Beer is one of the things that connect people worldwide. Each country has its own brew and travelers often revel in the opportunity to try the local lager. Thailand is no exception and those who choose to visit the bars will find that three Thai beers show up on almost every drink menu in the Kingdom. Making the choice of which malty beverage to imbibe could be the difference between a well-complimented meal, an unforgettable night and a torturous morning after.
Chang (ABV 6.4%):
Named after Thailand’s national animal, the elephant, it’s easy to see why Chang beer is so widely consumed throughout the country. The green and gold labeled lager has a strong presence no matter where you turn. The recognizable elephants are even prominently displayed on the kits of Everton FC in England. The wide-mouth can allows drinkers to quickly ingest the rice brewed beer and note its cotton candy-like maltiness. It is advised to drink up quickly, as the decidedly non-organic taste comes through as the drink gets warmer. Chang’s taste and low carbonation make it an ideal drink to consume while enjoying typical bar snacks, characterized by salty and fatty flavors. Moo dad diaw (sun-dried fried pork) and peanuts with fried basil leaves are two dishes that would go exceptionally well with the lager. It is also worth warning prospective drinkers that this beer may taste especially bad coming back up.
Singha (ABV 5.0%):
Singha, pronounced simply as “sing” locally, prominently displays the eponymous mythological lion on its label. Between its 80 years of existence and lucrative partnerships with Chelsea and Manchester United, Singha is difficult to miss. “The Original Thai Beer” is made from barley malt giving it a less processed flavor with high carbonation and a smell that lingers on the breath, announcing to all that you have been relishing in its earthy taste. The crisp and light lager pairs well with seafood and other Thai foods that are less likely to be found at a simple street-side stall. Many would consider Singha to be the best of Thailand’s mass brewed lagers and the higher price tag supports this opinion.
Leo (ABV 5.0%):
While the depiction of a ferocious leopard on its label may be intimidating to some, Leo may be the most widely consumed beer in the kingdom. Brewed by the same company as Singha, Leo targets the medium segment of the Thai population and is often priced at or slightly above Chang. Leo is quite simply the most neutral beer. It has less carbonation than Singha, but more than Chang. Its taste is rather bland but not too watery, similar to an American malt liquor. While this may not sound appealing, it gives Leo the benefit of being extremely drinkable. It is ideal for those who are averse to taking risks with their beer choice. Another hidden benefit of the rather flavorless lager is that it goes supremely well with the vibrant tastes of Thai food. Leo will not get in the way of the ferociously spicy som tum or the hot and sour tom yum about to be devoured.
Chang, Singha and Leo are the most popular Thai beers in the Land of Smiles, however other beers are widely available. Phuket beer is a rare brew that is widely considered to be much better than the big three. “Economical” beers also exist such as Archa, Cheers and Thai beer. It’s best to stay away from the latter three, unless you find solace in a good, morning hangover. Popular regional beers are also easily found with San Miguel Light from the Philippines dominating the market for light beer and Beerlao from Laos being hands down the best lager in Southeast Asia. Imbibe and enjoy, beer drinkers, and do not forget what was learned here today. Chon gaew!