, its not really that exciting for any true lover of interesting beers. Thai beer choices are the Model T of beer drinking and comes in the following styles: American Style Gold Lager, American Style Gold Lager and you guessed it, American Style Gold Lager – i.e. you have any style you like as long as its a gold lager. Because of the hot weather locals often drink it “Thai Style” in a glass full of ice, and often to the horror of foreigners – with a straw.

Singha (5% ABV): Probably the most famous of Thai beers, its been around since the 1930s, and tends to be considered the premium of local beers (meaning you are paying 5-10 baht more than other local alternatives). Its a light and clean tasting golden/pale lager. Generally referred to as “Sing” by locals who don’t pronounce the “ha” at the end. Theres a light version (3.5% ABV) available as well, but no self respecting beer drinker touches the light stuff now do they? Best drunk at a local restaurant that doesn’t serve anything imported.

Chang (6.4% ABV local market, 5% ABV export): Quite possibly my most hated beverage in Thailand, the creator of the mighty “changover” – spotted on the singlets of many a budget backpacker and sexpat, its one I avoid at all costs. The two versions (Local vs Export) are completely different, with the local version being brewed with rice, and the export being malt.  Best drunk on Khao San Road.

Leo

Leo (5% ABV): The cheaper alternative to Singha, its my “go to” beer of the local Thai beers easily available in Bangkok, but not particularly interesting.  Apparently theres another version of Leo called “Leo Super” but I’ve never spotted it.  Best drunk in a large bottle at The Overstay on Charansanitwong 40.

Archa (5.4% ABV): One you won’t generally see in any bars, this pale lager is definitely cheap. You can pick it up for close to 30-40 baht at the 7/11 or minimart. Best drunk outside the 7/11.

Phuket

Phuket Island Lager (5% ABV): Brewed on Phuket with German hops and Thai jasmine rice, and is the most consistent award winning beer in Thailand.  Its the only beer brewed according to the German beer purification laws of old. Of all Thai beers this is my favourite in Thailand, but not easy to find.

Tao (Unknown% ABV):  Beer only available in Koh Tao, fits somewhere between pilsner and lager.

International Beer:

Importers also stock many common foreign brands, which are either brewed locally under licence or imported from other South East Asian nations. You can generally buy Heineken (Netherlands), Sapporo (Japan), Tiger (Singapore), Carlsberg & Miller (USA) pretty much anywhere and if you are lucky you’ll find my favourite South East Asian beer, Beer Lao (either standard or dark)

Imported Belgian Beers

Floris

Belgian beers have been around in Thailand for a little while now, and are generally more well known around the world due to the popularity of Belgian Beer Bars, from the common Stella Artois, to the lesser well known Trappist ales, you can find Belgian beers at bars around the major cities and tourist spots including Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui and Koh Tao.

Belgian Beverage Asia Co., Ltd.

La Chouffe

As their name suggests Belgain Beverage Asia focus on Niche beers from Belguim and import a wide variety of styles including: Dark, Belgian IPA, Belgian IPA, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Belgian Strong Pale Ale, Bière de Champagne / Bière Brut, Bière de Garde, Dubbel, Faro, Lambic, Quadrupel, Saison, Triple, Witbier and more. They import oer 80 different product lines of beer and carry brands such as:

  • Rochefort (6, 8, 10)
  • Westmalle (Dubbel, Tripel)
  • Kasteel (Bier Donker, Bier Triple)
  • Delirium (Tremens, Noel, Nocturnum, Red)
  • Floris (Fraise, Mango, Pomme, Honey)
  • Bacchus (Frambozenbier, Kriekenbier)
  • St Louis (Premium Peche, Premium Kriek, Premium Framboise)

Imported Craft Beers

Rogue

Over the last few years there has been an increase in the amount of “craft” beers available in Thailand thanks to some niche importers such as Beervana, Hopsession and Smiling Mad Dog are doing there best to create a real craft beer vibe in the “Hi-So” bars of Bangkok. Not for the faint hearted most of these beers pack a real punch. These are my favourite beers to sample while in Thailand, and worth the ridiculous amounts of tax that is charged on foreign beers. For more information on imported craft beers make sure you follow the excellent Thailand Craft Beer Community

Beervana:

Rogue Porter

Beervana are craft beer purists, importing craft beer from the United States that is often unpastuerised, preservative free and organic, meaning they run a total cold chain system all the way from the states to your mouth. They carry a range of brands including:

  • Rogue (DIY, Morimoto, Oregasmic, Oatmeal Stout, Juniper Pale Ale, Mocha Porter, Red Ale, Yellow Snow IPA, Hazelnut Brown Nectar, Dead Guy Ale & Chocolate Stout)
  • Anderson Valley (ESB, Helch’o’Hops Imperial IPA, Poleko Pale Ale, Hop Ottin IPA & Boont Amber Ale)
  • Brewerkz (White Rabbit Wheat Ale, Golden Ale, Honey Apricot Ale, India Pale Ale)
  • Deschutes (Twilight Summer Ale, Chainbreaker White IPA, Black Butte Porter & Mirror Pond Ale)
  • Laguntas (IPA & New Dog Town).

