For the second installment of my foreign beer tastings we’re here in the Golden Land itself to test it’s golden beverages. However Myanmar has more than just decent beer, including some pretty reasonable whiskies, and some unique local specialties, so I figured it would be rude not to give them a go too.
Myanmar’s beers are mostly your standard Asian rice lagers, however they do also unexpectedly produce a stout. Below are my findings in order from favourite to ‘please make this end!’.
Myanmar Beer (5.0%) – The most highly advertised and readily available beer in the country is neither fantastic nor terrible. It’s a little reminiscent of an average Australian lager, so maybe it’s just my VB upbringing that feels something for this beer. Decent in bottles and cans but best on draught when you can find it.
Dagon Lager (5.0%) – Another winner of various unnamed medals and trophies at the Belgian Monde Selection. Brewed and canned/bottled in Yangon according to “European Tradition”. The lion on the can looks much more pissed off than the Thai leopard from my last review. He shouldn’t be though, his beer is not bad at all. Crisp, light tasting lager perfect for the scorching Myanmar summer. This beer is advertised everywhere but not always available. You can however get it on draught at Holiday bar/restaurant in Bagan for 550 Kyat (33p) a go where we had many samples.
Mandalay Lager Beer (5.0%) – Very little information on the label of this lager, but there isn’t much to say really. Simple beer with a decent taste, usually a bit cheaper than Myanmar but on par flavour wise. Comes in two varieties, blue label which I am referring to here, and red label which is as usual stronger than necessary.
Mandalay Spirulina Beer (5.0%) – Probably the most memorable beer in the country due to the fact that it claims to be an ‘Anti-aging beer’. This is utter bullshit and it certainly won’t be keeping you young, but it doesn’t taste bad at all.
ABC Extra Stout (8.0%) – Owned by a Singaporean company but brewed here in Myanmar, one of the posters I saw for this beer simply said “ABC, It’s Good For You!”. Who am I to argue? It also claims on the can to “give the strength and goodness to revitalise”! Next time Laura finds me trashed and is unimpressed I’ll be able to use the excuse “I was just trying to get revitalised!”. Unfortunately it is not at all revitalising. I don’t hate it, but that might just be because it’s the first thing other than lager I’ve had in over a month. The problem is that it is inexplicably strong, there is absolutely no need for this to be 8.0%. It would probably be quite tasty at about 4.5%. It begins to be reasonable after the 5th or 6th swig. Go on on then. Ahhhhhh sweet revitalisation! I managed to find this on draught… It was exactly the same.
Andaman Gold (4.5%) – “Premium Quality for Export”… This is the Foster’s of Myanmar! The muck they export so they can keep the good stuff. Looks like Foster’s, tastes like Foster’s. Avoid!
Dagon Extra Strong (8.0%) – Why do I do this to myself? At some point in these blogs I’m going to stop buying the ‘homeless drunk’ edition of beers because they are NEVER good. Maybe. To be fair this could be worse. The can says it “Delivers a strong kick and yet (is) smooth and easy to drink”, the former is true.
Andaman Gold Special (6.5%) – If Andaman Gold isn’t bad enough for you, you’re in luck! Andaman Gold Special is as expected, even worse. Two thumbs down.
Grand Royal Signature (40.0%) – This is where it’s at. A mix of scotch malts and local grain whisky. A 175ml hip flask will set you back about 60p and it is worth every penny!
High Class (43.0%) – A close second here. An easy drinking but characterless blend that does the trick at 40p for 175ml. High class it is not, but neither am I.
Golden Dragon Spring (40.0%) – Kayin state whisky, distilled in Myawaddy. 70p for a 700ml bottle!!! Not too bad at all. Claims to be aged in oak barrels but has no age statement. More likely that it has a lot of caramel colouring added. Nice Johnny Walker rip off labeling.
Grand Royal (43.0%) – The standard black label. Straight up grain whisky, very sweet but totally reasonable. At 45p for 175ml you really can’t go wrong.
Hero Whisky (40.0%) – The label looks like I made it on my iPhone, and whilst the advertising is rare it’s all guitars and rock n roll. Not as horrific as expected. Pure grain I suspect as there is no info on the bottle. Will leave you with indigestion but not burn your throat out. Even though it’s less than 25p per 175ml, I recommend not to be a fool with your life Billy.
Grand Royal Special Reserve (43.0%) – The top of the range from this brand, and surprisingly the least drinkable for both of us. A mix of Scotch and local malts nicknamed ‘Liquid Gold’. Smells like Bundaberg Rum, which is not a compliment. I don’t know where this went wrong but it’s not for me.
Mandalay Rum (40.0%) – Kind of like Bundy Rum but not as horrible. Goes well with coke.
If you ever find yourself near Inle Lake, do drop in to Red Mountain Estate Winery. We spent an afternoon here trying reds, whites and rosé and all of it was decent!
Mongnai Kunki (?.?%) – I saw this on the shelf and immediately had to have it. It was next to the whisky and despite having no English information on the bottle I knew it was a spirit as it had a distillery seal. “Is this whisky?” I asked the girl in the shop. “Hmmm no” she replied. “Is it rum?”…”no”. “What is it?”…”If you buy this whisky instead you get a present!”…”No thanks, I’ll take the mystery monkey juice!”. It only cost 30p, and the experience was well worth it. We shared this with some Canadians back at the guest house to mixed responses. It tastes slightly like fake banana flavouring but with an overpowering flavour of harsh raw alcohol. Monkey moonshine will definitely get you wasted.
Toddy Palm Wine (?.?%) – Potent and foul smelling, the taste is actually reasonably good. It’s the fermented sap of the toddy palm tree. I’ve no idea how strong this stuff is, but the books of Chinhua Achebe tell me it depends on the tree and the tapper. It’s served from a giant bucket into bamboo cups and looks like soapy water. Do try it!
ANC Grape Wine (?.?%) – Made by Aung Nyein Chan in Kalaw, Shan state, this tastes exactly like honey Mead. Very sweet and reasonably alcoholic, but the label doesn’t share many secrets. After we drank this I woke up in the middle of the night unable to feel my left arm… not sure if it’s related but it was pretty horrible. Tasty, but not worth losing a limb in the process. This stuff is readily available in Shan state, often put into old whisky bottles and sold by the site of the road.
As you can see, there is a lot of booze flowing in this country despite the somewhat conservative attitude toward drinking. Thankfully everything is sold in small quantities or I might not have survived this round. Cheers from me and my classy plastic bottle whisky glass, my next update will be Cambodia!