Beer in Asia

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A beer assortment sold in Bali, Indonesia; Carlsberg, Bali Hai, Bintang and Anker Beer.

Beer in Asia began when beer was produced in Sumer, Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq) circa 6000 years ago.[1] Its current popularity in Asia however, was introduced through European colonialism circa 19th century, with modern brewery established in British India, Dutch East Indies (today Indonesia), China and Japan. Asia's first modern brewery was established in 1830 which was built in British India entirely using European brewing technology.[2]

Today, beer brewery is a growing industry in Asia, with China leading as the world's largest beer producer since 2001. Asia is the largest beer-producing region in the world since 2009. In 2013, Asian top beer producing countries are China (46.5 million kiloliters), Japan (5.5 million kiloliters), Vietnam (3.1 million kiloliters), Thailand (2.3 million kiloliters), South Korea (2 million kiloliters) and India (1.9 million kiloliters).[3]


Early history[edit]

Main article: History of beer

Ancient Middle East is believed to be the cradle of beer, as it linked to the domestication of cereal and production of bread in the area. Chemical tests of ancient pottery jars reveal that beer was produced about 3,500 BC in what is today Iran, and was one of the first-known biological engineering tasks employing fermentation. Archaeological findings showing that Chinese villagers were brewing fermented alcoholic drinks as far back as 7,000 BC on small and individual scale, with the production process and methods similar to that of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.[4]

In Mesopotamia, early evidence of beer is a 3,900-year-old Sumerian poem honoring Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing, which contains the oldest surviving beer recipe, describing the production of beer from barley via bread.[5]

Colonial period[edit]

British India[edit]

In the late 1820s, Edward Abraham Dyer, father of Colonel Reginald Edward Harry Dyer of Jallianwala Bagh massacre, moved from England to set up the first brewery in India (later incorporated as Dyer Breweries in 1855) at Kasauli in the Himalayan Mountains.[6][7][8][9][10][11] The Kasauli brewery launched India's and Asia's first beer, Lion, which was in great demand by the thirsty British administrators and troops stationed in the sweltering heat of India. The brewery was later incorporated as Dyer Breweries in 1855.[2] Lion was much appreciated as a beer, and one famous poster featured a satisfied British Tommy declaring, "as good as back home!".[2] The company still exists and is known as Mohan Meakin Limited, which today comprises a large group of companies involved in many industries.

The brewery was soon shifted to nearby Solan (close to the British summer capital Shimla), as there was an abundant supply of fresh springwater there. The Kasauli brewery site was converted to a distillery, which Mohan Meakin Ltd. still operate. Dyer set up more breweries at Shimla, Murree Murree Brewery, Rawalpindi, Mandalay, Quetta and acquired interests in the Ootacamund Brewery (South India).

Another entrepreneur, H G Meakin, moved to India and bought the old Shimla and Solan Breweries from Edward Dyer and added more at Ranikhet, Dalhousie, Chakrata, Darjeeling, Kirkee and Nuwara Eliya (Ceylon). After the First World War, the Meakin and Dyer breweries merged and in 1937, when Burma was separated from India, the company was restructured with its Indian assets as Dyer Meakin Breweries, a public company on the London Stock Exchange.

Following independence, N.N. Mohan raised funds and travelled to London where he acquired a majority stake in Dyer Meakin Breweries. He took over management of the company in 1949 and built new breweries at Lucknow, Ghaziabad and Khopoli (near Bombay). The company name was changed to Mohan Meakin Breweries in 1967 (the word "Breweries" was dropped in the eighties as the company diversified into other industries).

On the death of N.N. Mohan in 1969, his eldest son Colonel V.R. Mohan took over as Managing Director. He introduced a number of new products that are brand leaders today but died in 1973, soon after taking the helm. In the 1970s the manufacturing activities of the company were diversified into other fields including breakfast cereals, fruit juices and mineral water under the leadership of Brigadier Kapil Mohan (Col. V.R. Mohan's brother). Subsequently, the word brewery was dropped from the company name in 1982 to remove the impression that the company was engaged only in beer making. New breweries were built during the seventies and eighties at Chandigarh, Madras, Nepal and Kakinada near Hyderabad.

