Outlaw Brewing’s craft beers hit Bangkok’s 7-Elevens

Photo: Outlaw Brewing
Photo: Outlaw Brewing

Outlaw in name, outlaw by nature — this once illegal brewery operating out of Thailand’s northern Loei province is now sharing space on 7-Eleven shelves in the capital. 

“It’s been a dream of mine to see this in 7-Eleven,” said Mike Roberts, Outlaw’s Canadian founder. “If this goes well, I can’t see why 7-Eleven wouldn’t open the door to more craft beer — not just from us, but from anyone.”

The Mosaic brew — an unfiltered, unpasteurized, dry-hopped IPA — is now available in approximately 1,000 Bangkok 7-Eleven branches. This announcement came after a hard-fought journey that started out behind an ice cream shop. 

“In 2015 in Loei, my wife and I had an idea to start up a craft beer bar, but we knew it would have to be underground. So, we opened an ice cream shop. I brewed the beer in the back and we sold beer without advertising or anything,” Roberts said. “It wasn’t long before the 10 or 20 people who were into craft beer spread the word and we were selling a lot of beer out of a brightly lit ice cream shop.”

Mike Roberts, founder of Outlaw Brewing

The Loei brewpub location for Outlaw shuttered when COVID-19 pandemic ended the bar scene, but Outlaw had begun building a brand and a customer base throughout the kingdom and moved to contract brewing. 

Because the law makes it impossible to brew locally Roberts, who has since relocated back to Canada, began contract brewing in Cambodia to produce a 3,500-liter batch of the Mosaic IPA. Their first legal beer, that’s what is now available at Bangkok 7-Elevens. 

The larger (and legal) production of the beer allowed the brand to begin distributing to boutique retail and grocery store outlets in major urban areas.

“An ideal situation for us, being a small producer, is to start with the fewest number of stores, because the capital required is quite large,” Roberts told Coconuts Bangkok. “The bigger stores on the main streets will have it first.”

Thailand’s draconian and absurd alcohol laws strictly limit the advertising of alcohol, and have been twisted in recent years to a crackdown on social media photos, going so far as to fine people for writing comments. Under Section 32 of the Alcohol Beverage Control Act alcohol bottles, logos, or marketing communication of any kind is banned; this includes social media and applies just as much to consumers as producers. 

“How do we promote it? It’s tough. We have a situation now where we have a new product in a thousand new stores. How do we let consumers know? We can’t. They might want that product but how do we let them know?”

The desperados at Outlaw have, of course, had their own run-ins with the booze police.

“When the brewpub closed, we kind of turned it into a distribution center — taking orders, packing orders, selling. About three months later we got a letter from the alcohol watch for a Facebook post and they wanted us to pay THB50,000,” Roberts said, adding that they were able to haggle down the fine. 

Recent moves to reconsider the excise tax on alcohol have stalled, and recent talk of amending the daylight drinking hours are unlikely to go far. Though many brewers still operate outside the law, some have found ways to circumvent the restrictive laws, such as Brewave in Bang Khae area, which recently used a loophole that allowed them to open a west Bangkok brewpub.

This story originally appeared in BK.

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