An unfiltered, unpasteurized, dry-hopped IPA from Loei finds its way to around one thousand Bangkok 7-Elevens.
Outlaw in name, outlaw by nature—this once illegal brewery out of Thailand’s northern Loei is now sharing space on 7-Eleven shelves in the capital.
“This is probably the first true craft beer in [7-Eleven in Bangkok],” says Canadian Mike Roberts, founder and managing director of Outlaw Brewing.
The Mosaic brew—an unfiltered, unpasteurized, dry-hopped IPA—is now available in approximately a thousand Bangkok 7-Eleven branches. This announcement comes after a hardfought journey that started out behind an ice cream shop.
“In 2015 in Loei [my wife and I] had an idea to start up a craft beer bar, but we knew it would have to be underground. So, we opened an ice cream shop. I brewed the beer in the back and we sold beer without advertising or anything,” Roberts says. “It wasn’t long before the 10 or 20 people who were into craft beer spread the word and we were selling a lot of beer out of a brightly lit ice cream shop.”
The Loei brewpub location for Outlaw shuttered when Covid ended the bar scene, but Outlaw had begun building a brand and a customer base throughout the Kingdom and moved to contract brewing.
Due to Thailand’s brewing laws, the beer couldn’t be brewed locally, so in 2018, Roberts began contract brewing in Cambodia and produced a 3,500 liter batch of the Mosaic IPA, the same brew now available in Bangkok 7-Elevens. That was their first legal beer.
The larger (and legal) production of the beer allowed the brand to begin distributing to boutique retail and grocery store outlets in major urban areas.
“An ideal situation for us, being a small producer, is to start with the fewest number of stores, because the capital required is quite large,” Roberts says. “The bigger stores on the main streets will have it first.”
Thailand’s draconian alcohol laws prevent the advertising of alcohol, and in recent years the government has begun to severely crackdown, going so far as to fine people for simple social media comments. Under Section 32 of the Alcohol Beverage Control Act alcohol bottles, logos, or marketing communication of any kind is banned; this includes social media and applies just as much to consumers as producers.
“How do we promote it?...It’s tough. We have a situation now where we have a new product in a thousand new stores. How do we let consumers know? We can’t. They might want that product but how do we let them know?”
The desperados at Outlaw have, of course, had their own run-ins with the booze police.
“When the brewpub closed, we kind of turned it into a distribution center—taking orders, packing orders, selling. About three months later we got a letter from the alcohol watch for a Facebook post and they wanted us to pay B50,000,” Roberts says, adding that they were able to haggle down the fine.
Recently moves to adapt the excise tax on alcohol have been stalled, but there was talk of amending the daylight drinking hours last month. Though most are still operating around the law, some brewers have found ways to circumvent Thailand’s restrictive brewing laws, including Brewave, which recently found a loophole that allowed them to open a west Bangkok brewpub.
“It’s been a dream of mine to see this in 7-Eleven,” Roberts says. “If this goes well, I can’t see why 7-Eleven wouldn’t open the door to more craft beer—not just from us, but from anyone.”