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Good pubs, great beer (and a few restaurants too) in Asia.
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Archive for the ‘Beer’

In search of Beerlao

December 11, 2007 By: admin Category: Beer No Comments →

beer lao beerlaoBEERLAO IS ONE of the great beer secrets of Asia. I first stumbled upon it in Vientiane back in mid 1990s when Laos was first beginning to re-open to the world. In those days it was called Biere Larue. There were very few tourists around back then but the town did boast a sizeable population of foreign NGO personnel.

The drinking venue was around the fountain on Pang Kham but the output from the brewery was small and most evenings the bar would run out. We’d be forced to finish the night drinking one of the imported, and more expensive, mass produced brews which always tasted rather clumsy after the light, crisp taste of Beerlao.

The brewery began production in 1973 under the name of Brasseries et Glaci è res du Laos which was 85% French owned. After political changes in 1975 the Lao government bought out all the overseas shares.

beer lao beerlaoIn 1993 the company entered into a joint venture with Loxley and Italian Thai. This relationship lasted nine years before the two Thai companies pulled out.

Carlsberg Asia and TCC,their partner in Thailand, each took a 25% stake in 2002 with the Lao government holding the remaining 50%. By 2006 output had increased to almost 120 million litres per year. A new brewery is due to open in early 2008 in Southern Laos which will boost production to 210 million litres per year.

The signature brew is, of course, Beerlao (ABV 5%) and has been dubbed Asia’s best beer by TIME magazine and the Dom Perignon of Asian beers by The Bangkok Post. It is a cool, crisp pilsen style beer that is made with local polished rice, Hallertau hops, German yeast and malted barley from France.

It is very pale in colour with subtle flavours, lightly hopped and a very clean finish. The word ’saki’ springs to mind but that is just the flavour of the rice coming through. An easy going beer, perfect for lazy sunny days but would fit just about any occasion.

During the course of three Premier League matches I put Beerlao through it’s paces. I was at the At Corner bar on the very end of Soi Cowboy in Bangkok. I don’t remember how many I drank, but it was a lot. The only other thing I remember drinking was some kind of local shooter/chaser called Yadong, a mixture of Sang Som and unspecified herbs.

The resulting hangover was far lower on the Richter scale than one would expect and I blame the Sang Som chaser for most of that.

It will also go with just about any food. Classic Lao dishes would be the green papaya salad called som tam (yes,that famous Thai dish is actually Lao by birth), barbecued chicken and some sticky rice.

In addition there is also a Beerlao Light (ABV 2.9%) and a Beerlao Dark (ABV 6.5%). The Dark version is probably not what I would call a true dark beer. It doesn’t have the really deep bottom associated with dark beers. But it is still a very agreeable beer indeed. The flavours are more complex and boast gentle chocolatey tones. It slips down very easily.

Beerlao isn’t officially available in Thailand and won’t be for some years despite the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement that comes into effect in 2008. The two countries have agreed to maintain tariffs on each others beer so you wont find it in supermarkets and convenience stores. But it is available in a good many bars and restaurants, mostly in areas that are popular with tourists.

When production picks up hopefully exports will too. In the meantime look for it around Kao San Road, the bar areas in Bangkok, Ko Samui, Pattaya and Phuket.

Beer Lao

October 29, 2007 By: admin Category: Beer No Comments →

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laos, beer, vientianeI FOUND a couple of bottles Beer Lao in Kanchanaburi the other day. I could probably have found more but two was my ration this time. It was a beer that I had enjoyed immensely when I was in Laos some years ago. Since then Carlsberg and it’s Thai partner have each acquired a 25% stake and ramped up production. Back in the mid-nineties the pubs around the fountain in Vientiane and the rustic place along the Mekong River would be sold out by 9.00pm.

Despite and ABV of 5% it is an easy drinking beer with a refreshing, fruity flavour. Brewed with indigenous rice varieties, Hallertau hops, German yeast and French malted barley. It’s quite low on hops so it may lack bitterness for some people but it doesn’t have the tinny aftertaste that other beers in the region have. I’m sure it’s more widely available than I presumed, I just never looked so I never saw it. But I will be looking out for it in future.

Ruddles County

October 01, 2007 By: admin Category: Beer No Comments →

THE LABEL doesn’t say brewed in Rutland anymore. I’m sure it used to, even though Rutland had ceased to exist in all but the hearts and minds of the people that lived there. England’s smallest county had been absorbed into Leicestershire in 1974 but proud Rutlanders would have none of it. Stationary still proclaimed the the towns and villages remained in the county of Rutland.

And so did beer labels, Ruddles brewery was a proud Rutlander. It was was established in 1858 in the village Langham, although it didn’t become Ruddles until George Ruddle bought it in 1912. Over the years it had several owners but in 1997 it was bought by Morlands who moved the brewery to Abingdon. Which was a bit of a shame because that was the same year that Rutland regained its status as a county.

Morlands struggled for three years to get the flavour right until they, in turn, were bought by Greene King. In 2000 the brewing process was moved again. This time to the Green King Brewery in Bury St Edmonds.

As any good brewer will know, without the Langham well water there really was no chance of copying the original flavour. Greene King is a good brewery and they didn’t even try. The recipes used today are not the same as those used by the original brewery.

It would be silly of me to say I remember the old Ruddles County well, I don’t. It’s been too long since I last tasted it and besides, not remembering is a fitting tribute to any alcoholic beverage. But I do remember that I liked it a lot.

The current version is not bad either. It has a dry bitterness, which I like, and to all intents and purposes are the characteristics that I enjoyed in it’s previous incarnation. This has a fruity, hoppy aroma, which are characteristics that I wouldn’t have stopped to think about back then, and an ABV of 4.7%. It also has the ability to go down rather well after a long day at the office.

It may not be the beer that made the name world famous but it is still a good one to have around.

  The youtube movie is and old Ruddles TV ad featuring the Bonzo’s Vivian Stanshall. The DVD is Neil Innes affectionate poke at the Beatles
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    • Singapore: The Pump Room is launching their first Annual Charity Golf Tournament on Wednesday 2nd July 2008 at Keppel Club in aid of The Lupus Association Singapore.
    Information and application forms can be found here

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