THE 5 CHEAPEST BEERS IN ASIA
And by cheapest we mean cheap and worth wasting your time to hunt down.
5. MYANMAR BEER
-‘BEER STATIONS’ THROUGHOUT BURMA-
There’s so much to see and do in Burma that your 28-day visa will feel tragically short. It’d be a shame to waste your days away in a beer hall. However, why not waste some nights away?
Myanmar lager is thick, rich and smooth. It’s a fine finish to a long day bicycling the dusty, hot plains of Burma. Unfortunately, Burma doesn’t offer much diversity in its nightlife. Oasis-like draft beer-pouring ‘beer stations’ dot the cities, offering a simple pavilion and some snacks to compliment your Myanmar drafts (600kyet, +-$0.75). Local patrons are male, friendly, speak excellent English and may even offer you a wobbly ride back to your hotel on their motorbike.
4. SAN MIGUEL
San Miguel is available anywhere and anytime in the Philippines. Smiling locals imbibe deep into the wee hours in the various restobars (a combination relaxed bar / restaurant) and karaoke shacks in towns small and large. The brew, often accompanied by a cover band playing “You Give Love a Bad Name”, was founded on a grant from the Queen of Spain in 1890. The brand now offers a wide-range of brews such as San Miguel ‘Dry’, ‘Light’, ‘Dark’, ‘Strong’ and ‘Fried’. Though a 330ml bottle costs just a tempting 23 pesos ($0.45) from a 7-11, remember that the Philippines is the only country in Asia that outlaws open beers on the street. So, enjoy your San Miguel at an established business.
-ANYWHERE ALONG THE MEKONG, LAOS-
Beerlao was famously declared “Asia’s best beer” by The New York Times. We find choosing a favorite beer is like choosing a favorite child, yet we can’t argue with the praise sent by the NYT. For those who have enjoyed New Orleans’s Abita lager (which is also made with spring water), you may find a similar quality in Beerlao. It is crisp, malty, clean and slightly fruity. And, at 8,000-10,000kip ($1.25) for a large 640ml bottle, may inspire some to retire early.
The only useful advice we can offer here is: go; and get it. You’ll find Beerlao everywhere. The company claims to have a 99% market share within Laos. The price does not vary widely. No trip to Savannahkhet and Vientiane is complete without an evening spent under the stars enjoying a cool breeze and a couple bottles of replenishing Beerlao. Despite Laos being landlocked, there’s still plenty of suds to go around.
2. BIA HOI
Legendary amongst sweaty tourists, bia hoi has been spreading southward down Vietnam’s backpacker trail with mixed results- often gassy, weak and warm. For the real stuff, sit your damp ass down in Hanoi and abandon your plans- you won’t need them where we’re going.
The term ‘bia hoi’ is not a brand name, but rather just a general nomenclature for homemade beer, which is delivered to ramshackle sellers each morning. Though often made under ‘unfussy’ (unhygienic) circumstances, its light (around 3% abv), crisp and refreshing. We’ve never been sick off it and we find that our heads feel surprisingly crisp the next morning as well. A glass of bia hoi generally starts at 4,000 dong ($0.20) and goes upward to 7,000 dong throughout central Hanoi. The best cafes occupy the Hoan Kiem district. Friendly (drunk) locals may approach you with handfuls of complimentary beers and its nice to return the favor.
1. TSINGTAO DRAFT BEER
Ah, lovely seaside Qingdao. To escape the oppressive summer heat, there may be no better destination in China. As if the (relatively) clean air, cascading German colonial architecture and abundant seafood weren’t enough reason to visit, Qingdao TKO’s you with Asia’s cheapest beer: their locally-brewery Tsingtao lager on draft.
Ubiquitous throughout central Qingdao’s old colonial district, a fresh glass still costs 1.5RMB ($0.20) at the informal little streetside cafes. A pitcher should set you back 7RMB (just over $1) and a bladder-bursting plastic shopping bag (to go) will get you one gallon for about 20RMB ($3). Be sure to check the prices beforehand and if the shirtless barkeeps try to charge you more, negotiate or go to the next place- there are hundreds.
Tsingtao beer, which was founded by German settlers in 1903, is brewed with large amounts of rice, which gives it a sweetness, and is poured straight from the keg with very little carbonation (meaning your belly can handle more). You can enjoy it with expansive views of the sea and the tuscan-hued roofs and faded facades of old Qingdao. Bring some responsible friends, or risk getting Shanghai’d and waking up in Singapore.
And when you’re in Qingdao, you gotta know how to drink like a local. If it’s above 80 degrees outside you better have that shit rolled up to yer pits.