Today, Mohan Meakin's principal brands are Old Monk rum and Golden Eagle beer. Its other products include Diplomat Deluxe, Colonel's Special, Black Knight, Meakin 10,000, Summer Hall and Solan No 1 whiskies, London Dry and Big Ben gins, and Kaplanski vodka. Asia’s original beer, Lion, is still sold in northern India.

Dutch East Indies[edit]

In 1929, the Heineken beer company established its first East Indian brewery in Surabaya, East Java, during Dutch colonial rule of Indonesia.[12] Beer was a popular drink among Dutch colonials and Indos in the Dutch East Indies. Brewing was interrupted during World War II Pacific War (1942-1945) and following the Indonesian National Revolution (1945-1949).

By the 1960s, Indonesians had developed their own local brands of beer, including Bintang Beer (nationalized from Heineken) and Anker Beer.[13]

Early beer brands[edit]

Lion Beer is the main brand first sold in the 1840s. It was originally branded an IPA (India Pale Ale) but was changed in the sixties to a lager. Lion remained the number one beer in India for over a century from the 1840s until the 1960s. After this another Mohan Meakin brand, Golden Eagle, took the number one spot until the 1980s, when Kingfisher became number one. By 2001, Lion sales had declined substantially and Lion was only available to the Indian Army through the CSD (Canteen Services Department). Mohan Meakin then entrusted the marketing of their original beer to International Breweries Pvt. Ltd. The brand has since been relaunched in the north Indian market. With a new label design and marketing campaign, Lion has established itself once more in the civilian market and is now expanding into markets across India.

Lion earns a place in history as Asia's first beer brand. Lion's popularity with the British during the heyday of the Empire led to the start-up of other Lion beers around the world, in New Zealand, South Africa and elsewhere. Lion remains the number one brand in neighbouring Sri Lanka where Mohan Meakin had introduced it in the 1880s through their Ceylon brewery.

Australian is another popular 5% abv lager distributed by International Breweries (P) Ltd. The 8% abv version is called Max.



Alcohol is banned in Brunei except for sales to foreigners and non-Muslims. There are no breweries in the country.[14]


There are three main commercial breweries in Cambodia: Cambrew Brewery; Cambodia Brewery; and Khmer Brewery.

Angkor Beer, named after the iconic Khmer Angkor temples near Siem Reap, is the most widely consumed beer in Cambodia. It is brewed by Cambrew Brewery in Sihanoukville, which also brews Klang Beer, Bayon Beer, Angkor Extra Stout and Black Panther Premium Stout. Cambrew Brewery is 50% owned by Carlsberg.

Anchor Beer and Tiger Beer is brewed by Cambodia Brewery in Kandal, which is 50% owned by Heineken. Cambodia Brewery also produces Crown Gold and ABC Stout.

Cambodia Beer is brewed by Khmer Brewery, located in Phnom Penh.

Kingdom Breweries, is Cambodia's only premium craft beer brewery and brews dark, pilsener, and gold lager beers in Phnom Penh.


Main article: Beer in China


Main article: Beer in India


Main article: Beer in Indonesia

Bintang is a locally brewed version of Heineken beer. It is noticeable that Bintang uses similar packaging (650 mL green bottle) and identical symbol (red star) to Heineken. The name Bintang means "star" in Indonesian.

Bali Hai is not a beer produced on Bali but on Java.


Main article: Beer in Japan

In Japan, Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo, and Suntory are the four major beer producers, mainly producing pale-colored light lagers with an alcohol strength of around 5.0% ABV.


