Thai beer hasn’t changed much since Boon Rawd Brewery first started brewing Singha beer in 1933. There are three main brands of beer in Thailand: Singha, Chang, and Leo. Each has its own loyal following among locals, expats, and tourists.
Thai beer has been reaching out across the globe to increase its branding. Chang has sponsored the Everton football club since 2004. Singha has partnered with several Premiere League teams including Chelsea and Manchester United in addition to sponsoring Formula 1 and other global sporting events. Leo…well it’s part of Boon Rawd Brewery and doesn’t yet have any big sports sponsorship, that is all Singha for now.
While there are many beers imported to Thailand, the laws make it very difficult for a craft beer industry to take hold in Thailand, and they keep getting stricter. While brewpubs are allowed to brew their own beer if they make more than 100,000 liters per year, it can only be sold on premises, no bottling allowed.
For now, there are three main Thai beer brands that make up the options.
Singha is the oldest Thail brew. It’s been made in Thailand since 1933 by the Boon Rawd Brewery. Singha translates to Lion, which is also the symbol of the beer. It comes from one of the mystical lions in Thai literature. Singha is pronounced “Sing,” the h and a are both silent.
Most Thai beer used to have a high alcohol content with 6% not uncommon. Over recent years that has been reduced and Singha now comes in at 5% ABV. It still packs a punch compared to other beers from around the world that come in at 3 – 4 %.
Singha has also added a light beer to their line up. While a bit harder to find than the original, it seem to be gaining traction around the bars in Thailand.
ThaiBev is the second largest brewery in Thailand and the maker of Chang Beer. Its characteristic green bottle and elephant logo (Chang translates to Elephant) can be found all over Thailand from Family Mart to beer bars.
Chang beer has also gone through a bit of a remake in the last few years. They consolidated a number of different brands into a single beer – Chang Classic and they’ve lowered their alcohol content to 5% ABV from 6.4%.
While Singha and Chang have the market share and mind share among tourists, Leo is the Thai beer that holds the most market share in Thailand at almost 54%. It is brewed by the same company as Singha, Boon Rawd Brewery. Leo is often to referred to as the best kept secret, but with half the beer sales in Thailand, it only maybe a secret to the tourists.
Thailand Imported Beer
Thailand imports a lot of beers from around the world. While Singha, Chang, and Leo are the three horseman of the Thai beer world, many farang (tourists/foreigners) choose to drink imports. You can find almost any kind of major beer brand available in Thailand from local Asian favorites like Tiger and San Miguel to Budweiser and Carlsberg. Imports from the local area are a little more expensive than Thai beer, and imports from far flung regions like North America are even pricier.
San Miguel Light
Look around any Thai beer bar and you’ll see a lot of people drinking San Miguel Light. It is one of the most popular imported beers in Thailand. The San Miguel brewery has been around since 1890 when it was founded in the Philippines. While they make a number of different beers San Mig Light is the most popular and can be had at almost any bar and store in Thailand.
It’s a lower calorie beer that is light and refreshing and goes well with a lime, or lemon as the Thais say. It is reminiscent of a Corona lager. It comes in at 5% ABV.
Singapore’s Tiger beer is another very popular option in Thailand. It is one of the few imports you can often find on draft at many of the bars. It’s a pale lager that comes in at 5% ABV. Founded in 1932, it is Singapore’s first local beer. Tiger Crystal is another popular brand with lower calories than the original and 4.2% ABV. Tiger Crystal is harder to find at the bars in Thailand.
The old Dutch favorite Heineken is ubiquitous around Thailand just like the rest of the world. It’s a pale lager with a bitter finish that is popular around the world.
Corona has been making surprising inroads in Thailand. Probably not much of a surprise as it is distributed by the Boon Rawd Brewery, the home of Singha and Leo. it is going to run you a few Baht more than some other imports, but if you want the feeling of relaxing on the Mexican Riviera while sitting on a beach in Thailand, you have that option.
Craft Beer In Thailand
The craft beer scene in Thailand has been growing year over year. Unfortunately the strict laws and capital requirements, it is a tough road for most craft brewers. If you want to taste some of Thailand’s craft beers you can only do so in the small brewpubs as bottling is highly restricted.
No discussion of Thai Beer would complete without talking about bar closures and alcohol free days.
No Alcohol Days In Thailand
Thailand is a deeply Buddhist country and there are several holiday’s throughout the year when alcohol sales are prohibited and bars are closed. In addition the government has been known to limit alcohol sales and close bars when and how they see fit. During the Covid-19 pandemic alcohol sales were forbidden for weeks in an attempt to promote social distancing.