Beer aficionados won’t be impressed with Thailand’s limited selection of domestic brews, but if you’ve got an open mind, Thailand’s beer can certainly get you tossed as well as any. Chang, Singha and Leo make up the holy trinity of Thai beers. In this brief guide, I analyze this trifecta of bevies and offer my suggestions to tourists seeking suds in Siam.
Stats: Brewed since 1933, Singha is Thailand’s first beer. It’s exported all over the world, making it the Thai beer you’re most likely to find in a liquor store outside of the land of smiles. Shingha is the ritziest domestic alternative.
Flavor: Crisp, light and clean. Singha is probably the best beer to pair with spicy dishes.
Price: It’s the most expensive of the trifecta of Thai beers, so if you’re a budget traveler, I wouldn’t suggest it. 7-11 price: 50 baht (630ml). Bar price: 60-120 baht (330ml).
Stats: Topping the charts at 6.5% alcohol, Chang is probably the most popular beer among Thais. Pronounced “chong,” it means elephant in Thai.
Flavor: Powerful, flavorful and heavy, Chang is like a malt liquor. Drink too much of this beer and you’ll feel the dreaded “chang over” the next day. Be sure to drink it at an icy cold temperature, otherwise it’ll taste like wet dog.
Price: Cheap as dirt. Chang is definitely your best friend if you’re a budget traveler/backpacker. And since it packs so much alcohol, you don’t need much to feel the effects. 7-11 price: 40 baht (630ml). Bar price: 50-90 baht (330ml).
Stats: Leo is made by Boon Rawd Brewery, the same folks who brew Singha. It may be Singha’s low-class younger brother, but Leo is more popular among the Thai working class since it’s so cheap.
Flavor: Damn near the same as Singha. Leo is a light, crisp Thai beer at 5% ABV.
Price: Usually about the same price as Chang, but about 5 baht more. 7-11 price: 45 baht (630ml). Bar price: 60-100 baht (330ml).
Leo takes the crown as my favorite Thai beer. It’s about as cheap as Chang but it doesn’t taste like piss in a bottle (sorry, Chang). It’s a pale lager with decent flavor, and at 5% alcohol, it’s got just the right amount of kick.
Beer on the rocks: Thais drink beer a little differently than folks in the western world. Namely, they drink beer with nam keng (ice), which literally translates to ‘hard water’.
At first I was staunchly against this practice, claiming that it just waters the beer down unnecessarily. But the more I experimented, the more this method grew on me. Now, I prefer my brew on the rocks. It stays ice-cold longer, plus it’s a good way to sneak in a little extra hydration to prevent hangovers.