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Like everywhere, craft beer is exploding in Bangkok. But there are some subtle nuances that cause beer lovers to scratch their heads. Why is it so expensive? What’s up with “illegal” beer? And where can I get more? We’ll answer that and more on this episode of The Bangkok Podcast.

After a brief and elusive discussion of the infamous Thailand beach town Pattaya, we jump into the heart of the conversation: Beer in Thailand. Specifically, craft beer in Thailand. To make sure we cover things in an appropriate (read: true) way, we invited Brian Bartusch — co-founder of Bangkok’s largest craft beer importer, Beervana — on to the show to answer some key questions Evo — our resident beer nerd — had about the state of craft beer in Thailand.

Together with a few other entrepreneurial importers, Beervana makes it easy for the visiting craft beer fan to not be forced to drink the standard Thai beers. Not that we’re dissing the local beers. But craft beer fans are going to find Chang, Leo, Singha, and locally-produced Heineken or Asahi rather lacking.

Evo and Brian met up at Roadhouse BBQ. By way of example, they offer a half dozen quality craft beers on tap and a rather large selection of craft beer from all over the world. While you’ll probably find a wider selection back in America simply due to proximity to some other local breweries, you won’t be disappointed in the selection.

But you probably will suffer a bit of a sticker shock. Imported craft beer in Thailand is more expensive than the same beer back home. Why? Well, two main reasons: The first is shipping. It’s a long way from here to there, and it has to be kept cold the entire journey. Then you layer in the import taxes and compliance fees, which are not trivial. Brian digs into it a little deeper on the show if you want more information. Just keep it in mind the next time you plop down ฿350 for a bottle you’d expect to pay $6 for back in The States.

Other topics relevant to craft beer in Bangkok and beyond:

  • Craft beer consumption is only about .02% of overall beer consumption in Thailand. (Source: ChitBeer)
  • Homebrewing is illegal in Thailand. People can be and are thrown in jail for brewing.
  • Which means local Thai craft beer — which is all home brewed — is illegal… yet available everywhere. Honestly, we have mixed feelings about this.
  • Some Thai brewers of quality craft beer are working with the system, doing contract brewing outside of the country and re-importing. It’s crazy, but it’s legal. And tasty!
  • The big Thai brewers have taken notice of the craft beer movement and are taking a Blue Moon approach for now.
  • Local Thais are keenly interested in the craft beer scene.
  • Brian shares some notable places around Bangkok to find great craft beer. You’ll be amazed at how quick it’s growing! Some special call outs:

Find Brian at various craft beer events around Bangkok, or at Pijiu Bar, his newly opened craft beer bar in Bangkok’s Chinatown.

Love, Loathe, or Leave?

Bangkok, like every city, has more than one rat hanging around. We don’t want to alarm you, but the ones in Bangkok seem a little bolder than most. Can you guess where we put this little critter on the Love, Loathe, or Leave spectrum?

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