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While on our quest for authentic food in Southeast Asia, we were surprised to learn that the growth rate of beer consumption in Asia is one of the highest in the world.
Factors including the climate and a proliferating young middle-class population have contributed to the exponential growth of Asian beers and their popularity.
You’ll find big brands like Heineken, Carlsberg, Hoegaarden, Budweiser, or Corona Beer in Asia.
At the same time, craft Asian breweries have been steadily growing for years, pushed by local pioneers.
Here are the top Asian beers alongside insights on the local bar and craft brewery scene in respective Asian countries.
What Are Asian Beers?
Large corporations still dominate when it comes to beer production and selling beer in Asia.
Europeans first introduced the modern brewery to the continent, and drinking beer became increasingly popular during the colonial period in the 1800s.
However, most Asian countries have their own beer brands, and Asian craft beers continue to grow in availability and popularity.
The best Asian craft beers can be found in Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Japan, China, and South Korea.
The craft beer scene is blossoming in Vietnam, and the capital Saigon is host to a craft beer festival in December.
Introduced to by local Filipino friends, we discovered Brew Kettle one of the newer craft beers in The Philippines.
In Thailand, finding craft beer is harder due to the Thailand Liquors Act protecting larger corporations at the expense of local breweries.
However, the Thai craft beer scene continues to grow. And, in Bangkok, we had the chance to try Changwon Express, a popular craft beer micropub.
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Top 17 Asian Beers And Asian Countries Beer Scene
Vietnam is the biggest market for Asian beers. In fact, the country ranks in the top ten globally for most beer consumed and most beer produced.
This probably explains why Vietnam has the most choice for Asian beers and breweries among Asian countries.
These are some of the top popular Vietnamese beers.
1. Bia Hanoi
In Northern Vietnam, the Hanoi brewery Habeco dominates the market for Vietnamese Asian beer.
The two top-selling beer brands are Bia Hanoi, a light-bodied lager, and Hanoi Beer, a pale lager with a slightly sweet flavor and higher alcohol content.
One thing to do in northern Vietnam is to try the local Bia Hoi, served with roasted peanuts at a local cafe.
The beer is a draft beer, and the cafes are famous in Hanoi where Vietnamese workers enjoy this widely consumed beer served cold after a work day.
The beer itself is very low in alcohol content – less than 4% – and very light in taste. It is also very cheap: about 5,000 to 9,000 VND, which is less than $0.50 USD.
2. Huda Beer
In central Vietnam, you will find Huda beer produced by Hue Brewery. It is not the most popular brand, though you can find it in some restaurants.
The most popular Vietnamese beer in the region is La Rue, which is produced by the Satra Group.
3. Saigon Beers
In Southern Vietnam, the market for Asian beers is dominated by Saigon beers, which are produced by Sabeco, the Saigon brewery.
You will find Saigon Export, Saigon Special, and Bia Saigon (Saigon Beer).
Honestly, I didn’t find much difference between all the Vietnamese beers. They are all mostly mild in flavor, have little carbonation, and are low in alcohol content, making them a refreshing beverage to enjoy on hot days.
The cost of beer ranges between 12,000 VND and 20,000 VND, about $0.50 USD to $1.00 USD.
Vietnam Craft Beer Scene
As mentioned previously, the craft beer scene in Vietnam is booming. Quality ingredients are combined to create award-winning IPAs, stouts, pale ales, and others.
Vietnamese craft beers are brewed across the country and served in taprooms throughout.
Vietnamese craft Asian breweries include Pasteur Brewing Company and 7 Bridges.
In Saigon, you can find the Asian beer company Pasteur Street Brewing Company on 144 Pasteur Street.
Their unique beers include Jasmine IPA, which is brewed with locally sourced dried jasmine flower, and seasonal offerings that make use of unusual ingredients to offer drinks like Watermelon Wheat Ale.
7 Bridges Brewing Company is based in Danang but sold in taprooms across Vietnam and is an award-winning, impact-driven company selling some of the best Asian beer for craft brew fans.
