Whether you say “ganbei,” “mabuhay” or “chok dee,” all Asians have a deep love of alcohol… Asian flush be d@mned. But within the last century, Asian alcohol expanded beyond traditional drinks like baijiu, palm wine and arrack to a more Western brew: beer (although, archaeologists did apparently discover a 5,000-year-old Chinese beer recipe—make at your own risk). Today, for International Beer Day, raise the bar with these Asian beer brands.
1. Beerlao (Laos)
Beer snobs, foreigners and Laotian locals alike all love Beerlao, making the brand a must-try. Even “Time” magazine once named it the best local beer in Asia. Beerlao combines German hops, French and Belgium malts and local jasmine rice for a unique, delicious flavor profile. If you want to start the weekend with a big bang, Beerlao offers the Original in larger-than-life 640 milliliter bottles.
2. Hite (Korea)
Korea has three popular beers, Hite, OB and Cass, but Hite has held onto the top spot for 16 years now. Their Extra Cold beer is popular for its sweet, malty flavor, and its lightness makes it a great complement to spicy Korean foods, like tteokbokki or ramyeon. But don’t pass up HiteJinro’s expensive and higher-quality Queen’s Ale brand, which has been praised internationally, especially The Extra Bitter Type.
3. Tiger (Singapore)
For Heineken fans, Tiger is sure to satisfy. In the 1930s, Heineken helped establish a Tiger Brewery in Singapore, the first of its kind in the country. The pale lager has a strong malty flavor, and its light bubblines makes it easy to down several bottles over the course of an evening. Just like the company slogan says, it’s time for a Tiger!
4. Hanoi Beer (Vietnam)
One of the best attractions in Vietnam is not any mountain overlook or temple, but the Bia Hoi shops, where customers lounge in plastic chairs and drink glasses of freshly-brewed, preservative-free beer. While you may not be able to find that experience outside Vietnam, the rich taste of a fresh Hanoi Beer is worth the trip. Join in the tradition by counting to three—”Một, hai, ba, dô!”—then drink quickly, before the beer turns too bitter.
5. Sapporo (Japan)
Asahi fans, please don’t come for us. We love a Super Dry for its crispness, but Sapporo delivers a richer flavor and fuller body that will carry us through a long party. If you have extra money to spare, grab a Yebisu beer. It’s also produced by Sapporo brewers, but with the most traditional process and the highest quality ingredients. In any case, that star label foreshadows a great night out.
6. Angkor (Cambodia)
Angkor is the quintessential beer of Cambodia. The brand proudly sports the iconic Angkor Wat temple as its logo, sources its spring water locally and claims the slogan “My Country, My Beer.” After you experience Angkor’s hoppy taste at its affordable price, you’ll understand what the hype is all about. Or for something stronger, try Angkor’s lager cousin, Klang.
7. Tsingtao (China)
The second best-selling beer in China, this German-style pilsner combines rice and hops to create a strong, malty drink. Despite its turbulent history, Tsingtao has established itself as a favorite beverage both inside and outside of China. Snow Beer actually beats out Tsingtao in popularity, but it’s rarely distributed outside of its homeland, so until we see Snow Beer on the shelves of our local TotalWine, we’ll be nursing the Tsingtao.
8. San Miguel (Philippines)
San Miguel has become a dominant figure in both its home country and in Hong Kong. Over the years, it’s made a name for itself in other Southeast Asian countries too. With a 5 percent alcohol content, the San Miguel Pale Pilsner has hints of caramel and malt. It’s slightly more bitter than other Asian beers, which makes it perfect pairing alongside greasy side dishes, like sisig. If you want a more robust beer with a higher alcohol content, try Red Horse, another San Miguel product.
9. Kingfisher (India)
The Kingfisher Premium first launched in 1978, and today, Kingfisher is India’s most widely recognized beer brand. The company has since made itself known in other industries by hosting cricket tournaments, producing fashion shows and even establishing their own airline. Kingfisher definitely lives up to its slogan, “The King of Good Times.”
10. Bintang (Indonesia)
Bintang is the perfect beer to escape the sticky weather with. Another child of Heineken, this brand sports the same red star and flavor—light, with hoppy, malty hints. If you want something with a more fruity flavor, the popular Bintang Radler comes in lemon and grapefruit. And for those who wants to skip out on the alcohol, like much of Indonesia’s Muslim population, or those trying not to turn into a tomato from Asian glow, the Bintang Zero will make sure you don’t feel left out at the party.
11. The Hand and Malt (Korea)
Founded by artisan brew master Bryan Do, this South Koreanbrewery features a roster of tasty drinks that includes a Belgian-style Dubbel made with Korean candied sugar (yeot) and a light, floral IPA with hints of citrus. Unfortunately, their offerings aren’t available yet in the United States, but should you find yourself in Korea, you should seek out their seasonal flavors like kimchi or persimmons, as well as their classics.
12. Singha (Thailand)
In production since 1910, “The original Thai beer” boasts a rich taste and body with a strong flavor of hops, from the three varieties used to brew the beverage: Saaz, Perle and Hallertau.