Thai Jelly Beer Is The Boozy Citrus Slush You Should Know About

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Thai cuisine is globally renowned for its delicious green chili-infused curries, spicy seafood-based soups, and umami noodle dishes, all foods that are famous for their contrasting yet balanced flavor profiles. And while many would say the ideal match to spicy pad Thai on a sweltering day in South East Asia is an ice-cold beer, there's a fun twist on a classic lager that is even better — bia wun, meaning jelly beer. 

With a name like Thai jelly beer, thoughts of a boozy boba tea or beer-infused grass jelly may be floating around in your head. However, there's no tapioca or gelatin featured in this unique adult beverage — in fact, there's nothing gelatinous about it at all. Rather, a bit of science is used to transform a smooth Thai beer into a thick slushie cocktail that can be guaranteed is unlike anything you've ever had before.

History of Thai jelly beer

This enjoyable drink originated in Asia, and it has long been a staple of the bustling markets in Thailand, specifically. While this beverage has grown increasingly popular in the country, a similar type of beer slushie was actually invented in Japan. In 2010, the famed beer brand, Asahi, introduced on-tap frozen beer that was poured out at around 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Only a couple of years later, the trend took off in Thailand, and they put their own spin on it — literally. 

While wandering through a Thai marketplace full of busy food stalls and other vendors, you'll most likely stumble across wooden oscillating barrels filled with booze. These jelly beer machines are popular, as the hot and humid weather has many people craving something ice-cold to sip on, and fortunately, the jelly beer experience is all the more refreshing than just sipping a lager in a chilled glass. 

However, whether you're trying your first jelly beer at a crowded Bangkok night market or you've wandered inside a modern Thai restaurant in North America, your beer will likely taste different each time, depending on how it's prepared. 

Ingredients in Thai jelly beer

Thai jelly beer is typically made using a Thai lager, such as the classic Singha or Chang, that is chilled down to a temperature of 26 degrees Fahrenheit. While some establishments simply serve the frothy concoction straight from the bottle, others will have you slurping more of a cocktail featuring lots of fruit juice and syrups. Fresh citrus juice, such as lemon, lime, and orange, is often blended with syrups to add a touch of sweetness. In Thailand, though, calamansi juice is more often preferred. Ginger juice is another addition often mixed with honey to create a more aromatic and spicy syrup.

While this amount of added sugar may seem like it will overpower the satisfying bitterness of the beer, the cold actually helps balance out these flavors. When the beer is brought down to such a freezing temperature, the bitterness is intensified. This is why lighter lager beers are usually chosen over stronger-tasting, darker brews. So, if we've intrigued you enough to try this out for yourself, don't worry about having to purchase a ticket to Thailand — a similar version can be made at home. 

How Thai jelly beer is made

If you walk into a Thai restaurant that serves this unique drink, you'll likely be presented with a frothy, overflowing beer bottle as an engraved electric wooden barrel spins in the corner. These special machines are packed with beer bottles inside and filled with water, ice, and salt. The salt inside helps drop the internal temperature down way below freezing, similar to how it works in making ice cream at home. The rocking motion from the barrel also aids this process. 

While you may not own an oscillating machine from Thailand, you can make a similar version in the blender. You will first want to make some homemade flavored syrup using your favorite citrus fruits, sugar, and water. And if you'd like to try out the honey-ginger mixture, go for it. Once you've created your syrup, you can blend it with juice and ice. The liquid can then be poured into a chilled pint glass along with your favorite lager. Now, you have a drink besides your go-to shandy or overdone cocktail to sip on those stifling summer days.

Where to buy jelly beer

While this beverage may be a little difficult to track down, depending on where you're located, there are a few establishments outside of Thailand that have started serving up this unique drink to unfamiliar bargoers. Since 2014, the icy-cold jelly beverage has been introduced to the U.S. via several Thai spots, such as Uncle Boon's in New York City, andSway, a restaurant located in Austin, Texas.  

Similarly, if you follow the previously outlined steps to make your own jelly beer at home, you can source most of your ingredients from a local grocery store. You'll most likely be successful in your search if you go to an Asian grocery store or market to find Thai beer and calamansi juice; however, if your area doesn't have one nearby, the alcohol and juice can easily be purchased online via Singha or Amazon.