Although the Asian beer market is not well known for its amazing quality, it is growing at a phenomenal rate. Not only is the market growing in terms of beer consumption, but the quality and range of beers is increasing as well. You might be surprised just how many good beers there are now in Asia, and how much Asian countries love their beer. In fact, China has been the biggest beer producer and consumer in the world since 2002. Although beer consumption beer per person is still much lower than that of Europe or USA, it is growing every year and with more brands available it is likely to improve even further.
Beer in South-East Asia
Perhaps the best quality Asian beer can be found in the Southeast Asian markets of Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia. These countries have a decent tradition of brewing, and are producing some pretty good beers compared to other Asian countries. One of the biggest Asian breweries is the San Miguel brewery in Philippines. Although many people think that San Miguel is an exclusively Spanish beer, this is not quite accurate. San Miguel was originally set up in the Philippines, albeit by Spanish settlers, in 1890. It was linked to Spain until the 1950’s, but the Spanish and Asian beers are no longer related. It is the biggest beer in the Philippines and can be found throughout Asia. It is a lager beer, but full in flavour and is often compared to Bavarian dark beer. Another big beer in the Southeast Asian market is Tiger. It is the top lager beer in Singapore, and is also very popular in Southern China, and even in Europe.
However, the beer that is causing the most storm in this Asian region is a beer called Beer Lao. Produced in Laos since 1973, it is a lager beer brewed using a combination of Himalayan mountain water, German yeast and French barley. The beer is often referred to as the best in Asia, and although little known in the West it is an extremely tasty French-style lager with a crisp finish.
Although China produces and consumes more beer in terms of volume than anywhere else in the world, it is not known for high-quality beer. The biggest beer product, Tsingtao, is a drinkable if somewhat weak Asian lager beer. It was originally produced in 1897 by German colonies and is the most widely available beer in China. Most provinces in China have their own beers. For example, Beijing has Beijing beer and Yanjing beer, or Pijiu as beer is called in China. None of these beers are particularly high in quality, although they both do dark lager beers that are much more drinkable if somewhat harder to find. However, what the beer lacks in character it makes up for in price, with whole crates of 600ml bottles costing less than £5 in local shops.
Beers in Japan are of a slightly higher standard than many other Asian countries, and their light crisp tastes go well with delicate food like sushi. The two most popular Asian beers in Japan are Kirin and Sapporo. Kirin is named after a mythical beast of half-horse and half-dragon. It is a refreshing golden lager that goes well with food, and is quite popular in the UK and other Asian countries.
Sapporo is a Bavarian-style beer, and is brewed by the first brewery in Japan. The Kaitakushi Brewery dates back to 1876, and its Sapporo beer is a light, crisp lager that again is excellent with light foods like sushi or rice.
Asian beer still has some way to go in terms of quality and diversity to catch up with its European counterparts, but its popularity and range is improving. As more and more Asian beer is consumed, it is likely that the range and standard of beer available will increase, and with it will come a new and distinctly Asian take on the classic beer formula.