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Oakes Weekly - Thailand, Part One

Not Much Between Despair and Ecstacy
Oakes Weekly December 2, 2004      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

Beerhunting in Thailand is bloody aggravating. In China, the beers weren’t very good but there were lots of choose from. Maybe this doesn’t work for most people, but trying lots of different beers - however bad - is part of my job so it worked for me. Laos basically just has Beer Lao, but that’s a good beer so I was fine with it. Cambodia has lots of foreign stouts, so I was fine with that, too. But in Thailand...oh man...the local cliche "same same" very aptly applies to beer selections. Every store, every bar, every restaurant has the exact same lineup of beer. If I’m really lucky, I will find a place with expensive Erdinger. It’s hopeless and I fully expect to dry out for a while.

Thankfully, Bangkok has brewpubs. I spent a couple of days exploring the brewpub scene in the capital. The first I visited was the Londoner. This is a faux-English pub of the same type found on every corner in Toronto. The beers, a pilsner and a bitter, were passable but unexciting. The only customers there were foreigners - I actually managed to forget I was in another country. It seems one town is very like another when your head’s down in your pint glass.

Nearby is Orbit. The brewery is called La Lunar and has three outlets - two of which are at the airport (domestic terminal and international terminal 2). The other is at Orbit, a nightclub. There was a big party going on, but I just wandered in anyway. There were lights, glitter, and very loud music. It was a show with everything but Yul Brynner. The place was nuts - they had dancing girls on stage and everything. But I get my kicks above the waistline. Or so I tried. It was a private party, apparently, and they gave me the boot. But not before I got a taste of their honey lager. All told, though, Orbit is a terrible place to rate beers and I would be going to the airport in a couple of days anyway.

I continued south to Tawandang. This is a massive "German" beer hall. It is a charmless place with scores of waitstaff in second-hand Pizza Hut uniforms running around helping the six customers. There was some sort of talentless talent contest on stage. The beers weren’t bad but were hardly memorable. Of the three brewpubs on the night, only the Londoner was even remotely normal.

The casual beer lover in Bangkok would probably just visit the known brewpubs. But part of my job is to check out various leads to see if there are any more brewpubs that have yet to be "discovered". I spent the next evening working on several leads. Some had been closed for a couple of years, some never were brewpubs, some...well I couldn’t even find some of the places at all. Normally when I have five or six leads, something pans out or because I’m running all over town I trip over something worth noting, but not on this night. They all crapped out. I had just spent seven hours of futile beerhunting and I was exhausted and exasperated. At 11pm I admitted defeat and rated Singha 70 at a sidewalk restaurant. One night in Bangkok really does make a hard man humble.


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start quote the local cliche "same same" very aptly applies to beer selections end quote