Ah, Beerlao, the true crown jewel of the Mekong, the second national symbol of Laos.
Upon arrival, novice falang marvel at the size of the bottles and the sheer pervasiveness of this golden liquid. Before long, all falang become Beerlao connoisseurs: they will regale you with stories of the time during Pi Mai when their Lao neighbors poured so much Beerlao down their throats that they didn’t even make it to the river, or launch into a lengthy explanation of why Beerlao is superior to any German beer they sampled during their Eurotrip phase. (Note: This will not prevent them from spending exorbitant amounts of money on imported beers at Chok Dee.) They will certainly all claim that it is “the best Asian beer,” and any disagreement will be a welcome opportunity for them to brag about how well traveled they are, by comparing it to Singha, Bia Hà Nội, and Bintang.
Until you have uttered the sentence “When I first moved here I thought it was weird that people put ice in their beer, but now I won’t drink it any other way” you are not a true falang. Drop this line casually, as you refill the ice in your Lao friend’s cup while sitting at Lao Garden or Moon the Night and you are well on your way to becoming a genuine member of the expat community.
Only the very most advanced falang can get away with not liking Beerlao, and only if they have enough past Pi Mai stories to claim that they “just can’t do it anymore,” which serves as a subtle and jaded way to remind listeners how long they have been in Laos. These falang can get away with ordering Beerlao Dark or whiskey instead.
Loving Beer Lao (you’re not allowed to just like it) might be the single common denominator between falang, Lao people and the-wrong-kind-of-falang. Beer Lao muscle tanks, however, are another matter altogether.