Beer World (part one)

OK, this is silly, and I promise to start posting something more interesting soon, but welcome to part one of an occasional series that blends two of my favourite things. Somewhere along the line (Cuba, I think) I started taking pictures of hitherto unknown beer brands that I encountered in other parts of the world. It’s progress – when I first got a digital camera, I used to take photos of pavements around the world… which might yet be another series, if I get stuck for posts.

So, with a tiny fanfare, here are some of the finest beers of south-east Asia (and one of the two Cuban beers):

A bottle of Beer Lao in the sunshine

BeerLao in Luang Prabang, its natural habitat.

BeerLao, the only beverage readily available in the Lao PDR, is thankfully a very good, dare I say world class, lager.

A bottle of Bia Hanoi at night

A Bia Hanoi overlooking the Hồ Hoàn Kiếm in its native city.

Bia Ha Noi, of self-explanatory provenance, is the best available in northern Vietnam, except for the very, very localised Bia Lau Cai, which is almost flat, and tastes like a sharply hoppy Pale Ale. Mmmm…

A bottle glass of Lao Cai beer

A Bia Lao Cai waiting for the night train

But neither are a patch on Bierre Larue, which I first encountered in Hanoi but which became more common further south. Interestingly, Bierre Larue was originally brewed by the Lao Brewery Company until LBC was nationalised in the 1970s by the new Lao communist government.

A bottle of Bierre Larue on the dinner table

Bierre Larue and lunch in Hanoi

Also available as red label Bierre Larue Export, which is all over the southern half of Vietnam but not up to the standard of the blue label version.

A close-up of the Bierre Larue Export label


In the south, and particularly in HCMC, it’s better to stick to the eponymous Bia Saigon. Again, there are a number of varieties, but the green label Special won the prize for me.

A bottle and glass of Saigon beer on a table in front of of a woman with a fan.

Cooling off in Ho Chi Minh City

In Cambodia, avoid the mischievously homophone Anchor and go straight for the Angkor (‘my country, my beer’, as the label says), which was just the thing to slake a thirst after a day of elephant trekking or rooting around temples.

A beer bottle on a table in a jungle lodge

My country, my beer, my empty bar

And, to end part one, a nod to where this started: a can of Bucanero Fuerte, which stomps all over the frankly flaccid, ubiquitous Cristal.

A close up of a can of lager

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