There is no legal craft beer brewed in Thailand. You might find some there, but it’s probably beer produced by insurgents who’ve taken their skills across the border, into Cambodia where brewing artisan beer isn’t illegal.
Or it could also be covert craft beer brewed for Thailand’s black market.
You see, beer operations in Thailand remain the domain of big producers like Boon Rawd Brewery and ThaiBev, majors who control 90% to 95% of the country’s domestic beer market.
And according to Channel News Asia they enjoy a dominance ensured by the government, and by laws that prevent “small homegrown operators from entering the fray.”
Thailand’s regulations demand that beer manufacturers must have a minimum production capability output of ten million liters per year, which translates into about 30,000 bottles and that’s daunting for new brewers just entering the market.
Additionally Thai laws stipulate that new breweries must have about US $300,000 in upfront capital, an almost impossible sum for most startup operations in that part of the world.
The government’s rationale is both one of taxation (they fear that these small producers will escape paying taxes) and concerns over hygiene standards.
But when just a few major beer companies dominate a country that also precludes smaller competitors from entering the market, you got to wonder about the directives of its political leadership, and just who’s taking who out to lunch.
But don’t ever forget that for every action there is a reaction…
These laws have given birth to a new generation of craft rebels who circumvent Thailand’s strict regulations by brewing beer destined for cities like Bangkok at Cambodian border breweries like Stone Head Beer.
And although Thailand imposes the highest importation tax on beer in Southeast Asia (between 300 and 400 per cent), Stone Head’s beers are in demand in that country.
Stone Head’s is truly a Thai brewer in exile. That’s how they see themselves and even though they brew across the border, they proudly market their brewery as offering the “First Thai Legal Craft Beer.”
But Cambodian border breweries such as Stone Head are just part of Thailand’s craft beer rebellion…
CNN is reporting that Thailand’s repressive beer laws are also spawning more rebels – a growing community of almost 200 home-brewers who are profiting far below Thailand’s radar by offering their beers on their Facebook page.
So Thailand finds itself in the midst of a full-fledged craft beer insurgency from both within and without, and it’s only accelerating.
And no matter how much the country’s leadership and big beer producers they dine with might hope – the passion for real craft beer is in this south Asian country is not going away.