As reported by the USDA, China ranks highly when it comes to the world’s largest beer-producing region, and they’re also big consumers of the drink.
Brands like Tsingtao beer, Harbin, Snow, and Yanjing beer compete for the spot of most widely consumed beer in the country.
4. Tsing Tao
Tsingtao beer is arguably the most iconic beer in China. The beer is brewed by Tsingtao in the North East of China in Qingdao.
This popular beer brand with malted barley, rice, yeast, hops, and Laoshan Mountain spring water, is refreshing to enjoy at the end of a long day.
In fact, the beer is brewed specifically to be as drinkable as possible, which explains why Tsingtao beer is one of China’s most popular and best-selling beers.
Chinese Craft Beer Scene
The popularity of craft beer in China is growing, with a rise in small breweries across the country.
The overall consumption of craft beer remains low in China compared to more popular alternative Asian beers.
However, forecasts suggest that this may change over time – so watch this space when it comes to Chinese craft beers.
Up until 2020, Japan had been the number one producer of Asian beer in the Asia-Pacific Region.
Even though China may have clinched that spot, Japanese beer remains popular worldwide.
Amongst the top Japanese Asian breweries are brands like Asahi, Sapporo, and Kirin.
Sapporo Beer is the oldest beer brand in Japan. And, Sapporo Breweries makes a number of popular beers, including Sapporo Premium Beer, lighter options like Sapporo Pure, and the full-bodied beer Sapporo Reserve.
Sapporo’s first brewmaster, Seibei Nakagawa, actually learned to brew in Germany.
On returning to Japan, he brought his knowledge of German brewing techniques to Japanese ingredients, creating the beer that Sapporo continues to be known for.
If you’re a fan of Japanese food, then you’ll likely already be a fan of Asahi Super Dry.
Inspired by dry sake, Asahi Super Dry is Japan’s number-one beer, and one of the best-known Asian beers globally.
The Asian beer is owned by Asahi Breweries, who also own popular beer brands including Peroni Nastro and London Pride. However, the beer is brewed in Vancouver, Canada – so don’t be fooled by the packaging.
Japan Craft Beer Scene
The craft beer scene in Japan is rapidly expanding with over 200 breweries across the country.
Vertere is a craft brewery based just outside Tokyo, in Okutama. This self-proclaimed “beer cafe” is a great place to stop for a refreshing drink in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
The beer here is made with interesting ingredients, creating beverages like chai stouts and blueberry sours, and they also grow their own hops locally in a nearby field.
Far Yeast is a larger craft beer brand and can be found in some stores, depending on where you are in Japan. They use ingredients like yuzu and sansho to create their delicious drinks.
For a more unusual Asian beer, try Okhotsk Blue or Ryuho Draft Blue beer. This beer is literally colored blue due to the addition of a natural gardenia pigment.
Beer is a popular drink in the Philippines, and I found the beers to have the most distinctive taste in the Southeast Asian beer landscape.
Beer is the most widely consumed alcoholic drink in the Philippines, with around 2.1 billion liters consumed annually.
7. San Miguel Beer
The Filipino beer of choice is San Miguel, and their brewery is the largest beer producer in the Philippines.
The most popular of their beers is the San Miguel Pale Pilsen, a pale lager with an alcohol content of 5% that I found to have a distinct hoppy taste.
You can also enjoy other San Miguel beers, like their Light, Super Dry, Strong Ice, and Premium. I had a few of those and found them quite mild and easy to drink.
8. Red Horse Beer
The San Miguel brewery also produces Red Horse Beer. This beer is known for its stronger taste and higher alcohol content (8%).
It is an extra strong, dark-hued lager – I didn’t like the taste, preferring to stick with the San Miguel branded beers.
Philippines Craft Beer Scene
While the craft beer movement in the Philippines is still relatively young compared to other Asian markets, it has been steadily gaining momentum.
Local craft breweries have emerged in recent years. Interestingly, they often experiment with unique ingredients, local flavors, and brewing techniques to create distinct and flavorful beers.
