Hidden in the Cambodian capital’s densely populated alleys and side streets, a new breed of brewmasters is preparing yeasts and pouring pints. From living room nanobrewers to German-style purists, Cambodia’s small-batch beer specialists offer soundtracks of heavy metal and slabs of schnitzel to accompany weissbier and sour ales.
But who are the artisans changing Khmer palates? And why are the country’s beer drinkers willing to pay more for less beer? With a healthy thirst and a determination to drink my way to the bottom of things, I went in search of Cambodia’s finest craft beer.
Every night is party night in Cambodia’s capital. Monday through Sunday, street barbecues burn with passion and plastic tables strain under the weight of iced beers and loaded ashtrays. Cans of Cambodian lagers such as Angkor and Ganzberg are the favored drop — at $10 for a pack of 24, these are the mainstay of Khmer social life. And Khmers know how to drink — Cambodia has the highest per capita beer consumption in Asia, according to Euromonitor, a U.K.-based market research organization.