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Isn’t It Great My Beer Is So Dam-ed Cheap?

The best things in life are free. But things close to free are still pretty good.

The best things in life are free. But things close to free are still pretty good.

For the drinking bound: if you’re going on a vacation with the expectation of drinking local macrobrews on the cheap, steer clear of Qatar, Oman, Iran, and all of the Scandinavian countries which tax alcohol similarly.

So where do you go?

I would not advise anyone to travel anywhere solely for the purpose of obtaining cheap beer. The cost of getting to a locale more than counters any advantage you receive from saving some cash on the beers you drink.  That would apply even if you’re an alcoholic.

That said, you may relish traveling the world with a predilection for drinking beers as you do it, and it looks like much of the world is your oyster with that objective in mind.

You see, producing beer isn’t all the costly.  The average microbrew only costs about 50¢ in American currency per bottle to produce, less if we’re talking about draught beer since bottling and packaging is a a major cost of production.  That’s a microbrew, which uses real hops, yeast, and barley. If you’re talking about macrobrews, which is what you’re likely to consume in all these distant venturesome locales, you may be talking about 10¢ per bottle or less.

The bulk of the cost you pay comes from the brewer’s, distributor’s, and retailer’s profits and, more so, from excise and possibly import duties, which can triple or quintuple the costs. Alcohol is an easy thing for governments to tax.  No one truly believes that alcohol is beneficial to one’s well being. Without high excise taxes, local macrobrews, even with everyone’s profits padded in, would never cost more than $1/bottle.

To make this discussion easier to follow, we will arbitrarily assign an index value of 100 to the cost of a half liter (≈ an Imperial pint) draught lager in the USA priced presently at $3.62 on average. This makes it effortless for you to see that a country with an index value of 50 costs half of the American price without having to do any computations yourself.

Off the bat, we can say that journeying to the Middle East or most other Islamic regions, apart from the three Muslim countries already mentioned, will hardly break your budget when purchasing beer.   Jordan (price level: 150) and Yemen (145) are a bit costly, but the prices only drop from there. Afghanistan (96), Kuwait (92), Bangladesh (91), Turkey (79), Pakistan (74), Tunisia (62), Egypt (55), Iraq (48), Algeria (47), and Syria (41), are not the beer scourge zones the media portrays. In Saudi Arabia (34), beer is downright cheap.  In some of the countries, like Pakistan, you have to prove you’re not a Muslim in order to buy and the offerings aren’t vast, but the cost you outlay isn’t something that would make you recoil in horror. All of these countries sell beer at a fraction the price free, democratic, and non-Islamic Israel does.

Southeast Asia won’t break the bank either.  It’s interesting that the prices in Muslim dominated Malaysia (96) and Indonesia (50) pale in comparison to Chinese dominated Singapore (181). Singapore’s price levels are from another continent, virtually on par with what Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, and Iceland charge.  Singapore presently holds the dubious honor of having the most expensive beer in Asia, making places like Japan (113) look cheap.  If you exclude Singapore from consideration, the rest of Southeast Asia is kind to the wallet. Thailand (50), Laos (34), Cambodia (26), Myanmar (21), and especially Vietnam (20) all brew tasty local brews at bargain prices. Thailand’s Singha and Laos’ Beer Lao actually enjoy international followings.  Brunei (236), the tiny Islamic sultanate located between two Malaysian Borneo states hardly deserves a mention, as the alcohol scene is so far underground here, you’d need a hearing aid to catch wind of it.

The two most populous countries in Asia, China (34) and India (39), are economical for a beer, which is perhaps why their populations are so large. Neighboring Bhutan (19) and Nepal (58) remain cheap enough for session beer drinking to continue 24/7.

If you relish a cheap cold beer alongside safari landscapes, Eastern Africa is made for your mouth.   Rwanda (23), Ethiopia (23) and Eritrea (19) sell the cheapest beers in the region. The more touristed nations of Kenya (40), Tanzania (38), and Uganda (30) charge higher prices, yet nowhere near the levels where you’d have to consult the menu twice before ordering.

Central America is more famous for its ruins and its coffee than its beer, but at the prices being charged, no one is complaining. Belize (46) is one of the more expensive countries while Panama (23) is one of the cheapest. Mexico (35), which is technically in North America, falls into the Central American region as far as beer pricing goes.

Eastern Europe is a region known for its big drinking culture and lack of a welfare state to fund, so beer is of reliably high quality and quite cheap.  Given the export microbrew-like quality of the beer manufactured here, this is probably the cheapest high tier beer you’ll find worldwide.  Poland (47) is one of the more ” expensive” countries. Romania (38) contains some of the most indulgent beer drinkers worldwide who spend some of the least per person. The Czechs are the largest consumers of the beer in the world and the inventors of the pilsner style, so the fact that the Czech Republic (32) sells beer cheaper than it does bottled water surprises no one but the intoxicated tourists visiting. Ukraine (20) sells beer at some of the cheapest prices available anywhere in the world. North Korea (16) is one of the few countries to undercut Ukraine, but after you’ve paid for your visa and your mandatory tour to Pyongyang, Ukraine comes out the better bargain.

In fact, the more you examine the world’s beer pricing, it seems that expensive beer is the anomaly.  Only North America, Western Europe, Oceania, Japan, and a few Islamic nations tax you highly for the privilege. Elsewhere, beer remains the bargain beverage it was when the lower classes drank it during the Middle Ages.

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