You can find a wide variety of craft beers, from classic styles like IPAs and stouts to more experimental brews like sours and fruit beers.
Also, craft beer festivals and events in major cities like Manila and Cebu have allowed small breweries to showcase their products.
These events are a great opportunity to sample unique beers and learn more about the craft beer scene in the Philippines.
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There are three major breweries in Cambodia, the largest of which is Cambrew Limited (Angkor Brewery).
Beer consumption in Cambodia is projected to grow by 9.68% from 2023 to 2025, reaching USD$2.20 billion by that date.
9. Angkor Beer
Angkor Beer also known as Angkor Lager is the most popular beer brand in Cambodia. It is considered the national beer of Cambodia and is produced by Cambrew Brewery.
It is a light American-style lager that is easy to drink. Surprisingly, some of the beer bottles have a unique top that can be pulled open like a can of beer.
Another popular Cambodian beer brand is Cambodia Beer, which is produced by Khmer Brewery in Phnom Penh.
Cambodia Craft Beer Scene
Kingdom Breweries is the only premium craft beer brewery in Phnom Penh. If you’re in the city, you can visit the brewery which is located to the north.
You can enjoy a brewery tour along with samples of the beer. Expect to pay around USD$1 to USD$1.50 per bottle for beers in Cambodia.
In Thailand, the choice of beers is limited, and two companies dominate the market. If you’re looking for a beer to pair with your Thai food, you’re most likely to be offered either Singha beer or Chang beer.
Boon Rawd Brewery the market leader in Thai Asian beer. They produce both Singha and Leo Beers. When traveling through Thailand, my preference was for either Singha or Chang Beers. I found them very similar in terms of taste and color.
11. Leo Beer
Leo beer is produced by the same brewery, and was created as an affordable alternative to Singha. It’s cheaper in price, but I also found that it tastes a little cheap, too.
12. Chang Beer
The main competitor to Boon Rawd Brewery is Thai Beverage. They make Chang beer, which is the newest of the three.
It’s a light pale malt that tastes a little like Budweiser. You’re unlikely to miss this Asian beer when traveling in Thailand, and you’ll see the brand’s logo everywhere.
Thailand Craft Beer
The Thai Liquor Act has considerably restrained competition in the beer market, with large corporations benefiting from the imposed limitations.
Smaller breweries are required to meet tough standards like producing at least 100,000 liters a year and having capital in excess of 10 million baht. This makes it difficult for smaller breweries to establish themselves.
Many of the best craft beer breweries in Thailand get around this legislation by legally manufacturing beer outside the country and importing it back. This tactic has allowed the Thai craft beer scene to continue to grow.
Thai beers typically cost between 70 to 100 baht (USD$2 to USD$2.50) per bottle of 660ml.
Singha beer is more expensive than either Leo or Chang. Craft beers are more expensive, at around 180 baht (approx USD$5.20).
The Singapore beer market continues to grow, but there’s also a rising preference for low- and non-alcoholic beers.
That said, craft beers have been growing in popularity here, and there are plenty of craft beer bars and locally-brewed beers to enjoy if you’re a fan.
13. Tiger Beer
Tiger Beer is the main beer produced in Singapore, where it was the first locally brewed beer when it first launched in 1932.
Tiger Beer is now owned by Asia Pacific Breweries-Heineken. It’s a wheat beer with a 5% alcohol content. I found it to be a mild beer in flavor, best enjoyed cold.
Tiger Brewery also makes Tiger Crystal beer, which I saw only in Vietnam. It is much lighter than Tiger beer, and is relatively tasteless. If you are in Singapore, I recommend sticking to Tiger Beer.
Singapore Craft Beer Scene
As with many countries in Asia, the Singapore craft beer scene is growing, though I didn’t get the chance to explore it intimately.
Trouble Brewing creates a range of beers and hard seltzers for non-beer drinkers. The beers going by names like Brick Head Pilsner and Stolen Boat Summer Ale are refreshing drinks in Singapore summers.
Sunbird Brewing Company is an award-winning, new Singaporean craft beer company. Launched in 2020, they create unusual drinks like the Mango Bingsu Cold IPA and Galactic Tropical Stout.
