How Cheap Is Beer In Asia?
We hunt down cheap local beer during our 4 months in Asia
When we started our journey we knew we had to keep to a tight budget and watch what we spent money on, but we also knew we wanted to enjoy ourselves. So while in Asia Winter tried many locally brewed beers and it became his personal journey to find the cheapest local beer in each location.
With the currency close to a dollar for dollar and the little Island commanding big prices Winter found it hard to get his hands on cheap beer.
Beer: Tiger 640ml size.
About it: Lager brewed in Singapore by Heineken Asia Pacific.
Cheapest: $3 found in a beer garden come food court called Satay by the Bay on the sea side of Gardens by the Bay.
Verdict: Winter smashed two after a few hours on Sentosa Island at the water theme park and the two kilometre walk to the other side of Marina Bay and another one after some wicked satay sticks. Most of the time Winter was able to get a large Tiger between $3 and $6, which is cheaper than in Australia, but would not pay more than that.
We had only a short stop in Kuala Lumpur and Winter consumed tap beer at the hotel but when we ventured out he searched for cheap bottled beer.
Beer: Anchor Smooth, any size.
About it: A mid-strength lager brewed in many locations including Malaysia by Heineken Asia Pacific again.
Cheapest: We were surprised at how expensive beer was but nabbed a deal at dinner in Jalan Alor, food street in Bukit Bintang. Winter purchased 2 tall (640ml) Anchors and got a small (345ml) for 45 Malaysian Ringgit which is about $15 dollars or $5 dollar each. The cheap and delicious food more than made up for the price of the beer.
Verdict: It’s a light lager that doesn’t have any strong lingering aftertaste. We found out later that Malaysia levels heavy taxes on alcohol, makes sense being a Muslim country. Comparable to Australia in price, so no real bargains to be found, but as I said the food is so cheap you will drink it anyway.
We stayed in a local neighbourhood in Qianmen near Liangshidian Street. Winter hardly had a beer while out touring around during the day because it was so cold but would have at least one with dinner each night. We ate in small local restaurants where no one spoke English but we had some very cheap meals.
Beer: Yanjing 500ml size.
About it: China’s number 1 beer this lager is a full strength beer brewed in Beijing by Yanjing Brewing.
Cheapest: Our local restaurants didn’t vary too much in price but we did pick one up for 8 Chinese Yuan, $1.80 AUD, but the bottle was second hand and the label wasn’t straight so we don’t know if it was actually Yanjing.
Verdict: It was so cold in Beijing in February that Winter (no pun intended) didn’t have more than one or maybe two tall beers each night. The main aim was to fill our bellies full of nice hot Chinese food and race back to our tiny two bedrooms in our Courtyard hostel and when I say race I mean we really did run from the restaurant strip to our room each night to try and stay warm.
This country is the cheapest of the Asian countries we visited. $1 Australian dollar was 16,000 Vietnamese Dong and so we just looked for anything below 16,000. Each city we visited had it’s own locally brewed beer and Winter tried them all.
The old town of Hanoi is a ridiculously busy city with too many Western restaurants and high prices but we enjoyed sitting in the local eateries where we found the best food, best prices and cheap beer.
Beer: Hanoi 300ml.
About it: It’s a light bodied lager style beer brewed in Hanoi by Habeco.
Cheapest: In a local restaurant Winter picked up a cheap beer in the old quarter for 10,000 Dong. Not surprisingly, this was cheaper than the soft drink at 14,000 Dong.
Verdict: Small bottles means you drink more and it is an easy beer to drink. Hanoi beer tasted better than the imported Carlsberg and Heineken on offer. Could have been the great price.
While bargains were found mostly in Hanoi’s old town, the entire town of Hoi An had bargains on every corner. Equally as touristy but prices were lower in most places and the beer the cheapest we have ever encountered.
Beer: ‘Fresh beer‘ by the glass.
About it: We think it is a light beer that is made by little known Vietnamese brewery’s.
In most places it is on tap but Winter asked the owner of the restaurant below to see it and he brought out a plastic bottle that probably should have had chilli sauce or something in it, not beer.
Cheapest: 3,000 Dong per glass was the cheapest we found.
Verdict: It was definitely a light beer because after drinking 5 glasses Winter didn’t feel the affects very much at all. He was still able to ride off on a push bike without crashing into the thousands of motorbikes.
We landed in Nha Trang first thing in the morning after a long and scary sleeper bus ride. Without any prior expectations we found ourselves reading Russian and Vietnamese signs and didn’t find as much English as we had already experienced but we soon found beer and an expensive boutique brewery on the beach.
Beer: Hanoi again.
About it: Light bodied lager.
Cheapest: The cheapest was in a back street restaurant for 14,000 Dong.
Verdict: As above in Hanoi but we also tested out a pale ale at the Louisiane Brewhouse, a boutique brewery situated right on the beach, it was nice but expensive. They brew in house using Australian malt and New Zealand hops. The prices were high but you can see why below. It cost 40,000 Dong to lay on a sun bed or drink a beer and you lay on one for free.
Ho Chi Min City
Another busy city like Hanoi, we stayed in the old town in District 1, the most populated in the city. We enjoyed some of the cheapest prices since Hoi An.
Beer: Bia Saigon 550ml, the green label not the export Saigon with the red and white label.
About it: A crisp pale lager brewed in Ho Chi Min City by Sabeco Brewery.
Cheapest: Winter picked up a large bottle in our district in Chua An Lac, a short eating street one block from us, for as little as 10,000 Dong.
