A few months ago I asked readers on the Thaizer Facebook page whether they liked Singha Beer. Plenty of people responded to say they did like Singha, but what surprised me was the number of readers who said they preferred Chang Beer.
The rise in popularity of Chang Beer in Thailand has been rapid. First produced in the mid 1990s, within 5 years Chang had become the number one selling Thai beer brand in Thailand. Domestic success led to the brand being exported worldwide and the creation of new styles of beer to cater for different markets. All styles of Chang Beer can be described as lager beer and all share a similar amber colour, but there are significant differences in the alcohol content and ingredients used in each. All versions are brewed with malt and hops but the original Chang Classic, which is aimed mainly at the local consumer, is also brewed with rice and has the strongest alcohol content.
In the Thai language, ‘chang’ means elephant and the green and gold logo seen on cans and bottles features two white elephants facing each other across a golden fountain. Because of the way Thai grammar works, the product is referred to by Thai people as ‘Beer Chang’ rather than ‘Chang Beer’.
Chang Beer is normally sold in large (640ml) or small (330ml) bottles at restaurants and drinking venues but is also available in cans at shops. Some pubs and clubs have Chang Draught on tap whilst other venues will serve a ‘Chang Tower’ which can hold a couple of litres of beer and is suitable for a group of people eating and drinking together.
The original version of Chang is an amber coloured lager beer made from malt, rice, hops, water and yeast. The combination of rice used in the brewing process and the stronger than average 6.4% alcohol content by volume can catch out unwitting tourists. Definitely a beer with a kick, it has been responsible for more than one person complaining of a ‘Chang-over’ the following day. Produced in Ayutthaya and Kamphaeng Phet and sold throughout Thailand in pubs, clubs, restaurants, karaoke joints and 7-Eleven.
Unlike the classic version, Chang Export does not use rice in the brewing process and the alcohol content comes in at the significantly lower 5% mark. If you see bottles of Chang outside of Thailand, it is more likely to be this Export version rather than Classic. Produced by the Beer Thip Brewery in Ayutthaya.
Malts and hops are used in the brewing process for this lager beer which has a strength of 5%. Available on tap in some pubs and clubs in Thailand, Chang Draught is produced by the Cosmos Brewery (Thailand) Company in Ayutthaya.
As the name would suggest, this is the Chang with the lowest alcohol content although it still comes in at a respectable 4.2% . Brewed by the same Cosmos Brewery that produces Chang Draught.
Enjoy your Chang
According to Chang’s own marketing blurb:
Chang beer has a sparkling gold appearance and a smooth, crisp taste and is made from the finest quality malt, hops and deep well-water . . . Chang is a truly exceptional Thai beer, created to complement the unique culture, heritage and cuisine of Thailand.
Chang Beer does go together well with many Thai dishes. Although discerning overseas beer drinkers might not like the idea, it’s common for Thai people to drink their beer with ice. Don’t be surprised in a restaurant if you order beer and are asked if you want ‘nam keng‘. The taste and stronger alcohol content of Chang Classic doesn’t really make it suitable as a ‘session beer’, but there are sure to be some drinkers who disagree! I have friends who do enjoy Chang Draught and Light but they don’t like Chang Classic and vice-versa so its worth sampling the different versions to find what suits your palate.
History of Chang Beer
Chang Beer was first produced in Ayutthaya province in 1995. Clever marketing, shrewd pricing and a good product meant Chang quickly became a serious competitor in Thailand to the well-established Singha. Owned by the Thai Beverage Company (also known as ThaiBev) Chang Beer now dominates the domestic beer market alongside Singha. The two brands have battled to be number one in Thailand, but at the moment it is Chang which is reported to have the most market share. In 2000, Chang launched a joint brewing venture in Asia with Carlsberg, but within 3 years the partnership was over with Carlsberg pulling out and Chang subsequently suing the Danish brewer over the collapse of the deal. In 2004, Chang Beer became the sponsor of Everton F.C. and the association with the English Premier League football club has led to more global recognition for the brand. In addition to Chang, ThaiBev also produces Archa Beer and a number of spirits including Mekhong and Sang Som. ThaiBev is owned by Thai billionaire, Mr Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi.