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Jul 31, 2008 09:47 AM


A few months ago I was at a Thai festival and it was extremely hot. Normally I bypass macro lagers and Asian beers in particular I tend to dismiss. However, I had a draft Singha at this festival to quench my thirst and found that it was a surprisingly enjoyable beer.
I attributed my enjoyment to the fact that it was so hot and I was so thirsty but to make sure I ordered another one the next time I went to a Thai restaurant and once again I found it very enjoyable. It seems to have a maltier, more flavorful body than most lagers and it compliments Thai food very well. I eat a lot of Thai so I've been knocking back Singha's fairly often.
I don't mean to imply this is any sort of dramatic improvement over the light lager drinking experience but the subtle differences are noticeable and I think cross the line from something I don't want to drink to something I do want to drink.
So I was thinking Singha would be my little secret that I like to go to as a change of pace from heavily hopped IPA's or Russian Imperial stouts. Then I saw Singha reviewed in Beer Advocate Magazine and they gave it a "B" rating so I guess I'm not the only one.
I'm out of the closet.

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  1. All-malt lager is good stuff. Full Sail Session Lager is something I always try to have in my fridge.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      I don't think Singha is all-malt. I believe it contains a portion of sugar.

        1. re: Josh

          I'm always surprised when I'm reminded that Singha's all-malt (altho', I can't say I've had one since I first saw it in a Vietnamese restaurant in LA circa 1976- yeah, I know, shoulda been "33" but that's how I remember it). OTOH, a number of macro breweries have proven over the years that an average product can still be churned out with an all-malt recipe -the re-born AM Michelob and the Schlitz last gasp Erlanger both come to mind, without even venturing out of the US.

          But, now that Jim mentions it, I do recall (I think) Michael Jackson mentioning sugar as an ingredient for Singha in one of his books. IIRC, there are a couple of different Singha-branded beers (Light, Draft, Gold- looking at the BA page for the brewery), maybe that explains the difference?

          1. re: JessKidden

            It's also possible that the formulation changed at some point, or that (gasp!) I made a mistake.

            1. re: Jim Dorsch

              "or that (gasp!) I made a mistake."

              Yeah, I hate when that happens, too...<g>

              Well, the subject was buggin' me so I paged thru the beer library and *finally* found it, in MJ's GREAT BEER BOOK (2000), the thick little paperback that I always think is the same info as the large hardcover from a few years earlier, ULTIMATE BEER (in the UK it was simply called BEER) since it shares many of the same photos.

              Anyway, from the Singha entry: "It's body is lightened with the use of some sugar, but this is not evident in the flavor."

    2. I think Singha goes very well with the Thai curries and chili pastes. If the Thai restaruant I'm in has it, I'll usually drink it with the meal. It's good with Indian food as well, if you see it on the menu. But you have to watch for that skunkiness if the bottles aren't moving rapidly from both the restaurant and the distributor.

      1. I'm also a fan of Singha - first time I tried it at a Thai restaurant I was expecting something in the vein of the other bland industrial lagers, but was quite pleased with the full flavor of this beer. Unfortunately the next time I went to a Thai restaurant I mistakenly asked for a Tsingtsao instead of Singha - that's a mistake that won't happen again.

        I also have been enjoying Kirin Ichiban Special Premium Reserve at my local Japanese restaurants lately - seems to have more hops than other mass produced A-B's Inbev beers.

        13 Replies
        1. re: LStaff

          Singha isn't a secret, if you eat in Thai restaurants often. It's pretty much what they have in Thai beers, although I'm sometimes offered Kingfisher (which is Indian.)

          Kirin Ichiban is my favorite choice in Japanese restaurants. In Japan, restaurants often have only one kind of beer -- you might be a Kirin restaurant, or an Asahi restaurant, or maybe a Sapporo restuarant. But even if there's a choice, Kirin seems to be well regarded. Ichiban means "number one" in Japanese.

          1. re: brendastarlet

            I didn't mean the beer was a secret, I meant my enjoyment of it was.

