Thursday, March 10, 2011


In between exploring the labyrinthine markets, notorious nightlife, and alluring tropical beaches of Thailand, you might end up wanting a beer. Unfortunately, you’re not going to have many options. Light lagers rule the day in this SE Asian nation. However, if you go off the beaten path you might be able to find something a little more special… and eccentric.

Leo on the beach in Ko Samet
The sweltering and muggy climate of Thailand is certainly conducive to a light beer. Whether you choose Singha, Chang, Leo, or Beerlao, you’re going to end up with a light and sweet lager. Most of these were a bit too sugary for my everyday consumption, but as the old saying goes, “Any port in a storm.” 

I couldn’t tell much of a difference between Singha and Chang. Both went well with hot curry and are decent thirst quenchers, but are relatively devoid of flavor and remind me of some sort of sugary barley water as opposed to a beer. However, the Leo and Beerlao were slightly better. Both had a bit more of a malty background than their competitors and a slight roastiness that helped cut away from their sweetness. However, Leo had something that really went a long way with me- hops. As in, I could taste them. Not an overpowering amount, mind you, but just enough to make me realize they were hiding in there somewhere. Leo on draft is definitely my choice for a widely available beer. That doesn’t mean one can’t go off the beaten path…

Xylophonists performing at Tawandang German Brewery
And off the beaten path I went. To Tawandang German Brewery, located about 30 minutes from central Bangkok by taxi. For risk of sounding like an artifact of the 1960s, this place was a trip (I know, I’m a regular Cyrano de Bergerac over here). Much akin to authentic German beer hall style, everyone sat at long tables and watched the evening’s entertainment while eating typical drinking food while guzzling copious amounts of beer.

Another view from inside Tawandang German Brewery
A note about the ambiance is in order. Various singers, dancers, and even master xylophonists (you heard me right) rotated sets throughout the night. None were bad. Most were quite good. And all were very uniquely Thai. They crooned Thai love songs, performed traditional dance, sang with members of the audience, played refashioned ancient but with electrical instruments- all to the audience’s delight. I watched this all unfold while eating Thai prawns in sweet chili sauce and sampling the three house-brewed beers.

Tawandang brews 3 beers: a lager, a hefeweizen, and a dunkelweizen.

Tawandang Lager
The lager was incredibly pale with floral hop aromas. Definitely sweeter than most lagers but some hops provided a nice balance. A better option than the more commercialized Thai lagers.

Tawandang hefeweizen
The hef was so-so. It was incredibly light but too sour and vinegary to be representative of the style. My least favorite of the bunch.

Tawandang dunkelweizen (sorry for low pic quality... I drank more than a few)

The dunkelweizen was my favorite beer at Tawandang. It had rich malty and caramel flavors with the same floral hops used in the lager. It was thick but not syrupy. A surprising treat.
My experience in Thailand was great- but not necessarily because of the beers. I recommend trekking out to Tawandang if you have some spare time for the experience, if nothing else. Considering it’s 40 minutes from the city center, your time would probably be better spend sightseeing at the local markets and temples- but if you really want a good brew, that’s your best bet. Till next time, where I’ll explore izakayas (Japanese pubs) in the Shinbashi district of Tokyo. Cheers!

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