The first draft of this beer review started ‘Little did the good burghers of Pilsen realise the global implications when they hired Joseph Grolle to develop the first Pilsner lager…’.
And then I sat back and thought for a while, sipping on a glass of Singha, a great Asian lager brewed in Bangkok. After a couple of sips I spotted my error. Singha is a great lager, but not necessarily a great Pilsner. After all, Joseph Grolle was employed to replicate his German experience in what was then Bohemia.
So, while tasting lagers from around the world – and I have a few lined up – the question comes, is it in the style of a beer from Pilsen, or from Budweis, or Bavaria, or even Holland?
In the case of Singha, it is clearly in the style of German lager, rather than Czech.
So, a little background… Singha (or Beer Singh as it’s sometimes known) is the most popular beer in Thailand, and the most popular Thai beer globally. It’s brewed by the Boon Rawd brewery in Bangkok, Thailand. The brewery was founded in 1933 by Boonrawd Srethabutra, and the brewery is still owned by his descendants, now the 3rd and 4th generations.
Singha beer is brewed in Bangkok using malted barley and hops, with no added rice or maize, keeping it closer to the German ideal. Until a few years ago it was brewed to 6.2% – which is why, when visiting Thailand on vacations I used to complain to my wife that the beer seemed to evaporate rather too quickly for my liking. At least I used to blame the rapidly emptying glass on evaporation, I don’t think she believed me.
In recent years the strength of Singha has been reduced to 5% ABV – this is a common trend – but the brewery continues to brew a 6.2% ‘super strength’ Thai Beer – but sadly not for export.
I’ll say it now, at the risk of being locked up by the British thought police – I LIKE THE TASTE OF STRONGER BEERS. There, I feel better now, and rest assured I have some stronger beers in the rack for tasting sometime soon.
As you can see from the picture, Singha pours a golden amber with a bright white head that subsides gently. There is hardly any lacing, and I wonder if there was any in the old days. There’s a hoppy nose with an underlying hint of the alcohol lurking in this innocent looking lager.
What stands out on tasting is the flavour, this is very much a German style lager – probably first cousin to a Warsteiner. It’s not too light and not too full bodied, well balanced, but the underlying flavour is hoppy, dry and robust – enough to stand its own against a fiery Thai curry.
Even without a curry this goes down really well, it took some considerable restraint to hold the second bottle back for another evening.
All in all I’d give Singha Beer three and a half stars, it’s still a great Asian lager, but I’ll reserve at least half a star for the full strength stuff I remember so fondly.