To operate a beer brewery in Thailand, you have two choices: open a brew pub, like Tawandang, which has been around since 1999, or open a commercial brewery, for example, Singha and Chang.
For a brew pub, you would need to have a registered capital of 10 million baht. The brewery must have an annual production capacity of at least 100,000 litres, but you are not allowed to produce more than one million litres.
To open a commercial brewery, you would need a production capacity of at least 10 million litres a year with no limit.
This criteria makes it difficult for small players to enter the local beer market. But that’s not all.
A beer brewery falls under the category of a factory. Obtaining the permit for factory operation (Ror Ngor 4) is no easy thing. According to the law, if the machinery in your factory exceeds five horsepower, you must obtain the permit. (Five horsepower roughly equals two household air conditioners.)
In March 2019, this law was changed. If your machinery doesn’t exceed 50 horsepower, you don’t have to obtain the license. And just like that, the door was open for small players like Wichit Saiklao.
Wichit is a longtime beer lover. He runs a craft beer brewing school on Koh Kret, called Chitbeer. For years, he has been trying to find ways and means to operate his own brewery. He just could never obtain Ror Ngor 4.
With the restriction lifted last year, Wichit was able to make his dreams come true. On 8 August of this year, he opened Mitr Brewery, legally brewing 100% craft beer and selling at 120-140 baht per glass.
Mitr Brewery has six founding brands: Chitbeer, Devanom, Lazy Fat Cat, Red Stone, Wizard, and Mickleheim.
How are you running the business with six founding brands?
We will rotate the brands to take turns making beers in the brewery, and split the profit. I still have to develop some kind of a system that would be fair for the other brewers.
What’s your margin per pint?
As things stand, I would make a profit of around 40 baht per pint. We want 60 baht, so we will have to find a way to cut production cost. I don’t want to increase the price and push the burden onto the customers. I want to run a responsible business. Making people pay 240-260 baht for a pint of Thai craft beer is just too much.
How would the law change benefit the economy?
Since the regulation has changed, there should be small brewers popping up in every province. This would drive Thailand’s economy and diversify it to become more than just Bangkok base. It will drive food and beverage and local tourism. People like to drink beer.
Personally, I would like to drink local craft beer wherever I travel in the provinces. It’s part of the experience of the local scene and lifestyle. This would also reduce the economic gap between Bangkok and the provinces, and create more equality throughout Thailand.
What’s your vision for the business?
I’m looking at BrewDog [the Scotish craft beer built on an “anti-business business model”]. It started with six partners and has spread around the world with over 100,000 partners.
I want Mitr Brewery to have 100,000 partners too.