I really want to know if anyone was ever stationed or visited anywhere in Asia and never ever drank a beer? Really? I don’t believe you. But just in case you did not try an Asian beer, here is a tidbit to make you thirsty. To begin, you should know that Asian beers are usually made from rice and are lighter in carbonation, so that makes them easily chuggable – not that any American service member would ever do that!
My first overseas assignment was Japan in 1964. I was fortunate to have a military buddy who felt that it would be important for me to become acquainted with the local beers. Everyone I knew drank Kirin beer so I did too, but I did try the two other Japanese beers later, Asahi and Sapporo. I remember them all fondly. In 1966 as I recall, one (I will not mention its name to avoid any libel suits) was written up in the English language Japanese newspaper Mainichi Daily News as having tested positive for traces of horse urine. These days, though, Japanese beers are all fine.
When I reached Korea for the first time in 1964, I of course had to try the beer. There were two brands: OB (for Oriental Brewery) and Crown. Neither one was very good at the time, though OB was better than Crown, which eventually went out of business. Koreans had started brewing Western style beer only in the early twentieth century and it took a bit of time to get things right. My last time in Korea in the early 1980s, the beers were much improved, and I thought that they were indeed enjoyable.
Also in 1964, I made a trip to Okinawa where I first tasted Orion beer. It is named after the Greek hunter Orion for which the constellation is named but it is pronounced Oh-ree-own, not Oh-RAI-ann. As I recall, it wasn’t bad, Once the only beer available on Okinawa and available only on the island, it has branched out and I last had a bottle of it in Arizona just a couple of years ago – very good!
During a short 1966 stay in Thailand, I had a Singha beer at the Don Muang Airport near Bangkok. It was very early in the morning and I was quite hungry, but all I could get at the restaurant was a plate of fresh pineapple and the beer. Do you think that I complained? It was a breakfast for the young and hardy traveler. Years later, when I related this story to some in-laws in the States, they couldn’t believe it, so just to show them a thing or two, the next morning I had my breakfast corn flakes not in milk but in Budweiser – and that was not bad, either!
While I was stationed on Okinawa (Kadena Air Base 1972 to 1978), a 1974 typhoon forced us to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. I had heard many a story about how great the San Miguel beer was there. It was known to have a problem with quality control, meaning that the alcohol content varied considerably for their domestic product. That is certainly true because even though I did not consume a lot, I do not remember much about it, other than to say that the alcohol did what it normally does.
I have to say that many of the Asian beers today are indeed world class. So go ahead and try one the next time you see it. Which one do I prefer? Well, you will just have to ask me.