I work so that I can see the world. However, on my recent 6 week trip to Asia and Australia, I saw something that I hadn’t noticed in my other travels…the local brews. Now that I work in this growing and fascinating industry I can’t help but have an interest in brewing abroad.
No English, Big Problem [Tokyo, Japan]
On Day 2 of Tokyo we stumbled upon the Asahi Beer Hall where we grabbed a Japanese buffet lunch and enjoyed a flight and their well-known Super “Dry” Extra Cold Lager. The flight included Dry Premium Hojo, Sumidagawa Brewing Stout, and Sumidagawa Brewing Weizen.
The Super “Dry” extra cold lager is served at around -2 Celsius (around 28 Fahrenheit), but given it was 90 Fahrenheit outside the sub-zero temperature did not last long.
Since the majority of people we met didn’t speak English we were fortunate that the Asahi lobby offered their history in English. We discovered that the brewery was founded in 1889 as the Osaka Beer Company. A century later Asahi acquired the Australian brewery Elders IXL, which later became Foster’s Group. In the last decade Asahi has expanded their beverage production by acquiring soft drink, juice and liquor companies including Schweppes, water and juice division of P&N Beverages, and Vodka Cruisers.
Beer Vending Machines [Thailand]
Not much more to say there. In Thailand if you’re on the run or trying to get a beer during 2 – 5 PM when alcohol cannot legally be served, just put about 50 Baht ($1.45 USD) into a nearby vending machine and enjoy.
Singha Lager and Chang Lager are the most common beer to find in Thailand and typically your only beer options in a vending machine. Both are offered in a small or large can/bottle, but Chang was more widely available in the two sizes. They drink like a tailgating beer would, easy to take down. Let’s just say I’m not going to go out of my way to find either of these in the states.
Another unusual place to find beer is on the floating markets in Bangkok. To get to these markets you have to Hop On a long tail boat and the stores (aka other boats) will either float up to you or you to them.
FINALLY…An IPA [Chiang Mai, Thailand]
Our first night in Chiang Mai we ventured to a highly recommended restaurant, Lemongrass, “No View but Tasty”. A small venue down the street from the Night Bazaar that seats about 40 people and typically has over a 30-minute wait. Once we were finally sat I was pleasantly surprised not only to see an IPA on the menu, but also that it was transportation themed like us – Red Truck by Chiang Mai Brewery. The name comes from the Chiang Mai taxis which are trucks with an enclosed bed that has bench seating.
The IPA was more of a session IPA at just 5% ABV, but it helped enhance the taste of my basic dinner of chicken, broccoli and white rice. I learned that craft beers are so scarce throughout Thailand because of a law from the 1950’s that states a brewery is required to mass-produce 100,000 liters per year to be licensed to distribute. The way some smaller breweries have gotten around this is by brewing or bottling outside of the country and importing back to Thailand. A big downfall, however, is that the bottle will be taxed at 60% for customs duty and another 48% excise tax.
Drinking Games [Koh Samui, Thailand]
At Ark Bar in Koh Samui we ordered a tower of Chang and decided to play “quarters”. Given we didn’t have any quarters on us we played with a 10 Baht coin. After just a few rounds we struck the interest of some people from New Zealand, Scotland and Italy. They weren’t surprised to learn that we were American since we are known for our ‘college’ drinking games. We explained the rules, played a few rounds and inherited new friends. Always happy to educate those around the world about our culture.
Booze Cruisin’ [Koh Phi Phi, Thailand]
You can barely make it off the pier in Koh Phi Phi without being hounded to join a boat drinking experience, including Captain Bob’s Booze Cruise. Bob’s is probably the most famous of them because he [Bob] is known for actually joining each excursion and making it slightly weird so of course we signed up.
Unfortunately Bob did not join ours, but it was still highly entertaining. We cruised to monkey beach where you feed semi-aggressive monkeys, then to a lagoon where the skippers taught what us Floridians know as a life jacket diaper. My friends and I felt right at home floating in the water with a Chang in a koozie in our hand.
"Stubby Holders" [Bali, Indonesia]
You might as well say you’ve been to Australia if you visit Bali. Due to the travel time between the two countries and the exchange rate it’s almost more affordable for an Australian to holiday [vacation] in Bali rather than within the country.
If you are worried about the trend to use text-language in actual speech here in the States you should hear an Australian try to say a sentence without a slang or abbreviation. One of the best slangs I heard was ‘stubby holder’. It is used instead of ‘koozie’ because traditionally beer in Australia was sold in a 12.7oz bottle known as a stubby.
Art and A Brewery [Byron Bay, NSW, AUS]
After having been non-stop for 4.5 weeks we took a much needed hippie-vacay at The Arts Factory Lodge in Byron Bay. Byron Bay is already known as a laid-back, tie-dye loving community, but throw in a hostel that offers campgrounds where some visitors come and never leave and you’re right back in the 60s.
Arts Factory Lodge is tucked next to the Cumbedin Swamp Nature Reserve and a few blocks off of Jonson Street, the main strip in town. The hostel shares it’s woodsy grounds with the Buddha Gardens Day Spa, Pighouse Flicks [movie theatre], a recording studio and Byron Bay Brewing Co.
The brewery was the first thing to catch my eye as we pulled in, considering I work for one, but to my dismay they were under construction and would open a week after our departure. I took a sneak-peak through the windows and got some info from the locals.
What started as a piggery in 1898 transformed into a music hall just a few years short of its 100th birthday and was eventually taken over by some crafty beer lovers 8 years ago. From what I was told the brewery had a rocky start as they did not get a lot of support from the locals who made it difficult to expand production.
This past April, Lion purchased Byron Bay Brewing Co. because of their confidence in the brand and quality of the beer. Lion has a history of purchasing microbreweries with similar limitations and growing them successfully. With Brew Bus Brewing acquiring Florida Avenue Brewing we have a similar story to tell and wish them the best of luck in their reopening!
Jet Mags [Melbourne, VIC, AUS]
On our Jetstar flight from Byron Bay to Melbourne I was pleasantly surprised to find an article in the airplane magazine titled “Talent on Tap”. It spoke about the growing craft beer industry in Australia and New Zealand and how they are now getting recognition worldwide.
The Top Five Breweries they suggested tourists to visit are:
- Moon Dog Craft Brewery – Melbourne, VIC
- Balter Brewers – Gold Coast, QLD
- Pirate Life Brewing – Adelaide, SA
- Feral Brewing – Swan Valley, WA
- Garage Project – Wellington, NZ
And the Top Four Great Beer Experiences are:
Don’t get me wrong, I had a fair share of fruity drinks as well. If you are interested in taking a trip to Asia and/or Australia and looking for a travel buddy, there’s still a lot I have left to see across the sea.
Alexis Pettinato is the Community Relations Manager at Brew Bus Brewing. Before taking the hike to Asia and Australia she traveled through 9 countries in Europe including Yacht Week Croatia in 2015, visited the West Indies, Costa Rica and Mexico and visited our neighbors - Canada.