Choice of beer in Asia

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  • Michael Allen

    Hi all,

    Many of us enjoy a drink while travelling, and for some of us beer is our preference. I’m working on an online story about craft breweries and brewpubs in Asia and would like to get some thoughts from those of you who have been travelling in Asia for multiple decades on how beer offerings have changed over the years.

    Although the US probably leads the way, many Asian countries now have significant craft beer scenes. I just got back from Taiwan last month and discovered it had a surprisingly vibrant craft beer offerings. Here in Hong Kong, many bars also offer or specialise in craft beer.

    Back in the 2000s, 1990s (or indeed further back), how did you find the selection of beers on offer when travelling? And what do you think of the rise of craft beer and could we do with more of it in Asia, or not?

    Thanks for your valuable input. I would like to quote your responses in my story, so if you prefer not to be quoted please mention that in your response.

    Thank you,
    Michael Allen
    Business Traveller Asia-Pacific

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    Back in the nineteen seventies (and later) there were two large breweries Hong Kong Carlsberg (CarlsEberg as the locals called it and still do) and San Miguel (Sanmig).
    Most of us drank it as draft beer but bottled was available. I don’t recall cans at that point but there may have been.

    The local Carlsberg was an excellent drop and a couple of points stronger than most. The story goes that originally it was imported in wooden barrels and tended to go ‘off’ during the long transit. In order to overcome this the alcohol content was upped and all was well.
    When however it began to be be brewed locally and the alcohol content lowered the locals would not drink the “rats piss” and the alcohol content upped to the former level.
    It was indeed a good drop. The brewery was moved to the mainland about 15 years ago and the quality dropped for a few years. I understand that the old HK brewery has been reopened and is brewing again.
    San Miguel has always been a good beer though I fancy better in the Philippines than the HK drop

    Always I have found it interesting that in HK the construction and building workers have in my memory always drunk an imported bottled German beer ‘Blue Girl’. The alcohol content is low as is the the price. It is available in all the supermarkets but seldom promoted in pubs and restaurants.

    Early this week on a flight from Hong Kong to Cape Town I tried the ‘Betsy’ craft beer reintroduced by Cathay a couple of months ago. It was excellent and I had a second or was it third…


    In the 90’s in Bangkok it had to be Singha. There was something unique about the flavour, and I’m sure the alcohol content varied batch to batch as it seemed to drift between strong and very strong.

    I don’t think it tastes the same today, although it may be my palate which has taken a pounding!

    Michael Allen

    Thanks, both. Does the craft beer trend excite you (@cwoodward, you mentioned you found Betsy rather moreish), or are you happy sticking with the beers you mentioned above?


    I’ve always stuck to lager type beers, and have to live with with friends mocking my taste in ‘girly’ beer, particularly when I sometimes drink ‘0%’.
    I have occasionally tried craft type beers and found them one or all of : too flat, bitter, strong, dark, yeasty for my taste.
    The brand I’ve most enjoyed has always been Kirin Ichiban (Japan).
    Chang in Thailand is pretty decent stuff too, specially when used to wash down a spicy Thai meal.

    That said, I’m not particularly interested in beer, and it’s not something I’d expect to read about in a Business Travel Magazine.


    So yes there finally is a beer scene in South East Asia. I’m based in Singapore and there a good dozen bars where you can get decent craft beer from the USA the UK and Europe. There also a few local breweries and some good regional choices. Heart of Darkness out of Saigon is my current favourite and it’s flagship IPA, Kurts Insane 7.1% and 100+ IBUs is wonderful. There’s no need to drink the international bland beers any more.


    Hi Michael
    What a great topic, especially on a Friday : )

    My choice of beer here in Scotland is in fact a dark beer , brewed by Bellhaven in Dunbar and simply called “Best”

    When the brewing gods align , ensuring the pourer lovingly dances in perfect harmony with the tap , seducing the ale from its steely cold keg to a welcoming warm glass, and as the beer embraces its new home the glass reciprocates its affection inspiring the cream to first develop and then slowly rise and settle , becoming one , the perfect pint is finally poured.

    When your warm hand finally grasps the pint , and immediately its cooled by the trickling condensation it’s the moment where you realise that you’re about to savour the fruits of that that brew god ! Perfection in a Glass, especially this evening after I’ve been playing football, where that first pint slips down my throat quicker than Franz Klammer than a mountain!

