Craft beer in Bangkok is little more than icing on a cake that’s already so rich one can barely finish a single slice.
Indeed, of the many reasons to visit Thailand’s infinitely sided capital city—of the many ways in which so many of us fell in love with it on first sight—craft beer is low on the list. Among other things, we think about the resilient, silly, opportunistic, forever-hustlin’ locals; the boundless and infectious energy; the contrasts stacked upon contrasts; the food, my god, the food and we’re not only thinking about the Thai food; the ingenuity and creativity exercised in surprising places; how a day doesn’t pass without seeing something so absurd that we laugh out loud; and the casual coolness of it all.
Still, craft beer has taken Bangkok by storm and become a permanent, increasingly pervasive presence in bars, restaurants, and shops across the city—and we couldn’t be happier. Imports from prestige craft breweries across the globe are widely available, and the indomitable Thai resilience and creativity has extended to the once-dormant (and still illegal) local brewing scene. Today, Thai-brewed craft beers dominate the taps at some of the city’s best beer bars, and one can find them in cans and bottles at many of Bangkok’s upscale supermarkets (and even FamilyMart).
For the debut entry in our “Asia Beer City” series, we shine the spotlight on Bangkok, one of our favorite cities on the planet and one of Southeast Asia’s most exciting beer destinations.
“Maybe it’s a little too hidden. I think it’s cool that people have to look for it,” said Mikkeller brewery founder Mikkel Borg Bjergsø in a 2015 interview with Condé Nast Traveller.
He wasn’t exaggerating because if you didn’t know Mikkeller Bangkok was there, you wouldn’t know it existed at all. Hidden at the end (and to the left) of a quiet residential soi off Ekkamai Soi 10, with no road signage whatsoever to point visitors in the right direction, the brewery’s Bangkok flagship is a true destination bar and still one of the city’s finest craft beer venues five years since its arrival. Set within a bright and airy ‘50s-era Thai bungalow, with plenty of outdoor space on the front lawn for relaxing in bean bags when the bugs aren’t out, this 30-tapper is, obviously, first and foremost a showcase for Mikkeller’s expansive beer range.
Stock clearly changes constantly, but there are times—good times—when the beer list is surprisingly heavy on the brewery’s more esoteric offerings. For instance, on a recent check we saw two beers (Granadilla Batch #1 and Gift from Demeter Batch #1) from Mikkeller Baghaven, which is the wild/barrel-aging/experimental facility in Copenhagen. At the same time, there were also such beers as the To Øl collaboration Juicebag BA Grand Marnier, an oud bruin brewed with citrus peel and aged in Grand Marnier barrels, and Vild BA Bordeaux, a 12.3% Belgian ale matured in Bordeaux barrels. There is (almost) always at least one variety from the ongoing Spontan Series—that is, spontaneously fermented beers aged in oak barrels for up to three years—and often a few from WarPigs, the Mikkeller-3 Floyds collaborative brewpub in Copenhagen. Aside from Mikkeller, the bar regularly features such breweries as Modern Times, Omnipollo, and AleSmith.
There’s a big bottle shop behind the bar, as well, while indoors on the second floor is Upstairs, an intimate few-tables dining room where set 10-course menus are paired with Mikkeller beers. The Mikkeller brand has since expanded to two more Bangkok locations, too.
Mikkeller Bar Ari takes over a similarly out-of-the-way bungalow on the other side of town, though here Thai and regional breweries share space with the namesake brewery across 20 taps. It’s a nice enough spot and we like that the kitchen does Thai food, but do wonder whether it’ll stick. Mikkeller Discovery, which opened in late December 2018, is a decidedly modest tasting room at Siam Discovery mall with 10 taps and around 50 bottles/cans.
We’ve had more nights out at Mikkeller Bangkok over the years than we’d care to admit, but no regrets for any of ‘em. If you only have time for two bars (what a shame), make it this one and Mitr Bar, below. 26 Ekkamai Soi 10 Yaek 2, Ekamai Rd, +66 23 819 891. Open daily 5pm – 12am.
As much as we enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to taste beers imported from all corners of the globe, we’re most interested in what’s brewing in our own backyard, particularly as the quality of beers produced in Asia continues to ascend. Mitr Bar strikes a happy medium between local and international, focusing on small-batch beers from up-and-coming Thai brewers while still reserving space among its 20 taps for the likes of such established breweries as Behemoth Brewing (Auckland, NZ) and Evil Twin Brewing (New York, NY). It’s the Thai beers, however, that here hold more interest.
Mitr Bar is essentially the Bangkok taproom for Mitr Craft, a long-in-development collaborative brewery in nearby Nonthaburi that’s co-managed by leading Thai craft breweries Lazy Fat Cat, Devanom, Chit Beer, Mickleheim, Red Stone, and Wizard Beer. Beers from those six breweries are most commonly tapped at Mitr, but you may also find some from fledgling homebrewers and breweries who met various requirements to have their brews produced in Nonthaburi and sold here.
