Many people love visiting or living in Thailand, particularly if they’re beer lovers. The country has two main beer brands, Singha and Chang, with most other beers basically being foreign brands brewed in Thailand. Most beer drinkers in Thailand tend to love Singha or Chang, but not both. For years, Singha was the top selling beer in Thailand but that changed as Chang captured more of the market and finally became the top selling beer in Thailand. But which Thai beer is better and why?
Singha Beer – Singha Beer, the former top selling beer in Thailand, is brewed by the Boon Rawd Company and was the first Thai beer ever to be brewed. Foreigners usually pronounce it Sing-ha, but the correct pronunciation of this great tasting Thai beer is ‘Sing’ (no ‘ha’ on the end of it). But, if you do order a Sing-ha beer, most Thai waitresses will still know what you mean.
Singha Beer is a pale lager that’s usually been slightly higher priced than its main rival, Chang. In Thailand, it’s also known more as the ‘rich man’s beer’, with Chang being the ‘poorer man’s’ version. It’s only ever brewed in Thailand, with no overseas breweries in existence; a decision made by Boon Rawd many years ago to preserve the perfect taste of the beer.
There are three versions of Singha Beer. The beer that most Thais drink, the original Singha, which is a 6% alcohol-by-volume beer. You can also buy it on draft at most bars in Thailand, in the same 6% alcohol-by-volume. (There’s nothing better than an ice cold pitcher of Singha Beer on a hot Bangkok day!) Finally, about four years ago, Boon Rawd introduced a new Singha Lite version, with a similar taste but only 3.5% alcohol-by-volume.
Singha comes in four sizes of container – bottles that hold 330ml, 500ml or 630ml of beer, or 330ml cans. Most beer connoisseurs though swear that Singha beer tastes better from the bottle than the can.
To many beer lovers, Singha is obviously the better beer as it’s a 100% barley malt beer that has a rich body and a strong flavor. To others, Singha has a more bitter taste, so they prefer it’s rival, Chang. Singha Lite is an obviously much lighter tasting beer than the original Singha, and isn’t that popular in Thailand as it’s a little like drinking nothing more than a watered down version of the real thing.
Chang Beer – Brewed by Thai Beverage, Chang Beer has only been in existence since 1995, so its amazing how fast its captured the market. Chang Beer is usually cheaper than Singha, which explains why its known as the ‘poor man’s beer’. It’s also known for its Everton Football Club sponsorship, which has helped the beer hit the top spot too.
Chang is the Thai word for ‘elephant’, and is why the beer has two elephants facing each other on its labels. Chang beer is also a stronger beer than Singha, as it has a 6.4% alcohol-by-volume with no lite version of Chang available as yet.
If you buy Chang outside Thailand though, don’t be surprised if it tastes completely different. Chang Beer, within Thailand, if bought in a bottle is a 6.4% beer and is brewed with rice as one of its ingredients. Chang brewed outside Thailand is only 5% alcohol-by-volume and is a 100% malt beer. But, Chang Beer bought inside Thailand on draft is also a 100% malt beer like the overseas version. Confused yet?
For years, the local Thai rumor was that Chang Beer was brewed with fomaldehyde, the chemical that is used to preserve bodies. This urban myth is absolutely not true, but was a reason some foreigners avoided drinking the beer when in Thailand.
As for taste, some westerners are die-hard Chang lovers, as they say it has a stronger flavor and more body (could be something to do with the 6.4% alcohol?) I personally prefer Chang as I think the beer is smoother and has a cleaner taste and, at up to 10 baht (30 cents) per bottle cheaper, you can afford a bottle or two more.
Honestly, whether Singha or Chang is a ‘better’ beer is really up to individual taste. Both beers are brewed with high quality control and both are popular with certain groups of people. The hi-so (high-society) will usually prefer Singha, whereas your average Thai will often prefer Chang. Expats seem to fall in both groups. Outside Thailand, the only difference in the beers is with Chang, as the alcohol content is lower out of the country.
If you’re a beer connoisseur, neither Singha nor Chang is likely to leave you dying for another one, but for an ice cold beer on the beach or in a bar on a hot Thai evening, either will often hit the spot. Just remember, whichever beer you prefer, try not to drink too much of either of them. My friends tell me they can leave you with a much worse headache the morning after than a western beer, although that could be because they just drank 12 of them!