How I Discovered Beer Lao
As I recall, I first learned about Beer Lao from a T-Shirt. While walking around one day at my Buddhist Temple fair grounds during a festival, I spotted a Lao guy not much younger than me walking around sporting a white T-Shirt with green shortsleeves and the now popularized Beer Lao logo on his chest. My first thought was, Wow, what a cool shirt and my second was, Wow, what the heck is Beer Lao? Right away I became interested. I was almost embarassed that I didn't know, because if my country of birth had in fact created a beer, why don't I know about it? I love beer and I love Laos, so why wasn't I made aware of the fact that there is now a beer from Laos that I can drink? I practically walked up to the guy and grabbed him by the shirt collar and interoggated him. "Hey, why wasn't I told?" I wanted to ask him but didn't. I had a barrage of questions like How long has this beer been around? How is it that a Communist country is marketing their product 10,000 miles away? What does Beerlao taste like? Is it even any good? All of these questions would be answered very shortly as I would seek to find the meaning and purpose behind this mysterious and intriguing brand of beer.
Laos? Where in the World is Laos?
A Brief Introduction Concerning Beer Lao
Beer Lao is, according to its official website,"The premium rice beer that defines a nation and accompanies anything and everything in the land of smiles is here...Beer Lao is the embodiment of South East Asia's forgotten jewel, a tropical paradise with the innocence of an earlier age, when time was not money, life was savoured slowly and the joys of the moment triumphed over the desires of the future...Enjoy the moment, enjoy Beer Lao."
Brewed in Laos, "Beer Lao is made with only the choicest ingredients, like hand-picked indigenous rice varieties, spring water originating from the foothills of the Himalayas, Hallertau hops, German yeast and French malted barley.
"The oldest archaeological records of rice cultivation in the world can be found in Laos, and throughout the millennium Laos has provided a home to more varieties of rice than any other country in the world. Today some 3-4000 varieties can be found in Laos. The same traditions of care, cultivation and stewardship that have created this unique heritage can be tasted in the crisp, clean and relaxed taste of Beer Lao."
Today, Beer Lao is jointly owned by the Lao Brewery Company (L.B.C.) and Carlsberg/TCC (a Thai company). Beer Lao was originally founded in 1971 whose owners were comprised of Lao and French businessmen in which time their beer was marketed as Biere Lao until early 1995 when they changed the name to Beer Lao. They now have plants in both Vientiane (where my mother was born) and Pakse (coincidentally where my father was born). Total, between both plants, approximately 260 million liters of Beer Lao is produced annually and is steadily increasing (that's almost one liter of beer for every one living in the US alone!).
No Beer Goggles Needed
Yes, It's That Good!
On the official Beer Lao website (http://www.beerlao.co.uk) it states that it, "Beer Lao proclaimed as Asia's best beer by Time Magazine (in 2004) and hailed as the Dom Perignon of Asian beers by the Bangkok Post..." And so I began thinking...So, you're telling me that this Beer Lao is better than its neighbor Singha, better than its other neighbor Tsing-tao and better than Sapporo too? The hell you say! So in essence, Beer Lao, which comes from an underdeveloped, landlocked, third-world country is rated higher by Time Magazine* compared to ALL these other INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN beers combined? Wow. That certainly speaks volumes--330 ml in volume to be exact! And in case your wondering what that translate to in the U.K. or U.S. it comes out to be 11.162 fluid ounces--slightly less than your usual 12 ounce variety. But no one should they're in any way getting cheated out of 0.838 ounces of good brew, Beer Lao Original (Lager) has an alcohol content of 5% alcohol! Beer Lao Light has I also found that Wanderlust Magazine claimed that it was,"The world's finest beer" and was the unanimous winner of a reader's poll.
Beer Lao Distribution
Sold as 330 ml bottles, a 640 ml bottles and a 330 ml cans. Beer Lao Original is sold widely throughout south east Asia, including of course Laos, Cambodia, Thailand. Many bars and restaurants predominantly frequented by tourists sell Beer Lao by the bottle and some venues serve it from the tap, in which the Lao locals refer to as bia sote or "fresh beer." As of 2007, restaurants in Laos charge 10,000 to 12,000 Kip or a little over US$1. Drinking Beer Lao is widely popular with the tourism market, as it is within itself an attraction. There are currently a total of 3 types of Beer Lao: Beer Lao Lager, Beer Lao Light, and Beer Lao Dark. Beer Lao Light. The Lao Brewing Company also produces Carlsberg Beer from their plant in Vientiane (Viang Chan) and also produces and markets bottled spring water under its Tiger Head logo. It is stated that Beer Lao enjoys 99% of the market share in Laos and that only 1% of its annual production is exported outside its borders. Beer Lao is exported to over twelve countries around the world, including the US, UK, China, Thailand, Cambodia, France, Australia and New Zealand. Emily Rauhala of The New York Times said that "Beer Lao is notoriously hard to find" elsewhere around the world due to the fact that it's meager supply is insufficient to it's huge international demand.
My Personal Opinion
Okay, so maybe I'm biased in some way in this matter. I mean, if you asked me if your mom's food is better than my mom's food (even if it were true), I would most likely tell you to your face that my mom's cooking is by far better. So how is Beer Lao, you ask? Awesome. Although I only tried the lager, I believe that it was one of the best beers I've ever tasted. Beer Lao has a distinctive fruity and slightly nutty taste, and being that it is indeed a rice-based lager, its texture is light and crispy. It has a medium head and a sweet jasmine aroma once poured into a pilsner glass. Hope that helped you decipher whether or not this beer is for you, as it's the perfect fusion of East Meets West, applying the best ingredients from a total of four nations: Laos, France, Belgium and Germany. As of right now, Beer Lao is difficult to find, especially if you have to ship it to your house. One cannot just popped into the gas station or supermarket down the street to purchase a six-pack (well, not yet anyway). But perhaps one day that will happen. If Beer Lao is as good as most say, it's really not impossible. Cheers to all and hope you enjoy Beer Lao as much as I do!
His First Beer Lao (See how happy he is?)
Some other Varieties of Beer Lao
Beer Lao Commercial
Wow, this would look great on a shirt
Please also check out these hubs from travelespresso on Laos
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