Beerlao Gold by the Mekong River in Luang Prabang.
Before we go deep into the seedy underbelly of explicit Laos food porn (that post is coming soon), I have to introduce you to my special Laotian friend. With a uniquely mellow character that always manages to offer a refreshing counterpoint on a hot day, the famous, yet still magnificently grounded Beerlao is a true companion to all who plunk down in Laos for a spell.
Beerlao is indisputably the best beer maker in Southeast Asia with the lager’s clean taste that’s wholly devoid of the terrible chemical aftertastes left by some beers in the region (coughChangcough). Though we searched for it from the moment we crossed the Mekong from Thailand, we didn’t find Beerlao Gold (Gold!) until Luang Prabang. Like a smoother, purer version of the lager, the Gold was worth the wait and the extra 2000 kip. However, not even the Gold could unseat the reigning champion of all things both beer and Laos: Beerlao Dark Lager.
A pair of Beerlao Dark Lagers on the streets of Luang Prabang.
A dark lager is unique brew even within the burgeoning and experimental American craft scene, and Beerlao’s take on the variety excels in the genre. Despite its smokey, malty notes Beerlao Dark Lager still finishes crisp, meaning it pairs well with regional cuisine without being reduced to flavorless yellow fizzy water.
Unfortunately, every expat in Chiang Mai seems to agree with my assessment, meaning that when shipments come through town, they disappear fast. Having lived through The Famous Chiang Mai Beerlao Dark Blight of 2012 that lasted for four excruciating months, I can assure you that the selfish hoarders are a breed of evil only matched by people who cut in line at immigration or buy all the Tickle-Me-Snarfblats to sell them back at a profit to desperate parents during Christmas.
Even when it’s in stock, Beerlao Dark Lager costs more than its brethren, with the whole market economy thing with its supply-and-demand-principle things. That and the whole ridiculous-tax-on-alcohol-imports thing (it’s 60%) makes Beerlao Dark Lager a pricey beverage to enjoy in Thailand. As such, it’s reserved for special occasions like birthdays or a celebration of physical prowess after beating the other expats in a race to replenished beer shelves after a Beer Laos drought.
Let’s all take pictures of beer!
Luckily, the Beerlao scarcity and the frenzy surrounding it ends at the palm tree-shaped Laos perimeter. Not only is the brew cheaper within the cozy confines of its country of origin, but it’s more efficient and environmentally friendly. Every town in Laos has a Beerlao distributor or six. These companies deliver full bottles of delicious beer to the restaurants and stores in a defined radius and later collect the empties. The bottles are recycled directly by Beerlao as evidenced by the subtle ring around the widest part of the bottle where they hit the crates.
So basically every time you drink a Beerlao in Laos, a recycling fairy gets a merit badge. Now that’s something to drink to.
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