What is the best Thai beer ?
For most tourists, expats, and even locals, Thai beer can be resumed to the top big 3 brands: Chang, Leo, and Singha.
Even though is it easy to find imported beer in Thailand, these 3 brands are by far the most common and the most popular in the country.
But in the last years, we've seen the emergence of a Craft Beer scene with popular Thai Craft beers like Full Moon Chalawan Pale Ale, Mahanakhon White Ale, or Dirty Fourty Amber Ale and an increasing number of Craft Beer bars that open the country to new tastes and flavors.
So are these "new" beers challenging the big 3?
Not yet. And objectively, they probably never will.
But at least you've got more options to find a Thai beer you like.
The 3 Biggest Brands of Thai Beers
Singha, Leo, and Chang dominate the Thai Beer market.
According to a study by Flander Investment and Trade Leo is the market leader with 53% of the total sales, followed by Chang with 37% and Singha with 7%.
Even though they're 3 pretty basic lagers beers, their refreshing and mild taste make them perfect with a spicy Thai meal, to stay hydrated during a music festival under the hot sun of Thailand, or to chill at a beer garden after a long day visiting temples.
And each has its own fans that will tell you their beer is better than the other 2.
Singha (pronounce Sing, which means Lion in Thai) is the oldest beer in Thailand produced since 1933.
Brewed by Boon Rawd Brewery, Singha is probably the most famous Thai beer outside of Thailand as it is exported to many foreign countries.
The brand also gained more international attention in recent years since they started to sponsor Premier League club Chelsea, the Moto GP tournament, and the Formula 1 driver Kimi Raikkonen.
Even though Singha is often cited as the Thai beer with the richest flavors thanks to its fruity and hoppy finish, it's also seen as the "rich man beer" as it is more expensive than the 2 other popular brands, Chang and Leo.
Chang beer is the Thai beer with the Elephant logo on it (Chang means elephant in Thai).
It’s also called the backpacker beer as it used to be the go-to beer for budget travelers as it was for years the strongest and cheapest of the 3.
Nowadays, that reputation remains as it still is the cheapest Thai beer but the new version called Chang Classic introduced in 2015 for the 20th anniversary of the brand has a 5% ABV, just like Singha and Leo.
Produced by Thai Bev (the largest beverage company in Thailand who owns the Thai rums Mekhong and SangSom), Chang is often criticized for being tasteless and inconsistent.
Truth is, the brand had struggled with production and consistency in the past especially with alcohol content that could sometime go as high as 10% ABV, giving it a strong alcoholic taste.
But these are stories from the past and since the brand changed to Chang Classic it is cleaning its reputation and slowly gaining in popularity, in part due to the large number of local events they sponsor in Thailand.
Leo is the red Thai beer with the Leopard on the bottle.
For a lot of locals, it's the beer of choice because it is "less expensive than Singha and tastes better than Chang".
That probably explains why Leo owns the largest share of the Thai beer market.
And even though it is also brewed by Boon Rawd Brewery, most Leo drinkers won't drink Singha and the other way around.
Which one is the best Thai beer ?
All 3 beers have a lot in common.
Singha, Leo, and Chang all have 5% ABV, mild flavor, and are pretty inexpensive.
They're all best-served ice cold or with ice.
Regarding the price, Chang is always cheaper, followed by Leo and Singha.
But that doesn't tell us which one is best.
So I turned to a panel of experts (my Instagram followers) to ask Thai locals, expats, and Thailand lovers which one of the big 3 is their favorite.
And their answer speaks for itself.
- Chang is the big winner
- Leo fights well and comes as N°2
- Singha doesn't find much success. Maybe because of the price.
But anyway, if you're spending an extended amount of time in Thailand, go follow these 3 brands on Facebook and Instagram.
They often have contests where it's pretty easy to win all sorts of prizes.
In the last 12 months, Leo offered us 6 free tickets to Knock Knock Festival and Singha sent me a few goodies as well as a 500฿ voucher for Netflix.
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Thai Craft Beers
If flavors are what you’re looking for, Thailand has a lot of local Craft Beers to please your palate.
Even though the legislation makes it difficult for small brewers and Thai craft beers to rise, a lot of microbreweries have emerged across the country and Thai craft beers producers moved their production to foreign countries to keep their brand alive.
That explains in part the high price of Craft Beers in Thailand, even for Thai ones as they are all produced overseas and imported back into the country where they get heavily taxed because they're seen as "imported goods".
I'm not an expert in Craft beers but I know a few people who are, so go follow theses accounts to learn more about Thailand Craft Beer scene :
Famous Thai Craft beer brands widely available in the country include:
- Full Moon Chalawan Pale Ale
- Sandport Broken Sword Red Ale
- Mahanakhon White Ale
- Devanom Ippo Pale Ale
These brands can be found in most 7/Eleven and Supermarkets in Thailand.
In Thai, beer is เบียร์ (bia).
Any of the top 3 big brands of Thai beer: Leo, Singha or Chang. With ice.
Big bottles of beer in Thailand (620ml) sell for around 55 to 65 Thai baht ($1,70-2).
And now if you want to learn how to order a beer in Thai, here's a quick lesson :
Now let me know, which one is your go-to Thai beer?
And what's for you the best place to savor one?