Three cousins making illicit beers at home wanted a place to sell them legally and welcome people for a good time without breaking the bank.
So they took a leap of faith and opened their own brew pub in Bangkok’s western outskirts where they have what it takes to get around repressive brewing laws with a dozen rotating taps greeting patrons with house, domestic, and imported brews at relatively low prices – as little as THB150 per glass.
“We want people to enjoy good craft beer at reasonable prices,” said Nathachai “Heng” Techavichien, the middle of the three cousins.
Located off Kanchanapisek Road in the capital’s Bang Khae district, Brewave fills a spacious warehouse housing everything from a cafe, restaurant, and beer bar to a microbrewery.
The cousins – Prichpichai “Golf” Techavichien, Nathachai “Heng” Techavichien, and Kittikun “J” Techavichien – used to brew at home and sell on the beer black market.
Under the farcical laws, brewing without a license or even possessing brewing equipment is illegal, punishable by up to six months in jail and a THB5,000 fine. Selling it doubles the penalty.
In a good week, Heng said they sold up to 360 bottles – or 120 liters.
That adds up to about 94,000 liters less annually than what is widely understood – incorrectly – to be required to brew legally.
The first step to obtaining a license is to have registered capital of THB10 million (US$300,000) – a lot of money but not impossible.
What’s widely misunderstood is that the law requires brewers to produce at least a staggering 100,000 liters annually to qualify. Not true. The law actually says that they must have the “capacity” to produce at least 100,000 liters annually.
So they set out to work within the law.
“We just wanted to do things right,” Heng said.
To do that, Brewave installed a 500-liter boiler that, if operating 300 days, would theoretically produce 150,000 liters in a year, which they dutifully recorded in the required tax documents.
“It’s like a plan that you use to inform the authorities, but in practicality no one keeps track,” Heng said.
‘They had no idea what a brew pub was’
As a brew pub, their microbrewery-restaurant can serve house beers and non-house alcohols but may not distribute or package them for offsite sale or consumption. Being the first such place in Bang Khae, Brewave has been inundated since opening last month. Its best day saw 300 customers, Heng said.
But getting to that point wasn’t easy.
Besides the hoop-jumping to get a license, the trio of entrepreneurs had to cut through reams of red tape – not to mention the utter ignorance of the local authorities.
The whole process took over six months, Heng said.
“Obviously, opening a brewpub in Bang Khae area is completely new,” Heng said. “The excise and district office authorities had no idea what a brew pub was.”
Across metro Bangkok, there are only a handful of brewpubs and microbreweries. While Tawandang German Brewery has long been the best known, a few others have opened in recent years such as The Londoner Brew Pub in the Pattanakarn area, Mitr Brewery (Nonthaburi province), or Underdog Micro Brewery (Samut Prakan province).
As the first venue of its kind in the area, Brewave’s unique taps also attract people from all around. A few customers have been willing to drive an hour or more to enjoy its pints.
“There is this one guy driving all the way from Ayutthaya because he saw our Facebook listing beers he’d never tried before,” Heng said.
Brewave rotates 12 taps daily. On a recent mid-week visit, the taps showed Danish Double IPA Dry & Bitter, a red IPA from 8 Wired, and a Smeerolie Coconut Milkshake from the Netherlands.
The running taps don’t lack locally made beer. A Ping River Pilsner of Chiang Mai Beer is sold at THB190 per glass or THB300 for a pint.
The diversity of the beers only invites more interest, either through social media or word of mouth. Brewave’s customers are a good mix of craft beer nerds and newbs, a good indicator for the future of Thailand’s craft beer scene.
“More Thai people obviously are shifting from mainstream beers to craft beers – like 80% of them,” Heng estimated.
Across from the bar, it’s impossible to miss the row of stainless steel tanks. That’s where the trio brews their own beers to serve at the bar.
Want to brew something up in one? The microbrewery is open for anyone interested in brewing their beers in large quantities, pending approval by Heng and his cousins.
Not interested in beer? The commodious site has something for everyone. The cafe serves coffee, teas, and baked dishes and those with an appetite can order from an expansive list of food ranging from salads and fried rice dishes to finger-licking chicken wings and ribeye steak.
Live music currently takes place every Saturday.
Brewave is open 11am to 11pm every day except Monday. It is located on Kanchanapisek Road in Bangkok’s Bang Khae district. The closest rail link is MRT Lak Song.