As 2013 drew to a close this week, I took a few minutes to look back at the year and think about beer. Highlights of the year included the launch of WishBeer; an ever increasing number of super high-quality craft imports making their way into bars and onto shelves; and the tax increase that seemed more than a little unfair to most importers. All-in-all, it was a great year for beer here in Thailand, one that could be hard to top in 2014.
As 2014 has officially started, many companies – us included – are looking forward to the year, analyzing trends and trying to guess at what will be popular in the months to come. So, over a pint or two one night, we sat down and discussed what we think 2014 holds in store for the beer industry in Thailand. Here are our top five.
1. Stouts, porters and more!
While I was back home in Canada, and down in the US over the past summer I noticed that a ton of breweries were brewing stouts and porters, many of which were then aged in oak barrels for up to six months. While brewing spirits in barrels is nothing new – most bourbon, whisky and even wine sees at least some aging in oak – aging beer in these barrels is not the normal procedure.
This appears to be changing, with many brewers choosing to use barrels that have contained spirits from rum to scotch and even bourbon. What this does is impart the flavor of the spirit into the beer, often times improving the overall taste. These beers are a must try, and many brewers are going to great lengths to produce their own version of stout, porter or strong ale that has been aged in barrels.
Beyond that, there is a wide variety of brewers testing out new stout and porter recipes that are pushing the envelope both flavor and body wise. As the taste for stronger and more darker beer develops, we are sure that the importers here in Thailand will be happy to oblige and will begin to bring these beers into the country this year – it would be great to see a beer like Elysian’s Dragonstooth Oatmeal Stout which tastes like dark chocolate, coffee and toasted oats (it sounds a bit weird, but is a must try if you see it) here.
2. The big 2 become even bigger
While craft beer is growing in popularity here in Thailand, it still has a long way to go when compared with the two major Thai brewers – ThaiBev and Boon Rawd. While the tax increase on liquor in 2013 led to an overall increase in prices, the bigger brewers didn’t feel much of the hit.
This has led to an overall stabilization of sales, and maybe even a slight increase when looking at the big two. Overall, it is highly likely that to keep sales high there will be increased marketing initiatives and possibly even new macro beers, or partnerships with world-wide brewers like Anheuser-Busch InBev could result in new beers being introduced.
What does this mean for the craft beer importers? The most obvious would be tougher competition but this could prove to be a good thing, especially since it appears that beer drinkers here in Thailand are beginning to lean more towards the quality brews, which are (at this time) largely imported from other countries.
While it would be nice to see a locally grown craft beer scene emerge here in Thailand, it probably won’t happen in 2014. That being said, who knows what’s in store for the near future – much like the artisanal coffee and cake shops that seem to be springing up everywhere, it’s highly likely that we will see craft beer brewed here in Thailand grow in the coming years.
3. Japan, Japan and more Japan
There is something almost magical going on in Japan right now when it comes to beer. There are a number of brewers that are producing some sublime beers that have yet to make their way to Thailand. Even the big brewers like Kirin are producing some great Lagers that many would enjoy in Thailand. We have started to see this here however, with beers from Yo-Ho brewing and Hitachino, both of which offer some fantastic beer.
Because of the high quality, and availability of Hitachino at a number of popular beer joints, beer lovers in the kingdom are starting to get a taste of what Japan has to offer. Combine this with the ongoing love affair of Japanese cuisine here in Thailand and it makes sense that we should see a rise in beer from the Land of the Rising Sun in 2014.
We’ve heard rumour that Baird Brewing Company’s beer will be available in early 2014 in the country – something which we are eagerly anticipating. It is also highly likely that we will see an increase in the number of different beers offered by brewers already exporting to Thailand.
4. Expanded choice everywhere
We really did see an explosion in the number of different types of beer available in Thailand last year, and from the looks of it, it will be even better in 2014. Where we really foresee growth is in the bar and restaurant scene.
In many countries, beer is quickly becoming the go-to choice for pairing with different dishes. Many of the higher-end restaurants in Bangkokl are starting to realize this and are now offering more than just the usual suspects – Chang, Singha, Leo and Heineken. As this trend carries on into 2014, it is highly likely that we will see better beer on a higher number of restaurant’s menus.
Because it appears that demand is growing, it is also highly likely that we will begin to see a wider selection in most grocery stores. This is already starting to show at the western supermarkets like Villa, but we think the bigger chains may start offering more.
We don’t mean epic stories about beer, we mean mixed drinks that feature beer as the main ingredient. This may seem like sacrilege to some beer enthusiasts, but there are some great cocktails out there that use beer. Take for instance the mexican bulldog (a blended margarita with a Corona dumped upside down into the drink) or the Chileda/Michelade (Lager beer with a shot of lime juice and chili) which have become popular drinks in the west.
Refreshing beer-tails like these suit the climate here perfectly, and we are starting to see them appear on menus in bars on the tourist trail and in Bangkok. As these catch on, we should see them become more popular. It’s also worth mentioning that Thailand offers some really unique ingredients that bartenders should really start playing around with.
What do you think will be the most popular trend of 2014 when it comes to beer? Let us know!
Wish of the week
Mikkeller’s To Ol Black Ball
If you are looking for a bit of a stronger beer on these cooler days, try a porter. This beer is one you should look into. Coming in at 8% ABV, tasting like a strong bitter coffee you will literally feel your stomach warming when you drink this. Sure, it could be the higher alcohol percentage, but let’s forget about that and enjoy a bottle or two!