While traditional Kyrgyz drinks like bozo and kymyz retain popularity, and Soviet-style beer lives on in the form of Nasheб new local brands are gaining popularity which are Arpa, Zhivoe and Topos, which was launched 2014. The brewpub Steinbrau in Bishkek bring German-style lagers to the land, while microbreweries exist in Osh and Jalal-Abad. Many of the big local names are Russian (Baltika, Sibirskoe Koronna, Bagbier, Klinskoe) or Kazak (Tian-Shan, Karagandinskoe).


Beer Lao is the most popular beer in Laos.


Main article: Beer in Malaysia
Canned and bottle beer in 7-Eleven market in Malaysia.

The main leading brewery in Malaysia is Guinness Anchor Berhad, followed by Carlsberg and several other local brands.


Chinggis is the most popular beer in Mongolia.


Myanmar Beer is the most popular.[citation needed] In January 2017, Myanmar got its first craft beer microbrewery, Burbrit, named for Burma and Britain, in recognition of the British influence on the nation's brewing history.[15]


The main commercial brewery in Nepal is the Gorkha Brewery, which was established in 1990 as a joint venture between the Khetan Group and the Carlsberg Group. In 2010 the Carlsberg Group became the majority shareholder. Gorkha Brewery has a 72% market share and produces Carlsberg, Tuborg, San Miguel and Gorkha Beer.

North Korea[edit]

Main article: Beer in North Korea

North Korea has at least ten major breweries and many microbreweries that supply a wide range of beer products.[16][17][18] The top brand is the light lager Taedonggang which is internationally known for its quality.[19]

The country's problems with goods distribution and power output has forced North Korean brewers to innovate. To minimize distribution, many restaurants and hotels maintain their own microbreweries. Because unreliable power supply makes it difficult to refrigerate beer, North Koreans have developed their own steam beer, an originally American beer style brewed in higher than normal temperatures, that is widely available.[18]

Although the Korean liquor soju is preferred,[20] beer comes second when it comes to consumption.[21] Since the 1980s, beer has been within reach of ordinary North Koreans,[22] though it is still rationed. Tourists, on the other hand, enjoy inexpensive beer without such limitations.[23]


Murree Brewery is the maker of Pakistan's premier beer brand, Murree beer. The brewery has two manufacturing units located in Rawalpindi and Hattar (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).


The beer market consists of San Miguel Brewery, the market leader, Asia Brewery, the second brewery and the competitor of San Miguel Brewery, and small microbreweries, including Fat Pauly's in Iligan, Katipunan Craft Ales, Craftpoint and Great Islands Brewing in Manila, Bog's Brewery in Bacolod, Xavierbier brewing in Baguio at the tasting room Baguio Craft Brewery and Palaweño Brewery in Palawan.

San Miguel Pale Pilsen is the first and the number one beer in the Philippines brewed by the San Miguel Brewery. Other leading beers are San Mig Light, a lighter calorie version of San Miguel Beer, and Red Horse Beer, the first and the leading extra-strong beer, all brewed by the same company.

Asia Brewery, the second brewery in the Philippines, brews Beer Na Beer, and Colt 45 under licensed, competitors of San Miguel Beer and Red Horse Beer.


Main article: Beer in Singapore

The Singapore beer market is dominated by Heineken Asia Pacific (formerly Asia Pacific Breweries) and its most popular brand, Tiger Beer, with 28% of total volume sales in 2015.

South Korea[edit]

Main article: Beer in South Korea

Sri Lanka[edit]

Main article: Beer in Sri Lanka

The most popular local beer is Lion, a lager which is produced by Lion Brewery. Another popular beer was Three Coins produced by McCallum Breweries. In 2012 McCallum Breweries was purchased by Miller's Brewery and in mid 2014 Lion Brewery successfully took over Miller's Brewery and closed the plant. The only other brewer still operating in Sri Lanka is Asia Pacific Brewery Lanka Limited, which acquired local brewer, United Brewery, in 2005.[24] Asia Pacific Breweries is a Singaporean-based joint venture between Heineken International and Fraser and Neave and produces a range of King beers.


