STOUT FOR ALL REASONS—OR MAYBE A CHEAP BEER
It’s that time of year again when everyone can claim for at least a day to be part Irish so they can tip a pint or two of stout in salute of Ireland’s patron saint, Patrick. Of course real patrons of the brewery founded by Arthur Guinness more than a millennium after St. Patrick wandered the Emerald Isle, will extend their toasts to at least a month if not the entire year.
Guinness Stout, that luxuriously smooth dark brown brew resulting from roasted barley malt, hops and years of fine-tuning to suit various markets, continues to dominate the global market for stout style beers. Now majority owned by drinks giant Diageo longtime Guinness brewmasters continue overseeing the company’s major international brewing sites and numerous other franchise operations with affiliated brewers.
Much to the pleasure of local quaffers the Guinness Draft now being served in Bangkok pubs comes directly from the St. James Gate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, compared to a substantially different style coming several years ago from their Malaysia brewery. Growing demand for Guinness in China is now being sourced from Malaysia and other affiliated Asian based brewers.
Due in part to the current boom in craft beers plus a few long established regional breweries stout drinkers have a growing number of options. Adelaide, Australia based Coopers brews a dark chocolatey extra stout with no additives or preservatives in keeping with the tradition of founder Thomas Cooper in 1862. A merger with South Australia Brewing in 1962 allowed for much needed expansion which in turn led to welcome exports to Thailand. Coopers reacquired all shares held by their partner in 1995 making it once again Australia’s largest family owned brewery.
Lesser known but with origins pre-dating Coopers is Lion Brewing, originally Ceylon Brewing which opened in what is now Sri Lanka in 1849. Long a well-known supplier of beer to Sri Lanka and southern India Copenhagen based brewing giant Carlsberg acquired 25% ownership in 1996 and renamed the company Lion Brewing. During the past twelve months stout drinkers in Thailand have heard the lion roar through its namesake Lion Stout. Flavors reminiscent of caramel and chocolate-coffee make the first, second and third sips seductive but it’s the last gulp in a pint when the hammer hits. At 8.8% alcohol by volume it is truly a stout for the stout hearted!
In keeping with a promise in an article last April about the closing of Cheap Charlie’s, a favorite watering hole on Sukhumvit Soi 11, he’s reopened on Soi 50, across the street from Tesco-Lotus parking lot. While it’s a different ambience with half a dozen “me too” sit-outside patio eateries adjacent, Charlie’s rehung the same familiar weather-beaten signs, bird’s nests and model train over the original bar. Prices are the same—still cheap by comparison at Bt80 per drink—and it’s easy to order a pizza or chicken wings or pork buns from neighboring shops. Plus there’s a full scale modern bathroom just around the corner. Chokdee!
Written by: R. James Mullen