What’s That Got to Do With the Price of Beer in China?
Tiger (from Singapore, now owned by a Heineken subsidiary), Pabst Blue Ribbon (United States), and Snow (China) in a Chinese store.
Image Credit: Flickr/Ryan McFarland

What’s That Got to Do With the Price of Beer in China?


The cheapest beer in Asia can apparently be found in Delhi and the most expensive in Hong Kong. A travel search engine focused on Europe, GoEuro, recently compiled an index of beer prices across 75 cities, including 12 in Asia (13, if you include Moscow). The index encompasses both supermarket and bar prices, basing supermarket prices on the average across five imports and one local brew and bar prices off the same beers served in three hotel chains. Far from comprehensive, the index is still interesting, given the surge in global beer consumption is driven by Asia (as well as Africa).

According to the 2014 annual Kirin Beer University Report (Kirin is a Japanese beverage giant–its namesake available globally) worldwide beer consumption rose .5 percent in 2013, the 28th year of consecutive growth. Asia, however, consumed 4.8 percent more beer in 2013 than it did in 2012 and holds 34.8 percent of the global beer market. China, alone, holds a 24 percent share of the market, double that of the United States.

Overall, the cheapest spots (average between bar & supermarket) were, as can be expected, in Europe–Kraków, Kiev and Bratislava topped the list–but Delhi came in fifth and Ho Chi Minh City in sixth. A beer at a bar in Delhi would set you back only $2.31, while you’d pay $10.86 in Hong Kong. According to the index, a beer at a Beijing bar costs $6.35 (anecdotally, I don’t recall it being that pricey when I was in Beijing last, but that was 2008). Singapore, which over the weekend hosted a beer festival, has an average bar price of $8.37.

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The four-day Beerfest Asia festival, in its seventh year in Singapore, featured over 400 beers from around the world. The offerings skewed toward Europe, with only five Asian countries providing beers (Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, and Thailand). Last year the event attracted over 32,000 thirsty people. Reports say this year’s was smaller, and lacked the whiskey and wine tents that had been popular last year.

While no Indian beer was present at the Beerfest, India’s beer heritage nonetheless stretches back, officially, to a brewery founded in the 1820s at the foot of the Himalayas by Edward Dyer–whose son, Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, is infamous in India for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar. Incorporated in 1855, what was once named Dyer Breweries lives on under the Mohan Meakin group as the oldest modern brewery in Asia.

Still, Delhi’s per capita consumption falls at the very bottom of the index–with an average annual consumption of 6 liters per capita (only Cairo was lower, Bucharest ranked highest at 133 liters). Beer may be cheap in Delhi, but Indians don’t drink much of it.

China, similarly, has Europe to thank for its beer. Tsingtao, based in its namesake Qingdao, has German heritage and Snow, the best selling beer in China is the product of a joint venture between China Resources Enterprise and the UK-based SABMiller (which operates, among other operations around the world, MillerCoors in North America).

Asia is a growing market both globally and domestically—with Asian beer makers breaking into world markets and beers from around the world finding their way into the region.

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