We at A Good Beer Blog like to know what is going on out there in the world and so I was really pleased to receive an email or two from Ben who writes from behind a highly unsuccessful internet blackout which is part of the royalist coup in Nepal on the pressing issue of what is there to drink at a time like that:
I've spent a few hours at this internet cafe, so I thought I might as well send you my impressions of the bar scene and various alcoholic beverages over here. After all, it's not nearly so fun if I report it from the safety of the West. ;-)Fabulous report. By the way, the happy man with the Everest is someone else on his way to or from a mountain. He just looked so happy with his Everest beer which we can see is, in fact, larger than his head.
Kathmandu has lots and lots of bars, as does Pokhara (the lakeside resort town I'm now in). They are mainly tourist-oriented - rather like a cross between our familiar pubs and North American-style bars. So, really, very familiar territory. To my distress, I have found that there is in fact only one Nepalis beer - a brew called Everest. It isn't a particularly extraordinary one: it's somewhat lightish, rather the colour of a Molson or a Sleeman's Cream Ale. Goes down fairly easily. Has a picture of Tenzing Norgay on the front - to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the climb. The climb was in 1953. Hope it's just old labels, not old beer, but that might explain a bit about the ones I've had. Otherwise, foreign beer is the thing here, brewed under license by local breweries. The most popular seems to be San Miguel. I think it gained its market dominance by a use of the old-style custom of tied-houses -- certain bars signed up only to serve their product. The other main brand around is Tuborg, though I've also seen a few others.
Beer here is only served in big bottles -- it takes three half-pint beer-glasses to empty them. Ordinarily, I would be quite happy with that. But when I just want a little beer, I find that it's annoying when I have to finish the whole thing -- as one can't leave alcohol at the table, of course. It isn't done. Not by me, anyway. Other popular drinks: the Nepalis love to drink Johnny Walker. Red Label seems to be the most common at the parties I've been at. (Weddings, mainly.) Also, I got to try a rice liquor called raksi. It didn't have much of a taste: rather bitter, but kinda watery. Anyway, it didn't seem to pack much of a punch at the time but I wasn't much use the rest of the day. I was told to try the local wines when I got to Jomsom, but I think I may give that part of the trip a miss, what with the general strike starting tomorrow. Other local stuff is called "Chhang" and "Tumba", but, again, I sha'n't have a chance to try it out. Maybe next time. Or maybe once I'm back in Kathmandu after Monday. Shall e-mail any additional information I find as I go, but I think that this is the most I'll find out. Am still quite disappointed at the relative lack of domestic brews. I think it's a great business opportunity gone to waste...