What exactly is craft beer? Ask ten people and you’ll get ten different answers, probably followed by a debate on the merits of the classification. But we can all pretty all agree that, in Bangkok, it has become synonymous with pretentious venues charging insane prices for imports.
However, whether you’re trying to save money, support the movement, or have an excuse for some exploring in the name of the Holy Spirit of Hops, you’re in luck. In the past few months, there’s been a number of new spots opening up that do only local craft beers, and a few others that are heading in the same direction.
Let the Boy Die (6pm-midnight, Tue-Sun) was one of the first and is still the most publicized. Generally half of their six taps are their own hausgebräut beers (THB160) and the other three are rotating guest taps from other brewers (THB180). It’s a small place, but it has a very good vibe and tasty bar food, and it’s just a short 20-minute walk from BTS National Stadium station or a 5-minute taxi after rush hour.
Craft ‘n Roll (5pm-midnight, every day) is a little further out, but the effort is more than worth it. It occupies a small section of the River Duck Restaurant and could be the perfect solution for a Saturday night out with your better half. Want to spend the evening drinking good quality stouts and ales, but your partner wants a romantic dinner in a nice environment? At Craft ‘n Roll, you both win! Sit comfortably on the river deck tasting all of River Duck’s delicious offerings while enjoying 10 different taps of Thailand’s best beers for only THB150 each.
Changwon Express (5:30pm-midnight, Mon-Sat) has also upped their game by bringing in six taps completely dedicated to Thai craft beers. To say it’s gone over well would be an understatement. Don’t be surprised if the draft selections change before you even get your Kimchi Taco. Changwon chief Ted guarantees there will always be at least one good IPA. This is also one of the rare places you can regularly find Blaney’s and Outlaw (THB180) on tap. The pours are a little pricier than some other places but the location makes it a fair trade. It’s located directly outside of MRT Phetchaburi station Exit 3 or Airport Rail Link’s Makkasan station.
Where Do We Go Now (5pm-midnight, evey day) is the newest kid on the block, only open for a few weeks but already creating a lot of buzz. The owners are connected to Craft ‘n Roll and their know-how is quickly evident. So far, they have four taps with popular flavors like Triple Pearl Wit and Sandport Too Much Coffee Stout (THB150) and they plan to add another four taps soon. What they lack in variety, at the moment, they make up in good spirit. The owners are big supporters of the craft beer scene and they seem more interested in making friends than in making a fortune.
Harem Beer (5pm-midnight, every day) offers almost the opposite vibe but it’s still a nice experience with live music. They’ve got the widest variety of bottled Thai beers in Bangkok. Here, you can discover the harder-to-find beers like King Kong and X Beer. Regular prices are relatively more expensive (THB220) but if you arrive before 9pm, you can buy three and get one free.
Burn Baby Burn (6pm – midnight, Tue-Sun) has also got a lot of bottles available, but their selection varies wildly. Located at the very back of the Rot Fai market behind the Esplanade Mall, the bar and burger joint is open every evening except Mondays. The variety seems to be best on Friday nights or early Saturday evenings. Even if the selection is thin though, you’re always guaranteed to find at least a couple different choices from Happy New Beer (THB150) and Eleventh Fort (THB180).
Chit Beer (Hours vary, Sat-Sun) is certainly not new. Chit is known as the “Godfather of Thai Craft.” Not only does he brew a variety of his own beers at his hut on Koh Kret, but he’s also trained a lot of the local brewers in the movement. Open weekends only (Saturdays are best), you can chill by the riverside drinking Chit’s beers or many of his friends’ beers, and priced at only THB100. At that price, things can easily get out of hand, so don’t plan much for the next morning. The best part is getting the chance to talk to Chit and meet some of the other artists in the brewing community. They all seem to gather here.
Que Pasa (10am-9pm, Tue-Sun) is a good, nearby alternative when Chit is closed. They offer a variety of IPAs brewed extra locally from the surrounding Pak Kret area. Pak Kret is pretty much ground zero of the Thai Craft Revolution (see aforementioned Chit Beer). Que Pasa is one of the few places you can find Yod Beer Siam Pale Ale (THB130) and it’s the only place you’ll find Wetback IPA (THB120).
O’Glee (5:30pm-midnight, Mon-Sat) is also swiftly crossing over into Thai craft territory. They’ve long been known as the laid-back alternative for the best craft imports, like Stone and Deschutes, at the most reasonable prices in the city. Over the past few months they’ve extended their range to a few local bottles, and with their recent addition of more taps, they’ve become one of the rare places you can find draft Eleventh Fort IPA (THB160).
In the event you could somehow get bored in Bangkok, or you’re just looking for an excuse to get away, the Brown Ale Bar (5:30pm-midnight, every day) in Ayutthaya makes for a nice day trip. You can take a scenic one-hour train ride for THB20 to the main station and then grab a THB40 tuk tuk to this very pleasant bar located right before the main bridge going onto the island.
The only drawback is that they don’t open until 5:30pm, and on my last visit they only had 7 of the 16 local bottles listed on their menu. However, they did have Happy New Beer IPA on tap and served it in a very cool mason jar style mug for just THB145. There are also a few imports available here as well as draft Singha (THB55) for your cheap swill-loving friends. The patio is a nice spot to enjoy the evening and you can order some food from the restaurant next door.
All of the establishments mentioned have Facebook pages where they update their current offerings. Keep an eye out for local favorites Happy New Beer, Eleventh Fort, Blaney’s, Yod Beer, Sandport, and Triple Pearl, among others.