WINE REVIEW OCTOBER 2017

TIME FOR A BEER BREAK!

Planet earth’s biggest annual tribute to beer ended a few weeks ago in Munich, Germany when the last of nearly 6 million liters of Bavaria’s best brews were consumed at the 2017 rendition of Oktoberfest. With its origins dating back to the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese in October 1810 the current three week celebration of beer, food and oom-pah-pah bands drew some 6 million visitors, including several dozen from Thailand, to its major festival tents.

At prices averaging the equivalent of B375 per liter of quality beer from Munich’s famed Paulaner and Lowenbrau breweries, among others, it’s a relative bargain even by Thai standards. It’s the five figure r/t airfare, four figure nightly hotel bill and equally pricy food expense that limits such fun fests to an economically privileged group. Fortunately there is an affordable option right here in Bangkok particularly if quaffing quality beer is the goal.

The craft beer boom that began slowly in the U.K. and U.S. during the 1970’s has mushroomed into a global phenomenon. Craft beer is generally described as being made by small production, independent brewers, often called micro-brewers, with precise quantities varying from country to country. Their success owes largely to the “success” of major brewers like Anheuser-Busch, Millers and Coors in the U.S. and Carlsberg and Heineken in Europe, to mention a few, in producing beer with strikingly similar if not, as some would say, bland taste. A new generation of consumers with more adventuresome palates began switching to wine for a change of pace and taste.

Enter a few bold souls who saw opportunity as well as preservation of traditional brewing techniques. Millionaire washing machine heir Fritz Maytag in U.S. bought Anchor Steam brewing company in San Francisco to save not only a specific style and taste of beer but a landmark company as well. In U.K. a group of beer purists, among them former Bangkok resident and journalist Graham Lees, formed CAMRA, the Campaign to save Real Ale.

These were harbingers of the craft beer era we are now enjoying. During the past short five years companies like Beervana, Hopsession and Mikkeller have established themselves as purveyors of world renowned craft beers in Bangkok. Dozens of pubs and restaurants have opened as exclusive sites for craft beer or have added it as a featured attraction.

Craft beers offer a range of tastes as long as the alphabet and as infinite as the imagination of their brewers. Alcohol content also runs from a mild 4% to pushing that of Port wine. Hops, those magic preservative seed pods of vines grown on high trellises, give varying degrees of puckering astringency to India Pale Ales (IPAs) and many additional brews. Other natural additives including everything from flower petals to horseradish root provide an almost endless palette of flavor opportunities for craft brewers.

Among the most recent additions to the craft beer scene in Bangkok are Pijiu (Mandarin for beer) in Chinatown, Craft at Holiday Inn, Silom and Mash on Convent off Silom. Well established but always up on the latest new brews are Roadhouse at Suriwong and Rama IV and Mikkeller on Ekamai Soi 10. Enter “craft beer pubs in Bangkok” on the internet for additional sites and exact locations.

“It takes a lot of beer to make good wine,” was the unofficial motto of Chuck Wagner, winemaking son of Charlie Wagner, founder of Napa Valley’s famed Caymus winery. With quality beers becoming the norm the reverse may also be true. Chok Dee!   

Written by: R. James Mullen