Thailand has the highest alcohol consumption rate in South-East Asia, according to the World Health Organisation, with locals typically reaching for the ubiquitous Chang, Singha and Leo beers.
However, Thai regulations demanding minimum production levels skew the market towards beverage conglomerates, making it harder for smaller outfits to enter the market.
Toon – whose real name is Supapong Pruenglampoo – has travelled to South Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam and even the US to produce his Sandport brew.
“I can no longer go to other countries to brew my beer and send it to Thailand,” he said, adding that many of his clients’ bars had closed too.
The kingdom’s economy has seized up in the pandemic and the cash cow tourism industry has come to a shuddering halt.
However bad the coronavirus impact is, though, Toon said Thailand’s heavily restrictive alcohol laws were the main obstacle.
Production volumes aside, a web of rules governs everything from starting capital funds to a high “sin tax” for retailers and strict laws.
Thailand’s 2008 Alcoholic Beverage Control Act forbids the display of booze logos or any advertising that could “directly or indirectly appeal to people to drink”.
Small producers have long had to rely on word of mouth, event parties or private groups to hawk their brews.
The broad scope of the law means anyone posting a selfie with a beer could see themselves fined up to 500,000 baht (RM67,000). — AFP