On our most recent visit, local beers flowed from 14 of the bar’s 20 taps, including excellent IPAs from Devanom and Mickleheim, as well as Stone Head’s rich and roasty Hazelnut Chocolate Stout. There are exceptions to the rule, but on most nights you’ll find more Thai craft on draft here than anywhere else in town, save for perhaps Changwon Express at Flow House (below).
That is reason enough to set aside an hour or two for Mitr, but we love the “scenic” and somewhat clandestine location, too. It’s just minutes from the BTS Victory Monument Station, right on the corner of Phayathai Road and Soi Rangnam, and in fact is right next to the elevated train tracks (and just below another wonderful watering hole, the rooftop Sky Train Jazz Bar). The staircase to access it, however, isn’t marked—it’s right next to the corner restaurant—and the threadbare stairwell feels more like the entryway to a meth den than to a few lovely bars. Mitr Bar’s third-floor space is pretty bare bones, which is perfectly fine, save for its tall windowed wall overlooking the station and street market below. On some nights there’s live Thai-style acoustic music of the fun and innocuous variety we’ve long enjoyed in Bangkok bars. 23/1 Phayathai Rd, 3rd Floor. +66 91 715 7673. Open daily 5pm – 12am.
Old-school Thai bungalow, out-of-the-way location, good vibes, great beer—in many ways Dok Kaew mirrors Mikkeller Bar, though with a few pronounced differences. This is a true Thai beer bar, starting with the funky décor and seating found throughout this beautifully ramshackle two-story house in the far reaches of Ari. The crowd is decidedly Thai, though of course farang love this place, too, and the classic Thai bar food perfectly suits the setting. It’s not air-conditioned, but instead cooled by numerous oscillating table fans, which just adds to Dok Kaew’s singular character.
Related: At Tawandang, Everybody Wants Some
Oh, right, the beer. There are 10 taps, and though we’d like to see a more dedicated focus on Thai craft, such local breweries as Eleventh Fort Brewing and Outlaw Brewing are semi-regulars and there are always a bunch of Thai beers in the fridge. Stone, Ballast Point, and Oskar Blues are among the foreign breweries regularly tapped and stocked in bottles/cans.
It takes a little effort to get there, but we think you’ll be glad you made it. Sanam Pao is the closest BTS station, though from there it’s a fairly inconvenient 30-minute walk; better to take a taxi or motorbike (if you have a helmet) from there or just straight from wherever you’re staying. All in all, Dok Kaew is exactly the type of place in which you want to hang out for a few hours, particularly if you’re visiting Bangkok from other parts of the world and looking for an experience well outside of one catered to Westerners and expats. 71 Rama 6, Soi 28. +66 89 993 1663. Open daily 5pm – 12am.
Here’s proof that a bar doesn’t need 40 taps and hundreds of packaged beers to get it right. Save Our Souls is located across the street from the fancy fail that is the ICON Siam “lifestyle complex,” and is a pleasant 15-minute walk from Saphan Taksin BTS station over the Chao Phraya River. This is a small, casual, no-frills craft bar with eight taps, a fridge full of cans and bottles, friendly service, and solid Thai food. There’s really not much more to it than that, and sometimes that’s really all you want, particularly in a part of town that for a long time really needed good beer more readily available. (Wishbeer Garden, one of five and counting Bangkok outlets for the Wishbeer brand, is now also nearby.)
Ayinger Brewery—which brews one of the finest doppelbocks anywhere—Omnipollo, and Heretic Brewing Co are three breweries making regular appearances on draft. Like at every other bar we’ve featured here, the good folks from omnipresent craft importers Beervana International help keep the fridge well-stocked with Founders, Stone, Pirate Life, Prairie Artisan Ales, and others from their portfolio. 250 Charoen Nakhon Rd. +66 98 424 6426. Open daily 5pm – 12am.
Of course, there are times when hundreds of bottles and cans go a long way toward getting it right, and that’s exactly what has helped this packaged beer specialist thrive. A short walk from Thong Lo BTS station, Bottles of Beer has upwards of 200 craft beers available, many of which are chilled; there are now a few taps, as well. Like Save Our Souls it’s a straightforward concept with a welcoming atmosphere, one in part fostered by a long communal table running down the center of the space and dividing the chilled from the not-chilled selection.
Food wise, in-house kitchen The Meat Pan specializes in, well, such meaty dishes as Thai sun-dried beef jerky, carnivore brisket toast, and wagyu, though pescetarians and vegetarians aren’t completely shut out. Whether you’re drinking in or taking away, BoB is well worth a stop. 2/7 Sukhumvit Soi 34. +66 20 400 473. Open daily 5pm – 12am.
My, how you’ve grown, Changwon Express. It began in 2016 as a very small, very yellow beer bar with a mildly meh location near the Petchaburi MRT station. Don’t get us wrong, we loved it then as we love it now, as much for its support of Thai craft as for its randomness and the chutzpah of its Korean expat owner to open a place like this in an area like that.