Aaron & Brian are truly gods amongst men.

Hopsession Thailand

Pear

With a focus on the Scandinavian side of craft beer, mead and ciders Jakob  at Hopsession imports a wide (probably the biggest in Thailand) range of brands and styles of beer including:

  • Mikkeller (Monk’s Brew, Crooked Moon dIPA, Beer Hop Breakfast, Wet Hop Saphir Ale, Mikkeller Porter, Mikkeller Barrel Aged Mexas Ranger, Beer Geek Breakfast, Beer Geek Brunch Weasel, K:rlek 3, To Øl, Spontankriek, Spontanframboos, The American Dream, P1, Tiger Baby)
  • Birra Del Borgo (ReAle, ReAle Extra, My Antonia, Rubus, Duchessa, L’equilibrista)
  • Nørrebro Bryghus (Stuykman Wit, New York Lager, Bombay Pale Ale, Ravnsborg Rød, Kings Country Brown)

Smiling Mad Dog Co. Ltd

Smiling Mad Dog are importers of beers and ciders including the infamous Brew Dog range.

  • Brewdog (Punk IPA, Liberty Black Ale, Tactical Nuclear Penguin, Dana, Goldings, Waimea, El Dorado, 5AM Saint, Dead Pony Club)

Wishbeer

Wishbeer is the #1 online store for premium craft beers in Thailand. They have over 400 different brews from over 15 countries (including Tuatara beers from New Zealand) and will deliver anywhere in Thailand within a few days. They also have a beer club where you can get every month a different case of beers delivered to your doorstep.  I’m planning to start purchasing from them regularly as soon as some more cash comes in from home!

The Law:

Apparently you need to be over 20 to drink in bars, but I’ve never seen this enforced except for on Soi 11, and hours of sale are restricted during the day time. There is usually a total ban on the sale of alcohol on Buddha days and elections, though many small “mom and pop” type stores in Soi’s will routinely flaunt these laws due to lack of enforcement.

Its technically illegal to brew your own beer, though I’ve been told that the fine is only 200 baht, currently I’ve only heard of one person brewing their own craft beer for personal consumption, but if the message boards (that are sometimes blocked) are anything to go by, there are a lot more hiding around the country!

Oharas

Foreign beers attract a massive excise duty, the real reason why you are paying so much for your imported drink.

Top Beer Bars

  • Brew on Thonglor (Scenespace Thonglor 13, Bangkok) Literally the home of beer in Thailand. This place has over 140 different beers and ciders available either in bottles or draft. Has to be seen to be believed and the perfect way to go way over budget on your credit card. Absolutely worth it though, also operating up north in Khon Kaen.
  • Mikkleller Bangkok a great little bar that serves a massive range of Mikkeller and other beers with 30 different beers available on draft.  Great platters as well.
  • House of Beers (HOBs) a nice bar, with a huge range of beers and a decent choice of bar snacks, a little pricy but worth it for the selection. Not as busy as other places, and probably the nicest place for daytime drinking.
  • Sway (Thonglor 10 Arena 10, Bangkok)Home of the Craft Draft Wall, a unique serving system where patrons get a swipe card that allows them to pour their own beer, whatever quantity they want, when they want, how they want, with most of the Beervana range of Rogue and Anderson Valley available on Tap.
  • Apoteka (Sukhumvit Soi 11 and Thonglor, Bangkok) One of the first places I started DJing at in Thailand, carries a range of imported craft beers and local options as well as a range of food.
  • The Earth House (Koh Tao) Home to the largest range of imported beers and cider in Southern Thailand, The Earth House is a expat favourite on the island. They’ve just started a brand new craft beer event “Which Craft?” mixing a medieval theme with beer tasting and food, a must visit if you are on the island.

Next time someone tells you there are no interesting beers in Thailand, send them this page – there are heaps!

Are you a Thai beer importer? Send me your brews so we can list them on the page!