Some Of The World’s Best Craft Beers Are Hidden On A Thai-ny Island

RealClear Staff

            

     Tap into one of  Thailand’s beer lines and it’ll probably be a Singha, Chang or Leo. And While Thailand has been secretly seeping with illegal breweries (including a whole hops-farm outfit), it’s highly likely you would encounter a watered-down lager here—even amid their little islands.

It’s not like Asian beers are bad. However, after a good stint in the Far East, you might start missing the often-underappreciated array of IPAs in the good, old US of A’s ale houses. Then again, if kicking it in Koh Tao, look for an out-of-the-way sign with “CRAFT BEER” on it—an arrow points toward an iffy alley.

[Outside the Beer Masons' Koh Tao bar | Photo: Mario Fernandez Chamorro]

Koh Tao is not a total secret, but it’s a lot smaller and lacks the luxuries of the neighboring Koh Samui—nor does it have the late-night, after-party pizzazz of Koh Phangan, which makes that unexpected, secret sign even more sacred. When walking down the anything-but-wide alleyway, it might feel like a scary funhouse maze—the smallest shimmer of light. Thoughts of being mugged may enter the mind, but there’s no need to protect those pant pockets.

Upon reaching the end, there’s a small block of boutiques better known as New Walking Street (Nay Pon Raod). Amid these proprietorships is a bar slinging some of the most excellent suds in the world: The Beer Masons.

[The Beer Masons' bar | Photo: Mario Fernandez Chamorro]

Before ogling over their ales, perhaps pet the cute cat purring on their patio. Saunter over to bartender Simon Randall, and get a fine look at their four, featured taps amid the bar’s little, air-conditioned layout. Lest they changed the choices, they’ve Copenhagen’s Mikkeller and To Øl, Minnesota’s Surly and New Zealand’s Zeffer. Randall might quickly rant about Rate Beer’s current place and statistics of each beer. Next to the bar is a beer fridge featuring 130 bottles and cans.

“The experience we are providing is for quality over quantity, so if you are looking to party and get drunk, stick to ya buckets and binge drinking,” British-expat-turned-Thai-local Simon said. “It was quite the norm to get a warm Chang served after 10 p.m. on the beach back in the day.”

[Photo: Mario Fernandez Chamorro]

This 2014-launched tap hut’s mission was to heighten the hops scene on this small island. Before this ale idea, The Beer Masons were mere middlemen, begging balking breweries to give it a go on Koh Tao. Once the mash masons were aware of the artisan-ale-itching inhabitants, they burgeoned their bar in 2015.

“There were some craft beers before we started in 2014 but in very limited spots and not the brands we are representing today,” co-owner Marek Novak said—another expat who checked out of Czechoslovakia. (For him, the draw was Koh Tao’s reputation as a scuba-diving hub.) The island’s hospitality folks aren’t exactly long-term taskers and lack the fluency of the English language—beer-knowledge communication is anything but easy—however, they’re hoarding suds from San Diego’s Modern Times, which makes it all worthwhile. Additionally, The Beer Masons keep craft beer on tap to four bars and bottled brands to over 24 restaurants. That’s some serious business for an island with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants.

[Beer brands include Amager, Modern Times, To Øl and Mikkeller | Photo: Mario Fernandez Chamorro]

However, just a heads up here, they’ve actually abandoned their old location and excitedly erected a place in another neck of Koh Tao’s woods—the Sairee Village Main Road. They’re now taunting patrons with 10 taps and weekly, tasting sessions. A newly arrived addition is the brandy-aged barley wine called Viciously Viscous—a treat from To Øl (only keg in existence among all of Thailand).

While it’s unlikely a beach-basking tourist would ask for a high-ABV brandy-aged beer, but these masons are definitely making if happen in terms of success stories. This clearly conveys craft beer can thrive in almost all outlets across the land. And with Koh Tao in their clutches, they’re already expanding to kill it on Koh Phangan—a second bar on Koh Samui. Give these guys five years, and they’ll probably have total craft-beer control of Thailand.

[Photo: Mario Fernandez Chamorro]

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