Beer Buffet at Niche Beerville
They say that in heaven, there is no beer, which is why we drink it here. Here, more specifically Bangkok, has its own beer heaven though, in the form of Niche Beerville. It’s a large restaurant compound on the Ram Intra Expressway. It’s quite far from the city center, and you definitely need to take a cab in order to get there, but it’s well worth the journey. The best time to go would be mid-to-late afternoon or later on in the evening to avoid Bangkok’s infamous rush hours. They open at four p.m., but they accommodated a couple of early bird hopheads who arrived at just past three.
The inside is beautifully decorated with marble finishes, sturdy, well-built chairs and solid marble tables. It’s a classy, respectable place, which is only appropriate for beer geeks who know how to respect their brews. It also has a courtyard with al fresco dining and a stage for live music performances, as well as a cafe for those who want to sober up after enjoying the different deals that Niche offers. They have a three-hour craft beer buffet that offers around a hundred from beers from their menu, as well as buy-three-take-one deals for an assortment of bottles.
This is pretty much a gallery of beers, with their entire selection of bottles, plus some rare treats, on display. I even caught a peek of an empty bottle of the elusive Westvleteren 12 quadrupel.
Behind a the marble-finished bar are around ten taps of fresh draft beer from around the world and a wall of only the finest brewery glassware to ensure that your drinks are served in a way that you will appreciate them the most, as designed by their brewers themselves.
Equally impressive are the seven chests of beer, beautiful beer, from all over the world. The servers at Niche are well-trained. They can pour a pint perfectly and they are familiar with all the beers they serve.
My girlfriend likes the fruit and caramel malt notes of brown Belgian ales, so she decided to start with one of her favorites, Pauwel Kwak. This is a beer worth ordering in Bangkok because its served in its recommended glassware, which is like a cross between a test tube and a German weizen glass.
I decided to go with the 777 Baht craft beer buffet. I had three hours to drink to my heart’s content. My first choice was an easy one – St. Bernardus Wit, a Belgian witbier that was a good light starter that would set the pace for the brews to follow. This was refreshing and joyful, although I feel that the Hitachino Nest White Ale packs in more flavor.
I next decided to go straight for the hops. Having previously tried Brew Dog’s Hardcore IPA a couple of nights before at Brew Beers and Ciders, I went for its little brother, Punk IPA. Compared to the 150 IBU rating of the Hardcore, the Punk was much more delicately flavored and easier to drink. Given a choice though, I’d still go for the bitter punch that the Hardcore delivers.
Yo-Ho Brewery is a Hawaiian-themed Japanese craft brewery. I decided to try their Aooni India Pale Ale to further satisfy my IPA cravings. There was a strong residue of yeast sediment, leading to a solid amber color. This was more of a British-style IPA, though, with the malts highlighted more than the hops. This was only the second Japanese-brewed British-style IPA I’ve tried, and it blows the other one, Shiga Kogen’s, out of the water.
I decided to make the most of Brew Dog’s presence in Thailand by ordering another of their brews. I wanted to try Libertine, their American black ale (also known as a “black IPA”), but it was unfortunately out of stock. Thus, I decided to shift to a more malt-oriented approach by going with Dogma, a Scotch ale also known as a “wee heavy”. If malt and hop balance were to be measured in a spectrum, then one extreme would have the hoppiest of Imperial American IPAs. Wee heavies would be on its malt counterpart. This was rich, with a dark sweetness of caramel, chocolate, brown sugar and roasted nuts. I may be a hophead through and through, but this beer definitely deserves repeated visits.
My girlfriend tried to keep pace for a while, and was on her second drink, Delirium Nocturnum, another strong dark Belgian ale. Delirium’s beers feel right at home in Thailand because of its trademark elephant characters. The flagship brew, Tremens was a fine example of a strong golden Belgian ale, and Nocturnum definitely does the brewery proud, as well.
My next round was a collaboration between G. Schneider & Son and Brooklyn Brewery. Schneider Weisse Tap 5 Meine Hopfenweisse was a strongly-hopped wheat beer that showcased the best qualities of a hefeweizen and a hoppy pale ale: bitterness with a slight tartness; floral, citrus and fruity aromas; nice carbonation. It’s is actually a weizenbock, making it a lager, not an ale — and therefore the best damn lager I’ve ever tasted.
Leveling up in the world, I went with a more boozy beer as I was rounding out the buffet. I decided to go with Aventinus weizen-eisbock, also from G. Schneider and Sohn, which is a wheat ice beer. Eisbocks are made stronger by partially freezing the barrels in order to separate excess water, leaving a stronger concentration of alcohol in the beer. This technique is the same principle being used by Brew Dog and Kleinbrauerei Schorschbrau in their alcohol-by-volume (ABV) wars. The Aventinus was originally a wheat doppelbock, and it still comes in weizenbock form, but the story goes that the freezing happened accidentally during transport across Germany in wintertime, making Aventinus the first eisbock as well. It has the dark fruit and berry flavors of you standard doppelbock, but was beautifully effervescent and strongly carbonated, making it much easier to drink and effectively masking its formidable 12% ABV. I took a video of its bubbles rising in the glass, but it was in high definition and therefore a bit difficult to upload. I’ll try to cut it down somehow.
I decided to “wash” with what was described as Niche’s house beer, GU Witte. The label describes it as brewed in Belgium exclusively for the Keep Hustling Group by Sint-Jozef Brewery. This was a solid witbier, definitely at par with the St. Bernardus that I had to begin my night.
To cap the evening I just had to go back to Brew Dog Hardcore IPA. I just really can’t get enough of this beauty. I’ve blasphemed that I prefer this to Pliny the Elder because it is much hoppier, but I guess we’ll have to see. For now, I think I’ll do a head-to-head between this and Stone Ruination.
Food was your typical pub grub, although they had more creative offerings as well, such as foie gras rice and of course, Thai food. She went for a basket of onions rings and fries with four different dips.
I also ordered some deep fried pork neck: crispy, juicy, salty and slightly spicy: an excellent pulutan in any country. A spicy vinegar dip was the only thing missing.
Niche is definitely a place for beer geeks. Their menus are totally devoid of description, with only photos of the bottles being shown. The waiters and bartenders seemed pretty knowledgeable though, and while some are not that fluent in English, they’ll send over someone who you’ll be able to converse with easily. If, like me though, you already have an idea of what you want and a cursory knowledge of the different beer styles per country, then you can just take your pick. You have three hours anyway, so if one order turns out to be a bust, you still have dozens more to choose from to make up for it.
This was the lineup for the day, ten beers between one thirsty couple. The first two were hers…
…and these eight were his. This resulted in a good buzz afterwards, but the best thing about drinking real beer is that there’s no hangover the next day. So if you’re up to the challenge, go for their three-hour beer buffet. Drinking four bottles will already shoot you past the break-even point, but with the awesome selection at Niche Beerville, why settle for just four?
They have another branch, Niche Cafe at Rama IX, which is supposed to be smaller, but equally well-stocked. I’d say Beerville is a must-visit, though. It’s the closest thing to a Disneyland for beer geeks.