Prologue: Chances are this isn’t a beer you are hugely familiar with, unless of course you’ve spent some time in Laos, or Cambodia, or Vietnam, or failing that, you are a master of Goi Du Du, Su Nuong and Bo Luc Lac at your local Asian eatery.
BeerLao are a pretty big deal though. They produce 210 million litres of beer a year (that’s almost twice as much beer as American Craft beer darlings Sierra Nevada). In fact they are such a big deal that they are half owned by the Government of Laos and half owned by Carlsberg.
So with all that volume they must be doing something right. Or are they?
Packaging: I really like this label for some reason, the Lao Brewing Company has a awesome 1970’s style logo with a tiger on it, this graces the label (and bottletop), there are also the pre requisite gold medals, some gold foil around the neck and the name written in both English and Lao. All of it suggests quality and a European influence to me, so far so good.
Appearance: This beer is the Lager (of course they make all sorts of stuff in their home country which looks more interesting but we only get the standard lager). Not surprisingly it looks like a lager, perfectly clear, a nice golden colour, bubbles streaming through it. It’s like a TV commercial in a glass.
Taste: This was actually better than I was expecting. It was a little hoppier than your run of the mill commercial lager, in particular I thought it had lemon notes in there. The carbonation was also about right, not too overpowering. It was a tad sweeter than I would have liked however.
One of the interesting things about this beer is that it is made with rice (as well as malt), which is not something you see much of in Australia. It is very common in American mainstream lagers (in particular Budweiser) and in Japanese beers.
Why? I’m guessing in the Asian sense is about the expense of malted grains (which would have to be imported) vs the locally available rice. In the US sense it’s about saving money, and Budweiser seem hell bent on making crap beer.
What rice does is create alcohol without adding body or flavour like malt does. If you want more alcohol using malt, chances are you are going to get more body, and more flavour, and it’s going to be harder for most people to drink. So what a combination of malt and rice does is create a light, crisp, dry beer which is easy to drink but maintains the alcohol content. Clearly catering for people where the right amount of alcohol is more important to them than taste.
In conclusion: You could do worse that drinking this beer, of the non Japanese Asian beers available in Australia I’d say this is middle of the rung, on par with Tsingtao and Halida, but not as good as Singha or Tiger.
Ranking: Let’s have a Schooner
6 Degrees of Norm (Where we prove all beers can be traced back to Norm from Cheers):
- BeerLao is from Laos
- And Laos was the setting for Air America
- Which starred Nancy Travis
- Who starred in Becker
- And the title character on Becker was Ted Danson
- Who as Sam Malone, owned Cheers and served beers to Norm.