You’ll find brands like these and more at some of Singapore’s best craft beer taprooms, like SG Taps and Little Island Brewing Co. Be sure to pair your tasty beers with delicious Singapore food.
South Korea Beers
The South Korean beer market is one of the largest in Asia. However, it is notoriously difficult for international brands to break into, as domestic beers are extremely popular.
Leading South Korean breweries include Oriental Brewery Company Co. Ltd and HiteJinro Co.
14. Hite Beer
If you’re in South Korea, you won’t miss a Hite Extra Cold beer, which competes with Cass Beer for the number one spot for the top South Korean beer.
Hite Extra Cold beer is a European-style pale lager. Its big selling point is that the entirety of its maturation and filtration process takes place in sub-zero temperatures. It’s particularly refreshing with a spicy meal as a result of this process.
South Korean Craft Beer
Craft beers in South Korea are on the rise, with some like Jeju Beer available in convenience stores.
Other brands like Magpie Brewing Co. and Gorilla Brewing are also up-and-coming.
If you’re in South Korea and are a craft beer fan, you’ll find the best breweries and taprooms in Busan, which is becoming known as a hub for craft beer.
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When traveling Laos, you’re unlikely to miss Beerlao, which is the country’s main beer.
There isn’t much of a craft beer scene in Laos, though it’s always possible that this changes over time.
Beerlao or Beer Lao is without a doubt the flagship beer of Laos, and it also does well in the export market.
The beer is made from jasmine rice and malt and is a lager with 5% alcohol. I had the chance to enjoy it in Cambodia, where I savored its unique taste.
No spicy meal in India is complete without the addition of a Kingfisher beer. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t serious competitors when it comes to the best Indian beer.
Kingfisher beer is a mild beer that pairs well with spicy dishes. Clean and refreshing with a welcome, light bitterness, Kingfisher holds a respectable market share.
However, its leadership position is starting to be challenged by the rise of foreign beer imports and alternative microbrews.
India Craft Beer Scene
For fans of microbreweries, it’s worth heading to Bangalore, which now has over 70 microbreweries to enjoy something other than a Cobra or Kingfisher.
In fact, some of Bangalore’s institutions are beginning to produce some of the best craft beer in Asia.
Geist Brewing Factory has been brewing authentic Bangalore craft beers since 2004. It’s worth a visit to enjoy drinks with names like James Blond or Kamacitra, an excellent, slightly bitter medium-bodied IPA.
Both Arbor Brewing Company and Windmills Craftworks are renowned as two of the best craft breweries in Bangalore.
Turkey, the bridge between Asia and Europe has steep prices on their beers. While Türkiye is officially a secular country, it is a predominantly Muslim country. This means the sale of beer is highly regulated.
Since January 2022, a “Special Consumption Tax” was placed on alcoholic drinks, raising the prices for beer and other alcoholic drinks, compared to prices in other Asian countries.
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Efes beer is the most quintessential Turkish beer. It is a popular brand and is consumed throughout the country.
Efes beer is brewed by Anadolu Efes Brewery, which was founded in 1950. It now has at least fifteen breweries in countries including Kazakhstan and Moldova.
Efes beer has a clear golden color and a slightly sweet, malty taste. Alongside the classic Efes Pilsner, you can enjoy variations including Efes Dark, Light, and Draft on a hot Turkish day.
The Beer Scene in Other Asian Countries
While other Asian countries do not have a strong beer culture, here is a quick overview of what you can expect when it comes to beers.
There are no local beers produced in Malaysia, mostly because of the Muslim ban on alcoholic drinks. Heineken has a brewery in Kuala Lumpur where they produce Heineken, Guinness, and Tiger beers.
As such, Beers in Malaysia are slightly more expensive than in the rest of Asian countries except for Singapore. In Malaysia, the price of a small-size beer costs between USD$1.80 to USD$4.00.
We, therefore, recommend skipping the beers in Malaysia and enjoying the delicious local fruit juices and other non-alcoholic beverages that are offered with the meals.
