“What’s the beer like?”
You might not say it’s the first question on your lips when visiting a new country, right? Of course, you want to hear about the sunrise over Angkor Wat or the view from your boat in Bai Tu Long Bay. But an important question like this goes hand-in-hand with what shoes to pack and the best way of obtaining the currency. At least in my experience.
With cider being relatively expensive and wine… well, just don’t drink the wine (it’s not worth it most of the time), here’s a handy rundown of a few beers in Indochina to keep an eye out for.
Thailand – Leo
Chang or Singha? Singha or Chang? Forget about the age-old argument about the king of Thai beers, Leo comes up trumps. A cheaper alternative to Singha (which is brewed by the same company) and the last few mouthfuls don’t turn to pond water, unlike Chang.
Not a groundbreaking beer by any means, but with a smooth finish and light taste it’s perfect for a refreshing midday glass or two. If you find that European lagers are too bitter, then this would be a good session beer for you, and the hangover didn’t hit me as bad as the two heavyweights. If you do like your hops, you may find yourself switching to something different as your night goes on, just for a bit of variation.
Vietnam – Bia Hoi
So I’m cheating a bit here, as Bia Hoi isn’t a beer brand, but a “fresh beer”. This beer goes hand in hand with a fantastic experience. Keep your eyes peeled for a host of colourful plastic stools littering the side of the street. You’ll be able to mingle with the locals and fellow tourists alike, as you all guzzle down an incredibly refreshing and fresh, cheap beer.
In Hoi An I had to spend a whopping 15p for a 440ml glass of this golden beauty… Don’t worry though, it was buy two get one free!
Laos – Beer Lao
The go-to drink of Laos (even if it wasn’t the only one) and in fact, my go-to beer in South East Asia. You’ll be able to pick this up in a scattering of places throughout Asia, and as long as it’s not too much more expensive than the local option, it’s a fantastic treat. The crisp taste is familiar yet unique and incredibly refreshing.
Imagine walking into a pub in England that only sold one type of beer. You’d probably walk out. In Laos on the other hand, when the beer option is this tasty and affordable, why would you want to drink anything else? Don’t worry if you have one beer too many; hangovers are much less of a problem when drinking its Thai counterparts, as it is a smooth drink (it helps if you’re relaxing on a beach or looking at the astounding scenery as well).
Top Beer Tip – Asia is not known for its dark beers, they are all lagers. If you’re craving something darker, Beerlao has the best answer to this. Dark beer, the sunshine and spicy food don’t overly go together that well, so best stick to the light stuff.
Cambodia – Anchor/Angkor
Now here’s a funny one. The two most popular beers in Cambodia are Angkor and Anchor. Anchor pronounced ‘An-cher’, and Angkor said how we would say anchor on a ship. Still with me?
Both beers are light and refreshing, and at happy hour you can pick up a glass cheaper than you would a bottle of water. So in the interest of saving money…
These beers won’t set your world alight, but they’re reasonable and cheap (and cold). Anchor is my drink of choice between the two. However, you’re more likely to find Angkor less expensive and more available.