Main article: Beer in Taiwan


Main article: Beer in Thailand


ZIP[25] and Berk are the most popular beer in Turkmenistan.


The three largest companies control 95% of the market:[26]

Bia hơi is a unique type of very light draft lager produced locally in small batches. Other beer brands include Hue Beer, Dung Quat Beer, Quy Nhon Beer.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Beer". ; Michael M. Homan, Beer and Its Drinkers: An Ancient near Eastern Love Story, Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 67, No. 2 (Jun. 2004), pp. 84–95.
  2. ^ a b c Puneet Jain (13 August 2005). "Spirits still soar at Asia's oldest brewery". The Economic Times. 
  3. ^ "Kirin Beer University Report, Global Beer Production by Country in 2013". Kirin Holdings. Japan. 
  4. ^ McGovern PE, Zhang JZ, Tang JG et al. C (2004) Fermented beverages of pre- and proto-historic China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 101, 17593–17598.
  5. ^ The Literature of Ancient Sumer – Google Books. 13 April 2006. ISBN 978-0-19-929633-0. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  6. ^ Colvin, Ian Duncan (1929-01-01). The life of General Dyer,. Edinburgh; London: W. Blackwood & Sons Ltd. 
  7. ^ Colvin, Ian Duncan (2006-01-01). The Life of General Dyer. Unistar Books. 
  8. ^ Collett, Nigel (2006-10-15). The Butcher of Amritsar: General Reginald Dyer. A&C Black. ISBN 9781852855758. 
  9. ^ Saikia, Arunabh (2016-04-23). "How Old Monk went from India's star to another has-been". Mint on Sunday. Retrieved 2017-01-30. 
  10. ^ "Reginald Edward Dyer 1864-1927 - Ancestry". Retrieved 2017-01-30. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "The history of Heineken" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-05-12. 
  13. ^ Giras Pasopati, CNN Indonesia. "Dilarang di Minimarket, Saham Bir Bintang dan Anker Meriang". Retrieved 2015-11-05. 
  14. ^ Pepper, Barrie (2012). "Southeast Asia". In Garrett Oliver. The Oxford Companion to Beer. 1 (1st ed.). New York, New York: Oxford University Press Inc. pp. 1213–1215. 
  15. ^ Corbin, Luke (1 February 2017). "Brewing anew in Burma". New Mandala. Retrieved 11 February 2017. 
  16. ^ Tudor, Daniel; Pearson, James (2015). North Korea Confidential: Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors. North Clarendon: Tuttle Publishing. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-4629-1512-5. 
  17. ^ Fish, Eric (16 August 2016). "Does North Korea Make the Best Beer in Asia?". Asia Society. Retrieved 4 April 2017. 
  18. ^ a b Steadman, Ian (29 April 2013). "'Kim Jong-Ale': North Korea's surprising microbrewery culture explored". WIRED UK. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  19. ^ Herskovitz, Jon (10 March 2008). "Brewing beer, Communist style, in North Korea". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  20. ^ Lankov 2007, p. 101.
  21. ^ Lankov 2007, p. 100.
  22. ^ Cumings, Bruce (2011). North Korea: Another Country. New York: New Press. p. 196. ISBN 978-1-59558-739-8. 
  23. ^ Hokkanen, Jouni (2013). Pohjois-Korea: Siperiasta itään [North Korea: East of Siberia] (in Finnish). Helsinki: Johnny Kniga. p. 133. ISBN 978-951-0-39946-0. 
  24. ^ "APB Officials fly to Colombo after buying into Local Brewery". The Sunday Times. 2005. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  25. ^ [1]
  26. ^ "Sabeco và Habeco đạt tổng doanh thu trên 30.000 tỷ đồng trong năm". 21 June 2012. Retrieved 24 November 2012. 

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]