Since then, Changwon launched a much-bigger, more-ambitious second location at Khlong Toei’s Flow House, Bangkok’s only “urban beach club” and only place where one can go surfing and bodyboarding on a simulated wave machine. We’re not sure about the surfing bit, but Changwon’s breezy rooftop bar significantly elevates Flow House with its 30 craft taps, the majority of which are pegged for such Thai breweries as Beat Brewing, TriplePearl, and Sandport Beer. Changwon has even collaborated with South Korean craft brewery The Hand and Malt Brewing Co on two of its own beers: Asoke Pale Ale and Chao Phraya Stout.
The original Changwon Express is still open and worth a look, too: nine taps (with, again, a focus on Thai breweries), an assortment of bottles and cans, and proper Korean-style fried chicken. We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a third location any day now. 37 Asoke-Dindaeng Rd (original) and 120/1 Sukhumvit 26, Flow House, A-Square. Both locations open daily 5pm – 12am; original closed Sunday.
This spare, dimly lit little joint on Chinatown’s happening Soi Nana is co-owned by a consortium of local beer barons that includes one of Beervana’s co-founders. Naturally, that means breweries like Stone, Rogue Ales, Founders, and Kagua are usually either on tap (there are seven of ‘em) or in the modestly sized fridge. Breweries not under the Beervana umbrella are available, too.
Pijiu has a great vibe; there’s something to be said for well-kept good beer served in settings as classy and understated as this one. Note that this Soi Nana (Chinatown) is not to be confused with the Soi Nana (Sukhumvit) that makes you feel a little dirty. 16 Soi Nana. No phone. Open Tuesday to Sunday 5pm – 12am; closed Monday.
Somebody, anybody, needed to put a proper beer bar around Sala Daeng for years now, so kudos to the team behind Mash for finally filling in June 2017 what was a major hole in the local good beer landscape. Run in part by a woman who previously managed Mikkeller Bangkok, Mash is all clean lines—both design and tap wise—and minimalism in this fairly compact space, though it still manages to feel comfortable and even a little cozy. There are 16 well-curated taps here, a selection that usually includes a handful of Thai craft alongside such breweries as Young Master Brewery (Hong Kong), BrewFist (Italy), and Feral Brewing (Western Australia). Locally based Bootleg Brothers provide the house Island Hopper lager. Soi Convent. +66 89 692 5666. Open Monday to Saturday 5pm – 12am; closed Sunday.
Whereas Singapore has LeVeL33, the so-called “highest urban craft brewery” in the world, Bangkok counters with Brewski, which whomever wrote the copy for Radisson Blu Plaza’s website calls the “highest duplex rooftop craft beer bar in Thailand.” Okay then, there you have it. Located on the hotel’s 30th floor, Brewski is indeed way up there, and with 12 taps and more than 100 bottled and canned craft beers, this is certainly a craft beer bar.
You’re unlikely to find anything here not available elsewhere at bars with slightly more character and fewer Western dudes, but there’s no denying those views. (If you don’t necessarily need a good beer with your views, we suggest old favorite Red Sky at Centara Grand.) Soi Sukhumvit 27, Radisson Blu Plaza Bangkok. +66 23 023 333. Open daily 5pm – 1am.
To be completely honest, Taproom doesn’t move the needle much for us. Yes, it has an impressive 26 craft taps (mostly imports) and the large wood-tiled beer board is a neat touch, but there’s just something… missing. Perhaps it’s just not what we’re looking for in Bangkok anymore, which is a credit to the beer scene’s rapid evolution because five years ago we’d be practically camping out here. Things have changed, however, and so have our expectations.
We’re sure some disagree with us, just as we’re certain there are some familiar with Bangkok’s beer trail wondering how we could possibly omit places like Beer Republic, Craft, Wishbeer, and Hair of the Dog, to name but a few, and that’s okay. (Short answer: Because we can, and hey, now they’ve not been completely left out.) At any rate, Taproom still gets a nod here. Bronze medals are something of which to be proud, right? 51 Sukhumvit Soi 26. +66 87 460 2626. Open daily 5pm – 12am.
BONUS: Central Food Halls / Gourmet Markets
Scoff if you’d like, but there’s no denying just how good the beer selection has become in recent years at Bangkok’s fanciest grocery stores. In particular, Central Food Hall at Central Chidlom has essentially turned into a craft beer clearing house, stocking all kinds of core and seasonal brews from both Thai and big-name international breweries. In fact, there’s now more craft here than macro.
In addition to Central Chidlom, you’ll find great beer in the upscale supermarkets at such popular malls as Siam Paragon, Central World, and The EmQuartier. Obviously, craft beer specialist shops like BoB and Wishbeer offer a bigger overall variety, but for their combination of convenience, price, and rock-solid selection, these spots have to be considered some of the better bottle shops in Bangkok.
“Asia Beer City” is Beer Travelist’s running series spotlighting notable beer bars, brewpubs, and bottle shops in cities across Asia and Asia-Pacific. Each series entry is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather a curated list of those venues we feel travelers (and locals) should prioritize.