50 shades of beer: Taste test of local Myanmar brews yields surprising results

The domestic beer market is diversifying and expanding. Within the last few months, we have been introduced to Regal Seven and Yoma, two made-for-Myanmar beers introduced by Heineken and Carlsberg, respectively. And last week, the company behind Myanmar Beer, the leading player with some 80 percent of market share, held a press conference to announce a new partnership with Japanese beverage giant Kirin.

All in all, these are interesting times in Myanmar for people who care about drinking.
 
But more choices lead to more confusion. The beer drinker must now be a discerning beer drinker. With that in mind, we decided to help out by holding a taste test.
 
Over the weekend, we gathered six ex-pats who like to drink and have been doing it for years, blindfolded them and asked for their impressions of five beers on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the best): In addition to Regal Seven, Yoma and Myanmar, we added Dagon and Mandalay lagers.
 
We also asked participants to describe the taste and to try and guess which beer was which.
 
The results of this highly unscientific and disorganized test were surprising.
 
The top-scoring beer was Regal Seven. Heineken’s local brew scored an average 6 out of 10 points. It also received some of the more positive language, being described as “clean, light,” “crisp,” “tang,” and our favorite, “piney and coniferous.” To be fair, someone also called it “mass-produced.”
 
The lowest-scoring beverage was Myanmar Beer, with an average 2.91 points out of 10. Ouch! One participant said it tasted “smooth with an undertone of pure alcohol,” but others were less diplomatic: “Unpleasant all around,” someone said. “Playdoh,” “rank limp” and “sandpaper” were three additional unflattering descriptions. One test-taker who, it should be noted, has impossibly high standards, called the beer “a crime against my circulatory system.”
 
But others did not fair much better: Carlsberg’s Yoma tied for second with Mandalay beer, scoring 4.83 out of 10, while Dagon came in second to last with a score of 4.16.

The critics were merciless.

Here are some descriptions of Dagon: “Fridge-stale,” “This is a terrible, pungent flavor, reminiscent of when a beer keg is not charged properly.” There was also “piddly” and a perplexed “nothing.”

Here’s Yoma: “cheesy,” “Oh god,” “metallic,” “relatively sweet but not in a good way,” “quotidian” and “annoyingly sweet aftertaste.”

And Mandalay beer: “cheap nuts,” “it’s a new flavor to me. Not great at all. Like a stench in your mouth,” “could benefit from Sprite,” and, in a rare endorsement, “sparkling.”
 
Regal Seven not only came in first but was also the beer that most people guessed correctly. Three out of six participants matched the taste of Regal Seven with the actual beer, while other guesses were all over the map. Myanmar Beer may have had the lowest score, but not one person tasted it and thought it was actually Myanmar Beer. Interestingly, every single participant said Myanmar was either Dagon or Mandalay.
 
What conclusions should we draw from this? It’s hard, if not impossible, to say.
 
Regal Seven may have scored highest because it was the newest beer and packed the newest taste. Or maybe it is that good. Myanmar Beer may have come in last because palates are so used to it, or maybe it is that bad. The participants may have given such low scores because they were in a bad mood for having to spend their Friday evening with a blindfold on.
 
For the companies involved, don’t go crazy over the results. Put things in perspective. These are six people drinking beer in a living room in Yangon.
 
Here are the final rankings again:
 
1. Regal Seven

2. Yoma, Mandalay Lager

3. Dagon Lager (the above picture has a bottle of a different Dagon brand, but that’s because we couldn’t find the Dagon Lager container at the end of the night, which gives you an idea of how much beer was involved)

4. Myanmar 

Photo / Gary Osterman for Coconuts Yangon
 

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CITY: YANGONCATEGORY: FOOD & DRINK

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