All Aboard for Yangon’s Beer Stations and Oktoberfest
Of the about 55 million people living in Myanmar, roughly 90% of them are Buddhist. Buddhist faith does not prohibit the consumption of alcoholic beverages, but asks for the middle way. The end result is that there is relatively modest alcoholic consumption in the country.
Beer and wine do not have a long history in Myanmar culture, which becomes clear if you hear the words a Myanmar citizen would use for both beverages: beeyar and wine.
Both alcoholic beverages can therefore be attributed to more recent colonial times. The Myanmar word for liquor and spirits in general is ayet. This word also refers to medical purposes and stems from the pre-colonial era. A visitor on the road between Bagan and Mount Popa should definitely stop at one of the toddy plantations to observe how Myanmar’s traditional ayet is produced.
In Myanmar, the saying goes that Yangon, the country’s most populous city, is not really Myanmar. The city’s 19th Street in Chinatown — a major nightlife destination, proves the point. On any given night, copious amounts of beer are consumed by locals and tourists alike. The foremost brand, of course, being Myanmar Beer, closely followed by ABC Stout and Mandalay Beer.
Most joints on 19th Street have straightforward names such as “Beer King”. All are called ‘beer stations,’ which differentiates them from the normal bar the foreign visitor might be expecting.
One glass of draught beer in a beer stations sells for 60 cents, but can only be sold by those that have a (hard to get) license. If there is no such license, a place is only allowed to sell bottled beer, sold in 640 ml bottles at roughly US$1.50 each. Sometimes, the caps of Myanmar Beer bottles are used for the annual lucky draw, making it worth your while to check inside of those bottle tops. Sometimes the next bottle comes free of charge.
Ordering a glass of draught beer is very straightforward, just say see ta que (‘que’ like the sound in question’) — which means nothing else than draught one glass. The term beeyar can be placed between see and ta. If you know the numbers of Myanmar language, ordering draught beer becomes an easy task and you’ll soon find many new friends among the locals.
The latest development in Yangon in terms of beer culture is the introduction of a German institution: The Oktoberfest. On 11 and 12 October it will be celebrated for the second time under the patronage of the German embassy and other German businesses and concerns. Four different kinds of beer imported from Germany will make sure that this “all you can drink beer fest” at the Inya Lake Hotel will attract hundreds of visitors curious to sample German beer.
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