To shelter two giant beer companies from competition, the 1950 Liquor Act made it effectively illegal to home-brew beer in Thailand. As such, most Thai craft breweries have been forced to manufacture abroad and import their beer back into the country, suffering heavy taxes to sell their product. On a tiny river island north of the country’s capital, however, one man has led a home-brewing rebellion, not only making his own beer for sale, but also training a new generation of Thai home-brewers.
Amidst the sea of pallid, bland-tasting lagers that dominate the Thai beerscape, Chit Beer offers a flavor oasis. With a rotating menu of home-brewed IPAs, wheats, sours, and porters galore, there’s something for every beer-lover at this riverside, open-air bar—especially for those with a proclivity for subversion.
For years, founder and brewer Wichit “Chit” Saiklao has run this rogue brewery and kitchen like an open secret. While the island of Koh Kret, 15 miles up the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok, is not the easiest to reach, those who venture there can find Chit Beers on tap as well as brewing classes (which are open by reservation, but usually booked out months in advance). While this means he has armed thousands of rebellious beer enthusiasts with the knowledge needed to subvert a corrupt Thai law, it also means he’s paid his fair share of fines to police. The brewery has enabled a supportive feedback loop whereby students of Chit’s tutelage who start their own micro-breweries are featured on draught at Chit Beer, giving young brewers the exposure and capital needed to grow their small, clandestine businesses.
A former Thai army colonel who runs two IT companies and occasionally teaches electrical engineering at the Thai Royal Academy, “Chit” (pronounced “Sheet”) is a man of order with respect for the law. His bar and home-brewing school, however, have been a stand for common sense. The army man knows when an army is needed: As he told Draft in 2016, “We must create an army of home brewers. We will win when we have something unique … and it touches the tongue of someone in power.”
One of his beers must’ve touched the right tongue: In 2018, Chit was granted a license to open the country’s first legal Thai craft brewery, Mitr Craft, and Mitr Bar, an outlet where he can legally sell his beer. The latter is located in Bangkok’s Victory Monument neighborhood. For those who want the original outlaw experience on the river island, however, he still maintains Chit Beer on Koh Kret.