The Asia Pub Guide

Good pubs, great beer (and a few restaurants too) in Asia.

In search of Beerlao

December 11, 2007 By: admin Category: Beer

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.

The Prince of Wales, Singapore

December 05, 2007 By: admin Category: Cool Pubs

prince of wales pub singaporeTHE PRINCE OF WALES is both a pub and backpacker hostel. It’s a friendly, laid back place with a youngish, student feel. But you don’t have to be a student, or even particularly young, to enjoy a few beers there.

What makes the place a little bit special is that it is the only place outside Australia where you can get Grand Ridge beers. Grand Ridge is a small Australian Brewery based in Mirboo North, not too far from Melbourne. The Prince has two of their beers on tap; Gippsland Gold and Brewers Pilsner.

The Gippsland is a bitter with a rich malty flavour mixed with a blend of Tasmanian and New Zealand hops. It’s a very agreeable beer indeed and a second pint at least is a must.

The other Grand Ridge beer they have on tap is called Brewers Pilsner. It is a crisp beer boasting a slightly flowery malt flavour with Czech Saaz hops. Both beers have a ABV of 4.9%

The pub also stocks a fairly wide range of Australian bottled beers, including Toohey’s Old and New, Melbourne Bitter and Carlton Gold, Mid and Draught to name just a few

In addition to excellent beer there is live music nightly starting at 9.30 provided by a mix of local and international acts and covering a wide range of styles from indie rock to folk and more.

Beer Lao

October 29, 2007 By: admin Category: Beer

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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.

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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

    • Hong Kong: A new pub called The Wheel has opened at 26 Hollywood Road. That's almost opposite The Globe. It has six TV screens for watching sports and a small range of bottled beers including Spitfire and Old Speckled Hen.
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