Beer is part of life in Laos. Afternoons are spent sitting outside, sharing a beer cooled down with ice. According to the WHO, Laos has the highest alcohol consumption of the Asean countries, with an average 7 l of beer consumed per person per year in 2013.
There are several breweries in Laos, where the culture of artisanal microbreweries is in its infancy.
From 1973 to 2008, Lao Brewery Co Ltd was the only beer producer in Laos. Now a joint venture between the Lao government and the Danish Carlsberg Group, its BeerLao brand has 95% of the Lao beer market share.
About 1% of production is exported to several countries including Australia, Cambodia, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, France, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, the UK and the US. Top quality ingredients are used by Lao Brewery Co Ltd, with malt imported from France and Belgium, and hops and yeast imported from Germany.
Top quality polished rice and filtered water also provides the unique BeerLao taste. The Beerlao brand is easy to recognise with their bright yellow banners, sponsored signage and umbrellas scattered throughout Laos. The large Vientiane-based factory produces several beers:
- Beerlao white lager, white lager, 5%, 2018, A balanced, bold and refreshing lager with hints of citrus and notes of banana and exotic fruits. Beerlao white lager is the newest permanent fixture in the beerlao lineup, following the conclusion of their limited edition white lager, amber and hoppy beers.
- Beerlao Gold, pilsner, 5%, 2010, Beerlao Gold is a premium beer made with the special ingredient, “Khao Kai Noy” rice. A Lao specialty, this ingredient gives Beerlao Gold a unique aroma and a taste.
- Beerlao Lager, Pilsner, 5%, 1973, Beerlao is brewed from local rice and high quality malt from Europe. Since its launch in 1973, Beerlao has become the bestselling and leading brand in Laos, winning the gold medal at the 45th World Selection in Brussels, Belgium in 2006.
- Beerlao Dark, Strong Pilsner, 6.5%, 2005, Brewed with high quality black malt from Germany, Beerlao Dark is the first premium local beer. It was awarded the gold medal at the International Beer Competition in Japan, 2007.
- LaneXang Lager Beer, Pilsner, 5%, 2008, LaneXang beer is brewed with high quality ingredients to provide a strong yet powerfully refreshing and rewarding beer.
- Tuborg Green, Pilsner, 5%, (Denmark), 2016, Denmark’s famous pilsner-type beer was first produced in 1880 and is known for its green label. Tuborg Green is a bottom-fermented lager beer brewed on lager malt resulting in the well-known mild, fresh taste and aroma of flowers and cereal. The beer is medium rich and lively with a moderate bitterness in the aftertaste.
- Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc, Witbier, 5%, (France), 2016, A modern, fruity and refreshing wheat beer with a sweet and refreshing flavour from the hint of citrus and coriander spice used in brewing. Its modern identity is expressed by its unique shiny blue bottle.
Lao Asia Pacific Breweries, now named Heineken Lao Brewery (since 2017), was the first competitor to BeerLao, launched in 2008. In conjunction with the Lao government, Heineken, the second biggest brewer in the world, came to town to produce Nam Khong. In addition to their local beers, they also produce Tiger brand and Heineken.
- Nam Khong, Lager, 5%, 2008, This gentle brew has corn, biscuit malt and citrus aromas with a gentle bitterness and a notable sweet taste. Nam Khong was achieved Gold quality awards in 2011 and 2013 at the Monde Selection quality awards in Belgium.
- Nam Khong Special, Lager, 5%, 2014, Brewed using local black rice, this beer is rich in rice, toasty malt and caramel aromas, with an earthy flavour to offset the sweet aftertaste of the original Nam Khong. Nam Khong Special also received a silver award in the Monde Selection quality awards, 2015.
- Heineken, 5%, Lager, (Dutch), The best-selling international premium beer brand in Lao with banana, fruity and malty flavours and a clean bittersweet finish.
- Tiger Beer, 5%, Pale Lager, (Singapore), This famous Asian beer is easy to drink with tropical, hoppy flavours and a slight bitterness and sourness. Tiger beer has received several international awards since its inception in 1932.
In 2015, Le Patitoh was established as the first craft brewery in Laos. Although initially focussed on European classics like pilsners and wheat beers, the brewery now boasts a selection of beers crafted by their award winning brewmaster from Thailand. Le Patitoh brews will specially imported hops and malt, selected to bring out the best flavours. Their beers are brewed at the Le Patitoh café in Vientiane which also provides visitors with comfortable seating, a café menu and a great swimming pool.
- The American wit, Inspired by the original Hoegardden beer, with a touch of coriander and orange zest and a medium body.
- Weizenbier, 5%, wheat beer, Brewed with the original Weihenstephan yeast, this beer packs banana and cloves that melts into a thick body with extremely low bitterness.
- Juicy V1 IPA, (7.6%) and Juicy IPA V2 (7%), Indian Pale Ales, The first batch (Juicy V1) is a big hop bomb that impresses, but V2 takes it a step further with Cryo hops. The explosive aroma explodes rivals anything from the IPA capital of Vermont.
- Hawaiian Pale ale, 5.6%, This original brew is featured in the Ratebeer.com top 50 beers of the world list and has won two awards on the website. It has a fine balance between pineapple and New Zealand hops, with British malts, for a biscuity balance.
- Dunkelweizen, Wheat beer, A typical wheat beer with cranked up flavours and roastiness.
Corebrew brewhouse is local restaurant and independent local brewery. This great venue also often hosts live music shows and events including beer festivals and art exhibitions. They have a standard brewed line-up, with beers on tap. They also like to release special edition brews now and then that you can catch if you keep an eye on their website!
- Lao Lager, Pale Lager, 5%,2016, This clear, refreshing lager has a medium bitter taste and fragrant notes of lemon and cereal.
- Lao Stout, Stout, 5.9%, 2016, One of the few stouts made in Lao, the Corebeer Lao Stout is rich and hearty with malted barley, caramel and chocolate aromas, a sweet taste and just a touch of coffee flavour.
- Brut IPA, Indian Pale Ale, 5.5%, 2019, The Brut IPA is crafted from four types of malt and hops, resulting is a beautifully balanced craft brew.
- X Blond beer, Blonde Beer, 6%, 2016, The X Blonde Beer is the newest collaboration between Corebeer and Xakuna, an up-and-coming local microbrewery. Its light clean flavours are sure to please locals and foreigners alike.
- Paksong Coffee Stout, Stout, 6%, 2019, This unique stout is crafted from barley malt, hops and just a touch of local coffee. With specially sourced ingredients and an expert team of brewers, this stout combines two of Loa’s favourites, coffee and beer!
Batieng Brewery in Champasak
Lao Bia, 5%, The sap of the flower of the sugar palms on the Khone islands in the Mekong River lends Lao Bia a distinctive flavour. Lao Bia is an unfiltered artisanal beer produced with 34% sugar palm sap and is more commonly available in Luang Prabang than in Vientiane.
In addition, known for their great variety of beer creations, from IPA to Rye beers, Rock Brew is currently taking a hiatus and investigating the possibility of opening a new brewery. We are eagerly waiting to see what they will be up to next! Check their Facebook page for updates.
Finally, its worth looking out for the couple of small-scale microbreweries around hoping to gain their brewing licences soon. Although craft brewing is still developing in Laos, we hope that the beer-living Lao culture will carry on!
Khouvieng Road Beungkhayong Village Sisattanak District
Vientiane Capital (Lao)
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by Lara Alexander, copyright J&C Services 06/2019