Verdict: Best locally brewed beer in Vietnam. Smooth, easy to drink and no strong aftertaste.
When we met up with another Australian family we managed to eat and drink our way into a 1.5 million Dong bill which worked out to be $11 AUD a head for 8 people but even the staff were surprised that we drank as much as we did and wanted to show us in the bottle crates.
Hot and extremely dry, Cambodia uses the USD for all exchanges over $1 USD and their local currency, the Riel, for amounts below. It was confusing at first but we soon got used to it and as such looked for beer at or below 1 USD.
A very busy city under a great deal of construction and so dust was everywhere. Combine the dry heat, and dusty roads and you have the perfect beer drinking climate.
Beer: Angkor beer on tap.
About it: Lager brewed in Cambodia by Cambrew/Angkor brewery. You could get this local brew in all restaurants that we frequented and found it much cheaper than buying bottled beer.
Cheapest: We got a jug for $5 USD in most restaurants, this is how they get you in the door.
Verdict: A lager that was darker and stronger than others we tried prior. Strong tasting tap beer that Winter thinks killed his liver after a week and he was sick for 3 days. Bottled beer was more expensive but not what everyone drank, they mainly just drank the tap beer in either jugs or by the glass.
After a few days Winter was ready to get out and taste the local beer again. Siem Reap is a quieter and cleaner version of Phnom Penh and you felt like getting out amongst the locals and tourists because of the almost mall like central district and the many restaurants and pubs with no cars or motorbikes flying by.
Beer: Angkor on tap again.
About it: Lager brewed in Cambodia by Cambrew/Angkor brewery.
Cheapest: You can get a glass of beer for as little as 50cents USD in Pub Street, the main eating street in the city centre.
Verdict: Winter believes the tap beer in Siem Reap was better than Phnom Penh as it was lighter and smoother. We really have no idea if we are actually drinking what they say we are drinking when it is served in a jug or glass but in Siem Reap you could see the taps on the bars in plain sight.
We also enjoyed a few green beers on tap during the St Patricks Day festivities and that tasted fine even if they were $2 USD each, we were in the moment.
We booked into Rambuttri Street just behind Khao San Road in the heart of Bangkok. This was a short three night stop before heading to Sri Lanka and we wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Beer: Chang 630ml.
About it: Local rice based lager with 6.6% alcohol. Brewed in Bangkok by Thaibev.
Cheapest: In a pop up pub near our hotel for 40 Thai Baht, which is about $1.80 AUD.
Verdict: There are plenty of drink deals to be found in any of the many pop up bars along Rambuttri Street and Khao San Road. Once you pick one the staff will chat and invite you back each night, of course you can’t refuse. We had ice in the cups every time, to ensure your beer is cold from the first sip to the last.
We were on the Island during the hottest month of the year, April. The people were friendly and the food was cheap but not the beer. This put a dint in Winter’s beer tally but he still managed to have a few.
Beer: Lion 640ml size.
About it: Strong flavoured Lager brewed in Sri Lanka by Lion Brewery.
Cheapest: 250 Sri Lankan Rupee in our favourite eatery, The Hut, below. This is $2.50 AUD, so not that cheap really.
Verdict: The worst beer Winter had tasted in Asia. It was only tolerable when it was extremely cold. If we headed away from the beach after a swim in the 35 plus degree heat and stopped at The Hut, the beer couldn’t taste better. But if we were looking to enjoy a drink with dinner we payed for the more expensive Carlsberg, if they had it in stock, which most times they didn’t.
There was no bottle shop or pub to take away in Unawatuna, where we stayed for nearly 3 weeks, so we were forced to buy the cheaper Lion or expensive Carlsberg, at $3 or $3.50 per 660ml bottle.
Shock horror, we landed in Trivandrum and learnt that the state is mostly dry so Winter could not get a beer at our hotel. After 8 days drying out we headed to Mumbai and then onto Delhi where we were able to get beer with dinner in some places but not all. Winter tried warm coconut beer and nearly vomited, only to find out later that it is mostly used for cooking.
Beer: Kingfisher, extra strong, 660ml.
About it: Extra strong lager brewed in India by United Breweries Group, Bangalore.
Cheapest: For only 85 Indian Rupee, about $1.70 AUD you could drink in or take away in the ‘hidden’ drinking parlours in Southern India. We stopped in and picked up a beer and wine deal for 170 Indian Rupee.
Verdict: Winter really liked Kingfisher as it was a welcome reprieve from Lion. It was a watery crisp drink that was a treat when travelling around India. In the South and in the centre, in Delhi and Jaipur beer was not readily available in hotels or restaurants. Whereas in Mumbai you could have a glass of beer with breakfast, which we did not do, honestly. The hotel staff sold us a beer secretly in Delhi and charged us 100 Rupees.
No doubt about it, beer is cheaper in Asia than in Australia. If you want to know what you are actually drinking it’s best to choose bottled beer but if you see a visible branded tap then that is also a safe bet. Other than that you can get some locally brewed beer that is light in colour, flavour and price but might not make you feel too good during or after
The big bonus with the Asian style beers is the climate that they are drunk in, it is perfect for a couple of beers on ice after a big day of site seeing or touring, really refreshing. The beautiful dishes that accompany the many beers sampled through out Asia are excellent. Highlights would be the chicken satay sticks in Singapore paired with a crisp Tiger and the kmer amok curry in Cambodia washed down with a frosted Angkor beer.
Have you had cheaper beer in Asia?
If you can tell these are all examples of drinking in restaurants with a meal, so if you have enjoyed a few cheap Asian beers and remember the price share it with us in our comments box below.
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