            1. re: brendastarlet

              Kirin is actually "ni-ban" in sales behind Asahi, followed by Suntory in third, which just topped Sapporo for the first time. These are based on the company's overall sales of beers. Asahi Super Dry is the single most popular brew in Japan though....Thai restaurants may have Beer Chang, another local brand.

              1. re: Silverjay

                Singha has been available here in the U.S. for at least 30 years and maybe a lot longer. I first drank it in Washington DC Thai restaurants when I was in Thai language school ca. 1978. But up until only about 2 years ago you could not find the word 'beer' anywhere on the label and that's because the high alcohol content put it into the malt liquor category. Then a couple of years ago the folks at Boon Rawd Brewery in Bangkok starting making an export version which is what we get here and it can legally be called, and labeled, 'beer.' But if you get to Thailand and drink it there it will be the strong stuff. I love it there and it was my standard beer during the 12 years I worked there but most of my American co-workers shied away from it claiming that it gave them wicked headaches in the morning.

                It's not pronounced 'SingHa' in Thai. The 'ha' portion is silent so it's pronounced 'sing' but with a rising tone. Means 'lion.' So if you have a Thai waiter/waitress/bartender and you want to impress them when you order this beer, ask for 'bia sing' and don't forget to put a rising tone on the 'sing' syllable.

                1. re: ThaiNut

                  What is the ABV of the Thai version? This is news to me....Never lived there but visited many times. Mekong "Whiskey" sure gave me headaches, but not Singha.

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    beer advocate says 6 percent, and that looks about right based on my foggy memory.

                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                      One of my Thai nieces works in a Thai restaurant in VA and she always beings me a case or two of Sing when she visits. Sing is my favorite beer in T'land but not here (I tend toward IPA's) so the cases have been piling up. I just checked and found I have about five 6-packs of the old stuff. The attached picture is of the old and new bottles side by side and you can see that the old one on the right is marked
                      'malt liquor' whereas the newer one on the left is 'lager beer.'

                      Curiously, the ABV listed on the back of both bottles is 6%. Don't ask me to explain that one. Change in U.S. laws?

                      As you likely know, there is a good argument that Mekong Whiskey should not be called 'whiskey' since it is made from 95% sugar cane and molasses and 5% rice, thus categorizing it more as a rum. Yeah, lots of 'farangs' I knew in T'land could not drink it because of the headache thing. Thais are funny about whiskey. The ultimate gift you can give any Thai male for Xmas or his birthday is Johnny Walker Black, a perfectly fine scotch, and then they turn around and absolutely destroy it by mixing it with Coke. Yuk!

                      1. re: ThaiNut

                        "Curiously, the ABV listed on the back of both bottles is 6%. Don't ask me to explain that one. Change in U.S. laws?"

                        There is no US federal regulation that defines "malt liquor" or requires beer over a certain percentage to be labeled "malt liquor". That is a result of some states' laws - mostly Texas' (anyone know of another?), which requires any "malt beverage" over 4%ABW (equal to 5% ABV) to be called something other than "Beer"- "ale" and "malt liquor" being two most frequent choices for imports, regardless of brewing style.(A number of German lagers, for instance, are, or used to be, labeled "ales" for that same reason. (I think the law was recently amended to allow other beer style terms to be used as well).

                        Singha seems to have two importers, one in California and one in New York and it seems California one must distribute to Texas since their TTB label approvals used the "malt liquor" term longer than NY's.

                        Altho', looking at the approvals, it does seem that all Singha imported in the last few years has dropped down to 5%. OTOH, that change doesn't really answer the "sugar" or "all malt" question, since the sources for both predate the change in the alcohol level of the Singha exported to the US.

                        Searches of label approvals can be done here (a great source for current beer info)-


                    2. re: Silverjay

                      I did a short write up on my Blog of Singha. I have read that originally Singha had a 6% abv content but it was changed in 2007 to %5 abv (Why you ask? I haven't the foggiest). I sampled from the 5% abv bottling and like you said it is an enjoyable thirst quenching beer on a hot day.


