A Guide To Locally Brewed Thai Beer

Photo of Kelly Iverson
24 November 2016

Exploring the Land of Smiles can be that much more exciting with one of Thailand’s most notorious beers in tow. Here, everything you need to know about locally brewed Thai beer.

Popular Beer Brands

Broke backpackers simply can not get enough of Thailand’s wide selection of affordable beer. In comparison to Western countries and its southeast-Asian neighbors, Thailand offers visitors the most affordable (and arguably potent) beer. Some of tourists’ favorite brews include Singha, Chang, and Leo. Here, a quick history of each.

Good beer + good company = happiness | © eric molina/Flickr


The first beer on our list is also the cheapest. Chang, meaning ‘elephant’ in Thai, has become a classic beer of choice for Thais and tourists alike. It is affordable, goes down (relatively) easy, and its logo is not one you will soon forget. It’s gold-and-green signature colors can either be a haunting reminder of a bad night out or a refreshing saving grace on one of Thailand’s many hot days. Get ready for the ‘Changover’ as some people call it, as this beer will not let you soon forget how much you drank the previous night.

Chang Beer at the Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai | © David McKelvey/Flickr


This beer has been around since the 1930s, and it remains a popular choice of alcohol on a night out in Thailand. Phya Bhirom Bhakdi, otherwise known as Boon Rawd, sampled a number of imported beers before deciding that Thailand could brew something that was just as good, if not better. Thailand’s first brewery opened in March 1934, but it was not until 1970 that Singha started to be exported to other countries. After expanding its brewery and having great success, another popular beer, Leo, was born.

Singha Beer | © Henry Burrows/Flickr


In June 1998, Leo, with its signature white, red, and leopard logo was created. The Bono Rawd Brewery continued to expand, both in types of beer and their network, which acquired some 12,000 subcontractors and dealers in 2002. Boon Rawd just recently celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2013.

Leo beer, Thailand | © Courtesy of James Cridland/Flickr

When Can You Buy Alcohol?

Hopeful beer consumers should be aware that afternoon sales of alcohol is prohibited in Thailand. Between 2pm and 5pm, there are no sales of alcoholic beverages in any grocery store or 7/11 shop. This does not mean that visitors can not drink at all during these hours, and restaurants, bars, and hotels will still be selling plenty of alcohol for consumption. Otherwise, visitors can normally purchase alcohol in both grocery and convenience stores. If you are really hankering for a drink during the times in which no alcohol is sold, check out one of the hole-in-the-wall shops down most of a side street. There are many ‘mom and pop’ shops, if you will, who will sell booze regardless of the hour.

Bangkok Skyline | © Swaminathan/Flickr

How Much Will It Cost Me?

Alcohol in Thailand is cheap in comparison with the Western world. It all depends on where a traveler goes to consume alcohol, however. Bars like Cheap Charlie’s in Bangkok is a great place for those looking for a friendly atmosphere in addition to some cheap booze. All drinks here, whether it is mixed, wine, or one of Thailand’s most notorious beers, only cost bar-goers ฿80. Visitors should also be on the look out for some class happy hours that take place almost every evening in cities across Thailand.

Drinking in Pattaya | © Lynhdan Nguyen/Flickr

Best Beer Gardens in Bangkok

Beer gardens in Bangkok are some of the liveliest places to spend an evening out in the city. They are also great places to grab a few pre-drinks, as nightclub and bar drinks can get rather pricey. Asiatique is home to a few beer gardens. Another place to grab a few beers at an affordable price is at the Ekkamai Beer Garden, located conveniently off the BTS Skytrain station Ekkamai. There are also some restaurants and bars in Bangkok which only serve beer, including Beer Belly, HOBs, and Brew, Beer & Cider.

Man drinking Chang | © Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

Important Thai Words

Ordering beer can be a struggle, though for the most part, most bartenders should understand words like, ‘Chang.’ Those beer-drinkers who are a bit more particular about how they indulge in this particular alcoholic beverage may find the following phrases helpful.

nam khang: ice

beer: beer

gra-phonk: can

kaew: glass

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