In Myanmar, Myanmar Beer and Dagon Beer are respectively the most popular beers.
Myanmar has one of the lowest beer consumption rates in Asia, but things are changing, and new beer companies are increasingly entering the market – something to watch in the next few years.
Meanwhile in Indonesia, the most popular beer is Bintang Beer, produced by Heineken Pacific Brewery. Being a Muslim-majority country, the regulations on alcohol are getting stricter, and as a result, the beer market is declining.
As a Muslim-majority country that operates under Sharia law, Brunei is completely dry, meaning that there is a complete ban on alcohol in Brunei, so you will not find any local Asian beers.
That said, non-Muslims over the age of 17 have a duty-free allowance, meaning that two liters or liquor or twelve cans of beer can be brought into the country every 48 hours.
Tourists can also drink alcohol in hotels, as long as they are discreet when doing so, and can’t be publicly intoxicated.
You may find restaurants serving “special tea” in teacups, which is a euphemism for drinking and serving beer – but always be careful if you choose to partake.
Asian Beers FAQs – Few Facts about Asian Beers
What’s A Famous Asian Beer?
The most famous Asian beers globally are Japanese beers. Sapporo is a leading Japanese beer brand, and Asahi Super Dry also consistently ranks on lists of the most popular beer in Japan, Asia, and the globe more broadly.
How Do Asian Beers Taste?
Asian Beers are easy to drink. One thing that I found consistent across the different countries was the similarity in the beers’ taste. Most of the beers I had were mild and palatable. The vast majority of beers are pale lagers or lagers with a light golden body.
In general, Asian beer flavors are mild, and the alcohol content is about 5%. This makes for an easy and refreshing drink in hot and humid weather.
Can You Drink Beer in Asia?
Drinking laws and religion influence the beer culture in Asia.
The drinking laws across Asia vary and significantly influence the local drinking culture, so when it comes to the beer-drinking culture in Asian countries, we found that it varies by country.
In Thailand for example, you can only buy or be served alcohol between the hours of 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to midnight.
The country’s majority religion also influences the beer culture. In Catholic Philippines, and Buddhist Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, drinking beer is generally permissible.
By contrast, in Malaysia, all Malaysian Muslims are forbidden from drinking alcohol according to Sharia Law. While in Indonesia, some Muslim politicians are calling for a total ban on alcohol. Brunei, another Muslim-majority country, is completely dry.
In Turkey beer and alcohol have hefty taxes in keeping with the secular country but Muslim majority views.
When Is Beer Consumed in Asia?
In Asia, one thing we noticed is that drinking beer among the locals is best appreciated outside of mealtimes.
We saw locals ordering beer on only a few occasions with meals. In most cases, locals would eat their meals accompanied by water or tea, and would enjoy their beer elsewhere.
In Vietnam for example, there is a strong culture of drinking beer after work and before meals at cafes or bars.
In Singapore, you will see groups of older men chatting while enjoying buckets of Tiger beer after their meals at hawker centers.
How is Asian Beer Served?
Asian beer is typically served with ice cubes, so don’t be surprised if you are handed a glass filled with ice cubes!
When the weather is hot and humid, beers don’t stay cold for long. To remedy this issue, most bars and restaurants tend to offer you beer with ice.
As a beer connoisseur, you might feel embarrassed by drinking your beer with ice. But after a few hot nights where the beer becomes mild and not so tasty, you will find the refreshing ice cubes tolerable.
Have you had Asian beer? Have you tried any of these Asian beers before? Please let us know in the comments below.
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Claire is co-founder of Authentic Food Quest and a lover of simple and exquisite cuisine. Since 2015, with her partner, Rosemary, she has been traveling the world as a digital nomad, creating content about local food experiences.
Her advice from visiting 45 countries and more than 240 food cities has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post. She has also co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
An ex-mechanical engineer, Claire is responsible for SEO, keeping the website running, and the fun food & travel videos on YouTube.
When Claire is not eating, she can be found running or cycling. Find out more about Authentic Food Quest