    I won’t even touch the rival “Caledonia Best” , similar type of beer but just horrible and isn’t craft beers just another name for real ale brews, which I describe as flip flop cardigan beer!

    So when I travel , whether it be to Asia or elsewhere I’m afraid I primarily stick to bottled lager “girly” beer. Although I’m not keen on lager I do enjoy a cold bottle of Tsing Tao in DB which means purchasing small bottles rather than the 500ml ‘s as its rank rotten when its warm. I’ll also drink Japan’s finest IMO , Asahi , which I believe is a rice beer ?

    Quick question Michael, where would you recommend to head to try these craft beers whilst I’m in HK
    Whenever I was in LKF I used to enjoy a “Molson Canadian “, watching the hockey, alas the “Keg” has closed down —a great pity !!

    Now, time to get some work done, so I can justify “Klammering “ my first pint of gh god’s creation later on this evening.


    Salivating at Canucklads descriptive powers !!!!!


    Asia is too big to identify one or two best craft beer. Each country – from Singapore, Thailand to S Korea, Japan has its own craft beer traditions.

    Here in Singapore, Brewerkz, a craft beer joint existed for the last 22 years. There are tens of craft beer joints in tiny Singapore. Same in Thailand, Vietnam, S Korea and Japan.
    I rather find it difficult to get good craft beer joints in USA (considering its size).
    Also this tradition started mainly in Germany, I have been to a few places in Nuremberg and Augsburg where craft beer joints are in existence since World war 2.


    The micro brewery scene is exploding across Asia, which is good news for me as i grew out of Disco beers when shaving started to become an annoyance rather than a boast of impending manhood. HK has a good selectio (gweilo is good) even Guangdong province there are several however the best ones I have seen are in Saigon where it has exploded and spoilt for choice. Just where my company is located there are 4 i can see from the company entrance. SoBel, Winking Seal, The Belgium Beer Co and another whose name escapes me. If you are someone that likes ales then its almost impossible to name one as there are new ones all the time but i will go along with Kurtzinsane but that would put you on your back pretty sharpish. My go-to is jasmine IPA from pastuer street brewing

    When mass produced disco beer is only on the menu then In HK its San Mig or Estrella, Saigon its Saigon red, Dongguan its Tiger


    Hi all. I’ve been lurking on the this forum for many years and reading this topic has made me register and add my thoughts.

    I’ve been travelling for more years than I can remember throughout the world and always liked a beer after a hard day of meetings / travelling.

    The rise of craft beer outside of the USA has given great opportunities to try something new and generally much more interesting than the usual mass-produced brews.

    I make use of the Untappd app wherever I go in the world as it helps identify interesting local brews served in hotel bars, but also lists local craft beer bars where I can sample a brew or two, have a good meal and often strike up a conversation with a local beer-fan.

    In Asia, I’ve found great places in HK, Ho Chi Mihn City, Seoul… as well as throughout Europe and South America.


    @ Michael Allen
    Hi Michael
    To be honest I am not a big beer drinker but have downed a few over the years….
    On a hot day after some physical exertion I do however enjoy a light cold beer.
    In Thailand it always full strength Singa, in the Philippines a Sanmig’ which like the food tends to be a little heavier. The current favorite when home in HK is the draft Asahi at the Kowloon Cricket Club.
    In hot weather I find craft beer a little too heavy but my eldest son is a fan and he has introduced me to a couple of craft beers that I enjoyed at ‘Big Sur’ in Straunton Street Soho. It’s a good spot with both indoor and out seating and a good happy hour where a pint goes for as low as HK$50.00.

    I am Cape Town at the moment and I had the first Castle larger for a few years last evening and found it a little sweet…..great wines though.


    The best beers to drink in ZA are the Windhoek range.

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    I am not a beer aficionados either, preferring wine. That said, the choice between a bad wine and a good Tsing Tao is easy! And that beer actually goes well with Chinese food. The same reasoning applies in Thailand with Singha beers.


    I am not that much of a Beer Drinker but in Singapore will drink Tiger if I must or here in Thailand Chang, however and I know this is not the essence of the thread but the rise in great local Gin distilleries is amazing with 3 in Singapore I heard but have not tried one in Thailand too, sorry for taking it off piste so to speak !!!

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