It's a few years since I last went beering in Asia. I must confess, however, that I've never come home hankering after any particular beer I've tried there, even though there's some great stuff to be had if you put the effort in to look for it. Nevertheless, the company who have just begun importing Beer Lao to Ireland are going all-out for the recognition factor among people returned from south-east Asia (somewhere I've never been), in the hope it will stir fond memories of whatever it is people get up to on holidays down that way.
It's a fair target market. I've been told quite consistently that Beer Lao is close to the only thing worth drinking around Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The region's top beer blogger has it as his benchmark, although he tends not to be shy about pointing out this is only because everything else available is utter crap. Not so much a diamond in the rough as, umm, an OK beer among lots of very-not-OK beers.
You want a bit more detail than that? Fortunately the importers kindly supplied me with some samples (and -- for full disclosure -- a sandwich [ham]) and I got to take the measure of the beer at first hand. My initial impression is that it's non-descript, which is probably a good thing for an Asian lager. Nothing really jumps out: no off flavours but little by way of hops or malt either. Although rice is an ingredient it's not the wan yellow colour you often get with adjunct lager, but rather a properly full rich gold. 5% ABV should provide a big enough base to propel some lovely lagery flavours, but they're just not there.
Full marks, then, for being what it is no doubt supposed to be. But points off for dullness. We make better lager than this in Europe and buying a bottle in Dublin in February will not bring you back to that, loike, amaaazing week in Phuket.