Southeast Asia is a region of 10 countries bounded by India, China, and the Pacific and Indian Oceans. There is little indigenous beer tradition in Southeast Asia because all but one of its constituent nations have lived through periods of colonialism. Although these are now independent nations, they retain continuing business links to Europe. Only Thailand avoided colonization, although brewing there has a strong German element. Throughout the area lager styles predominate, although occasionally ales and stouts can be found.
Brunei is a Sultanate in the British commonwealth on the island of Borneo. The sale and public consumption of alcohol is banned with some concessions for foreigners and non-Muslims. Not surprisingly, there are no breweries in Brunei.
Burma (Myanmar) is an independent republic that cut its ties with colonial British rule in 1948. The Mandalay Brewery produces the fruity Mandalay beer and the odd spirulina beer, which has algae added; the brewery claims it has health-giving properties. The Myanmar Brewery in Rangoon brews Myanmar beer and Tiger beer among others, exporting to several surrounding countries. Per capita beer consumption in Myanmar is 1 l (33 oz) per year.
In Cambodia (Kampuchea) local brewing shows little influence of the country’s French colonial past. There are two major breweries in the capital city of Phnom Penh, with the Cambodia Brewery producing Gold Crown, a European-style pilsner, and Anchor, a lager found throughout the region. The recently built Kingdom Brewery brews Clouded Yellow pilsner and Kingdom’s draught. In the port city of Kompong Som a subsidiary of Cambodia Brewery also brews Anchor and contract brews the Laotian beer Lao. The Heineken-built Cambrew brewery produces Anghor, Bayou beer, and a strong 8.3% alcohol by volume Black Panther stout.
Indonesia is a republic consisting of more than 16,000 islands. It is the world’s fourth most populous nation. Independence came in 1949 after 350 years of Dutch rule; some Dutch brewing influence remains. The most popular beer is Bintang Star beer, following the taste and packaging styles of Heineken, the major Dutch brewer. It is brewed throughout the country. The Bintang plant in the capital city of Jakarta also brews Guinness Foreign Export stout. In nearby Bekasi the Delta brewery produces Anker beer and Anker stout and San Miguel, a lager from the Philippines. Storm Brewing of Bali has a large portfolio, including a bronze ale called Red Dawn; a pale ale called Sand Storm; and Black Moon, a dry Irish stout. It also produces occasional specialty ales using interesting ingredients including bananas, chilies, and chocolate.
Laos, a republic that shook off French dominance in 1954, is the only land-locked country in the region. Brewing is by the state-run Laos Brewing Company, supported by foreign investment including Danish brewer Carlsberg. There are two breweries, one in the capital city of Vientiane and the other in the southern province of Champasack. The main products are Beerlao lager, the slightly more flavorful Beerlao dark, and Beerlao gold; all three are lagers. Also brewed is Carlsberg beer.
Malaysia is a monarchy consisting of two areas separated by the South China Sea: half of the Malay peninsula and one-third of the island of Borneo. British influence dates back more than 2 centuries but the Danish company Carlsberg has been in business in the area since 1903. The Carlsberg Brewery (Malaysia) in Selangor has an extensive portfolio of beers including Carlsberg special brew, Connor’s original stout, Corona light lager, and Tetley’s English ale. The recently formed and smaller Jaz Brewery brews a fresh-tasting lager on a German brewing system.
The Philippines is a republic of many islands in the western Pacific first controlled by Spain and then by the United States, gaining independence in 1946. Several breweries produce the best-selling pale lager San Miguel, including one in the capital, Manila, where a dark lager, Cevera Negra, is also brewed. Red Horse ale and Gold Eagle lager are also in the portfolio. In the ancient capital Cebu, the Asia Brewery produces Colt 45, Beer Na Beer, and beers from Coors’ range.
Singapore is an independent city-state on an island off the tip of the Malay Peninsula. One large brewery, Asia Pacific, brews the big Tiger brand, which is exported to 60 countries, and a variety of other styles. Among the several craft brewers and brewpubs, Brewerkz is renowned for its cask-conditioned ales, particularly India pale ale and stout. Archipeligo Brewing, owned by Asia Pacific, is more adventurous and boasts an interesting list of wheat beers, saisons, and various beers based on local cuisine.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and has never been colonially controlled. Three groups own all of the major breweries: Thai Bev plc, often called Cosmos, has five breweries with Chang as its major seller; the Boon Rawd Brewery Company owns three breweries, with Singha and Leo the predominate brews; and Thai Asia Pacific is a major brewery and a smaller plant just outside the capital of Bangkok that brews Anchor and San Miguel.
In Vietnam, after a long French colonial period and decades of war, comparative stability arrived in the 1990s. Beer 333 (known as BabaBa) is brewed in the capital Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in the south. The Saigon Beer Company is the largest brewery, producing 5 million hl (4,260,839 US bbl) annually (and targeting 7 million hl [5,965,175 US bbl] by the end of 2010), with Saigon beer its main product. Unique to Vietnam is Bia Hoi (gas beer), which is made fresh every day and sold at stalls and by cycle vendors. Often dispensed out of plastic jugs, it is a very cheap golden “running beer” that rarely lasts more than 24 h before becoming sour and unpalatable.