Our own Frequent Flyer Guy, Steve Smith, reports in from one of his favorite cities in the world:
Bangkok Beer Oasis:
In a city known for many pursuits besides brewing, great craft beer is on tap if you know where to look:
I love Bangkok. It is one of my favorite international destinations. For me it has nearly everything a great city should have: Great restaurants, delicious street food, friendly locals, a large international community, and of course the bustling nightlife for which it is famous. But Bangkok, like many Asian cities, is not known for a thriving craft beer scene. While I have encountered craft beer on occasion in Bangkok, it has often been disappointing. Most craft beer I have come across in Thailand is imported, which unfortunately can mean a steep price tag (due to Thailand's high tax on imports), and unreliable quality (due to improper product handling during shipping, storage, and distribution).
Just this year, however, a brand new player emerged on the Bangkok beer scene, and has brought world-class craft beer to the city. In January, 2014, nontraditional Danish brewer Mikkeller opened just its second international beer bar in Bangkok. (Its first was opened in San Francisco in 2013.)
Located well off the beaten path on a sleepy, residential side street in Bangkok’s upscale Ekkamai neighborhood, Mikkeller Bangkok is a destination bar to be certain. It is located far away from many of the tourist and ex-pat neighborhoods like Khaosan Road and Sukhumvit, and receives zero benefit from foot traffic. Yet on my visit on a Saturday evening, the bar was full, loaded with tourists and ex-pats who managed to navigate the sois of Ekkamai for great beer. “This is the best craft beer bar in Asia,” I was told by a IPA-loving British ex-pat from Hong Kong, who said he now makes a point to visit Mikkeller every time he comes to Bangkok. And its easy to see why.
The first things you notice when you enter Mikkeller are the taps: 30 of them. This might not be surprising in Europe or the USA, but in Asia a tap arsenal of that size is almost unheard of. And the selection is excellent. Mikkeller, being a “collaborative” brewer, features not only its own creations in its bars, but also a fantastic rotating selection of offerings from other brewers around the world. In addition to its own labels, at the time of our visit Mikkeller Bangkok offered beers from Brewfist (Italy), To Øl (Denmark), Siren (England, UK), Rogue (Oregon, USA), Boon (Belgium), and 8Wired (New Zealand) among others. Stouts, IPAs, lambics, brown ales, pilsners, porters, pales, Belgian ales, as well as ciders, meads, and craft spirits are offered... and our thirsty group sampled many. We even tried a chipotle- and coffee-infused stout, which was admittedly a bit challenging for many of our palates. By and large, however, the selections we tried were excellent and ran the gamut of varieties offered.
The last thing that impressed us about Mikkeller Bangkok was that the staff are sticklers about quality. We spoke with one of the managers about the issue of maintaining quality with imported beer, and he talked at length about their relationship with their importer and the standards they have for handling the product properly, to ensure quality during shipping and storage. And on our visit, we found the imports to be spot on, as if their journey around the globe had been just a short trip around the block.
Before visiting Mikkeller, I wouldn’t have considered Bangkok to be much of a destination for anyone serious about craft beer. But like in so many other cities around the world, beer drinkers in Bangkok are seeking out more options in flavor and in brewers, and Mikkeller is delivering, putting Bangkok on the craft beer map in Asia.
For more information, visit Mikkeller Bangkok's web site: http://www.mikkellerbangkok.com
Asia travelers? What Craft Beer gems have you found out there? Leave them in the comments section.