                      1. re: Faune

                        Sorry to revive a year-old thread, but I just wanted to chime in with a lament for the new Singha recipe. I had one at a Thai restaurant for the first time in about two years, and was really disappointed. The original Singha was perhaps my favorite mass-produced Asian beer regularly exported to the U.S. (although maybe Hitachino is now mass produced?). The new Singha has only a hint of the sharp hoppy note of the original, and has a lot more in common with dreary 5% euro-lagers like Heineken, Kronenbourg, and Stella Artois. Huge let-down. Does anyone know whether the recipe of the domestic Thai version has been tampered with?

                        1. re: Peripatetic

                          Singha 5% not a patch on the 6% version which is sadly no longer available in the UK. Is this something to do with Molson Coors taking over the distribution? Whose decision was the strength reduction? Beer was imported by small family run company Pantipa Tirrell/Entbe before the big boys took over.

                          1. re: Mr Bear

                            Can't blame it on Coors (MillerCoors now in the US) here- since Singha isn't imported by them in the US.

                            In fact, I notice that there's a third importer now (besides the two I noted last year in my post above). Stawski, the well-known long time importer of the Polish brand, Okocim, (they recently lost that contract, apparently due to Heineken's ownership) now lists Singha as one of their brands AND, interestingly, the abv is listed at 6% on their sales sheet pdf page.

            2. Michael Jackson always gave Singha very high marks and suggested it may have originated as a pale bock. In his '87 World Guide to Beer, he mentions it has some sort of adjunct; but more recently Singha has been touted as all-malt.

              I love pale bocks, but Singha has never struck me as resembling one; it's always tasted like yet another pseudo-pilsner to me. Maybe my samples were past their prime.

              1. True, SINGHA was once a better seems to have lost a little bit of character, but it's still a decent brew that makes me happy when I see it on a restaurant beer list.
                And it's a nice and welcome change sometimes from the "hit you over the head" beers coming out of the micro sector of the industry these days. I mean, I love big beers too...I've been a hophead for 40 years... but the more!/bigger!/stronger! mentality of many of the 'new brewers' _is_ getting a little bit boring.

                3 Replies
                1. re: The Professor

                  I agree. There should be more session beers, and everyone seems to be making 8%abv monsters. Part of it might be the overabundance of ales relative to lagers, which are lower in alcohol. One craft beer store owner I talked to lamented that session beers are becoming "an endangered species" in the U.S. I envy the choices that the brits have in session beers.

                  1. re: chuckl

                    Part of the problem (besides a somewhat general feeling that "more flavor = more alcohol and vice versa" among some US beer geeks), I think, is that some drinkers *and* retailers have always justified the higher price of craft beer by noting it's higher abv's.

                    So, when a brewer does release a true "session" beer in the US or at least as close as US brewers get (under 5% vs closer to 4%), it does get overlooked by the "latest thing" hype of the beer geekery. I confess to falling victim to that same thought process- I had a hard time putting that bottle of The Bruery's Hottenroth Berliner Weisse in my cart yesterday- nearly $9 for 750ml of 3.1 abv beer. And when the local bar had Life & Limb and Limb & Life back to back (WHY they didn't have them on at the same time for a "side by side"?) and priced them the same, I thought it was a great deal when I had the first one at 10% for five bucks and change, but confess to feeling somewhat "ripped" off when I drank the latter (under 5%, IIRC).

                    You know, the old ATF pre-TTB) rule of not listing alcohol content on US beers because it might start an ABV arms race (the opinion of both the Feds AND the brewers from my research) did kinda come true- altho the prices probably keep it from becoming a "item" for the neo-Prohibitionists the way malt liquor and malternatives did.

                    One of the aspects of the "new" beer culture that does annoy me is that as ABV's have crept up ("leaped" might be more like it), both the average serving size and bottle sizes have ALSO increased. The "glass of beer" in most parts of the country, when few beers ever got over 6%, was once 6-8 ounce- and now it's 14 ounces from a "shaker pint". The 7 oz. nip was once the standard bottle for higher alcohol beer styles- and now we've got the 22 oz. "bomber".

                    1. re: JessKidden

                      Call it beer geekery if you want but not everyone wants to sit around and drink beers for hours on end. If you want session beers those options are available. Some people (myself included) enjoy one, or sometimes two, of the 8% or higher ales. It's a matter of personal preference.