HAT qualiesme to talk beer? Three years agoI helped start GreatLeap Brewing in Beijing – the city’s rst majormicrobrewery. For two years, I talked nothing butmicrobrew and travelled toevery bar in the city withan international tap tosell the beauty and beneto tasty, strong ale withChinese characteristics.To date, Great Leap’s mostpopular beers are theHoney Ma Gold (inused with Sichuan pepperand Shandong honey)and the Iron BuddhaBlonde, a strong, blondeale favoured with oneo China’s most amousgreen teas. Great Leap’slasting appeal lies in itsresh ingredients and lack o preservatives, allowing or a mostly hangover-reeexperience – unless youdrink more than six, in which case, you’ve had toomany.
While travelling, I alwayslook for the best local brew. I’m not talking abouta standard lager such asTiger, which in my opinion
is a gloried carbonated
water, but a beer withstrong characteristics: the
rst taste and aftertaste,consistency, avours and,
of course, alcohol content.
When I had my rst sip of
beer in Myanmar, I wasn’tdisappointed.The history of alcoholconsumption in Myanmarprobably dates back as faras the history of Myanmaritself, with deliciouspalm wine (or “Burmese beer” as my local friendaffectionately calls it) andits distilled cousin, arak.Modern-day beer, however,has a much shorter history,attributed to British and
Indian inuences. When
the Raj arrived in India,they brought their brewingtechniques and ales fromthe UK. By over-hoppingtheir ales, they preservedthe beer for the long journey overseas, and sothe deliciously bitter IPA or India Pale Ale was born.Later, when the Britishannexed Burma, they introduced breweries toserve their unquenchablethirst for ale.Today Myanmar has afew major labels, namely Myanmar Beer and ABCStout, Dagon, Mandalay and Andaman, all fully or partially state-owned.How do they measure upto international brandslike Heineken and Corona,or more regional brandslike Beerlao and Singha?I convinced a few friendsto help me put Myanmar beers to the test alongsideother regional andinternational favoritesfor comparison. Ratings(out of 10) are basedupon the aforementionedinitial taste, aftertaste,
consistency, avour and
ABV (alcohol by volume)percentage.There was somediscussion about whetheror not to include famousmicrobrew/ale brandslike Brewdog, Fuller orDelirium Tremens (justto name a few). In theend, it seemed cruel tointroduce the complexities
and artisanal avours of
brands mostly unavailablein the country, let alone theregion, not to mention thefact that international lagers(in our humble opinion)stand little chance againstBelgian tripels, EnglishIPAs, German pilsners andimperial stouts. Therefore we stuck to national, big- brewery brands to see how they measured up to thetaste buds of a few seasoneddrinkers.Every country has itspoints of pride and itslow-rung, bottom-shelf beers, and Myanmar isno exception. Some beersare the real deal whileothers will never make themark of an international-standard. Our internationalpicks are now available worldwide and in somecases (Heineken) have been in the business long before Asian breweriescame on the scene. Yetlocal Myanmar breweriesdistinguish themselves with particularly strong, bitter aftertastes, highalcohol content andreasonable prices. Thegreat diversity of rum, whisky and gin labels arealso not to be ignored– Myanmar distillerieshave been carrying on adrinking tradition for overa century – but our adviceis to skip the liquor and buy a Myanmar brand beer. Prices are low,chances of having a goodtime are high, and whenin Myanmar, drink as thelocals drink.
To drink or not to drink
The co-ounder o Great Leap Brewing roadtests local beers to determine howthey stand up to the pricier imported varieties
International BrandsABVDescriptionRatingWho’s Drinking?
Singha (Thailand)5pcSweet, light, drinkable evenwhen warm8Beachcombers,morning-ater drinkersBeerlao (Laos)5pcRice and malt makes or anhonest brew8Asian-beer lovers, socialistsand backpackersCorona (Mexico)4.6pcSweet, spiced with a hint obitters6Lightweights, beach bums,tequila addictsHeineken (Netherlands)5pcEarthy, blunt, old-school7Traditionalists,cold beer hardliners, oldiesSapporo (Japan)5pcSharp and serious7Suits and sushi lovers
Myanmar BrandsABVDescriptionRatingWho’s Drinking?
Myanmar Lager Beer5pcHeavy (or a lager), slightmalt, plenty o zz7Everyone and anyoneMyanmar DoubleStrong7.7pcHints o Grand Royal whiskyand prune juice atertaste2Rockers, drunken teenagersand one-stop shoppersMandalay Strong Ale7pcClosest thing to a real ale,yeast, malt and smooth nish8Beer snobs, ale drinkers,anyone on a budgetABC Extra Stout8pcCoee bitters, almost a blackIPA, great with ood8Dark beer lovers, Guinnessenthusiasts, boys and girls look-ing to prove their worthAndaman Gold6.5pcSweet, strong and average5Party hosts and day drinkersDagon Extra Strong8pcLighter alternative to ABC,with subtle favours6Lager-haters, partygoers,KTV singers
Some local beers are the real deal.