Drinking Beer Through Asia

Fresh Beer in Hoi An

Fresh Beer in Hoi An

We like beer. We aren’t beer snobs that will only drink certain kinds of beer; we are just as comfortable with a Old English 40oz as we are with a Chimay Blue. We don’t make our own beer, and we don’t profess to know much about the minute differences that make beers what they are. But we like trying new beers, and nothing is more satisfying than ending a long day of traveling with a (usually) cold brew. So, one statistic of our trip that we like to keep track of (and you will seem prominently on the sidebar) is how many types of beers we’ve tried along the way.

We thought we’d share our list of what we tried and what we did and didn’t like. We tried to organize the beers by country of origin, although we didn’t always drink that beer in that country. For instance, we drank Chang (a Thai beer) for the first time in China, and we didn’t drink any beer in Singapore except for the most expensive Stella in the world. Also, we drank some non-Asian beers (mostly Belgians) and local microbrews made by westerners (Ete, in Hanoi – highly recommended!); these are not counted in the total.

All told, we tried 34 kinds of new (Asian) beer! Without further ado, in country order:

  • China: Beijing, Blue Girl, Tsingtao, Dali, and Snow
  • North Korea: Microbrew Draft (the draft beer in the hotel lobby), Taedonggang (the bottled beer)
  • Thailand: Chang, Singha, Leo
  • Laos: Beer Lao (+ Gold and Dark), Nahmkong
  • Singapore: Anchor (+ Strong), Tiger
  • Cambodia: Angkor, Cambodia
  • Vietnam: Saigon (+ Export), 333, Huda (+ Gold), Hue, Larue, Festival, Halida, Hanoi, Truc Bach, Fresh Beer
  • Other Asian beers: San Miguel (+ Light) – Philippines, Hite – South Korea

So what was the best beer we drank on our trip? If you ask Kyle, he’ll say it was the Budweiser he drank on the flight back to the US. But among Asian beers,  our favorites were Beerlao (Laos), Cambodia, Angkor (both Cambodian), and, surprisingly, Microbrew Draft (North Korea). This was a bit of a surprise for us since those were some of the poorest countries we visited so we didn’t have high expectations for the quality of beer. It also could have been that the food wasn’t very tasty there so the beer had to be that much better.

Buy duty free in Langkawi!

Buy duty free in Langkawi!

What about the worst beers? We found most of the Chinese beers and the Vietnamese beers to be pretty poor quality. The only exception was the Vietnamese “Fresh Beer” which is locally brewed and retails for around 20-25 cents a draft. They tasted good enough for the price!

Were all beers there the same? Mostly, yes. The phrase, “watery Asian lager” came out of our mouths about as much as beers went in them. We did not see many other styles (IPAs, stouts, porters, etc) unless it was imported.

How much did a beer cost? What was the cheapest and most expensive? Beer cost different amounts depending on the country, but Vietnam and Cambodia were the cheapest (as low as 20-50 cents). Malaysia and Singapore were the most expensive (typically >$6, but we paid $15 for a Stella Artois draft) due to the fact they tax alcohol very heavily. Most other countries were between 2-3$ for a bottle.

Any tricks for getting cheap beer while traveling? Buying at a grocery store or 7-11 is a no-brainer (in Hong Kong, people actually partied outside what they called “Club 7-11″). In Malaysia, you can visit Langkawi island, which is duty free, and you can buy really cheap Belgian and German beers that it’s worth it to pay a few cents more.

We will definitely try and keep the list going for South America, Europe and beyond!

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