Local drinks and crafted beers in Bhutan

Bhutan, a mystical kingdom nestled in the Himalayas, is renowned not only for its breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural heritage but also for its distinctive Local Drinks and Crafted Beers. From the traditional Bhutanese Ara made from fermented grains to the innovative Bhutan Craft Beer scene, the country offers a plethora of unique alcoholic beverages that reflect its vibrant traditions and natural bounty. As visitors explore Bhutan, they are invited to indulge in these authentic flavors, which include everything from homemade spirits to commercially brewed delights like the acclaimed Red Panda Wheat Beer.

The burgeoning interest in Bhutanese Brewery Tours and the popularity of Bhutanese Alcohol Beverages highlight the country’s growing reputation as a hub for artisanal and craft beverages. Among the must-tries are the Dragon Stout Bhutan and the high-altitude Druk 11000 Beer, which have both garnered praise for their quality and flavor. These beverages, along with the Bhutan Highland Dry Gin, showcase the innovative spirit of local producers who skillfully blend ancient techniques with modern brewing methods. For those keen to delve deeper into the flavors of Bhutan, the Guide to Bhutanese Beers and Artisanal Drinks in Bhutan provide an excellent starting point for a flavorful journey through this enchanting kingdom.


Traditional Bhutanese Ara

Traditional Bhutanese Ara is a cornerstone of Bhutan's rich culinary and cultural heritage. This traditional alcoholic beverage is deeply woven into the social fabric of Bhutanese life, often found at the heart of celebrations, religious ceremonies, and family gatherings.

Traditional Bhutanese Ara
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  • Origin and Production: Ara is made from various grains such as rice, barley, maize, or wheat. The production process varies slightly depending on the region and the available resources, but generally, the grain is first cooked, then naturally fermented to create a mash. This mash is distilled in a traditional Bhutanese still, often made from copper or brass, to produce a clear, potent spirit. The distillation process can be simple or elaborate, involving the condensation of steam in bamboo tubing.
  • Cultural Significance: In Bhutanese culture, Ara is not just a drink but a symbol of hospitality and warmth. It is traditionally offered to guests upon arrival, used in offerings during religious rituals, and shared during community celebrations. Offering Ara is considered a gesture of respect and friendship, and it is often accompanied by traditional snacks or meals.
  • Consumption Styles: Ara can be consumed in various ways. It is typically served warm, especially during the cold mountain winters, which enhances its soothing effects. However, it can also be enjoyed cold or at room temperature. Sometimes, Ara is mixed with butter and eggs to create a rich, hearty drink that is particularly popular in the colder regions.
  • Flavor Profile: The flavor of Ara varies widely depending on its base ingredient and the distillation process. Generally, it has a strong, robust flavor with earthy undertones. Some variations might include added flavors from local herbs or fruits, infusing the Ara with subtle aromatic or sweet notes.
  • Modern Variations: While traditional Ara remains popular, there are also newer, commercial versions being produced to cater to a wider audience, including tourists. These versions might be less potent and have a more refined taste to appeal to those unaccustomed to the strong, traditional flavor.

Ara is more than just an alcoholic beverage in Bhutan—it is a part of the nation’s identity and a living tradition that offers a taste of Bhutanese life and hospitality. Whether you're sitting by the fire on a chilly evening or joining a festive local celebration, experiencing Ara is an essential part of understanding and enjoying the Bhutanese way of life.


Red Panda Wheat Beer

Red Panda Wheat Beer is a distinctive craft beer that stands out in Bhutan's emerging beer scene. Brewed in the picturesque Bumthang Valley, which is often referred to as the spiritual heartland of Bhutan, Red Panda is named after the endangered species that inhabits the country’s protected forests. This beer not only showcases the unique brewing culture of Bhutan but also reflects the nation's commitment to preserving its natural heritage.

Red Panda Beer 
  • Brewing Process and Ingredients: Red Panda Wheat Beer is an unfiltered wheat beer, meaning it retains the yeast and proteins that are typically removed in filtered beers. This gives it a naturally cloudy appearance and a richer texture. The primary ingredients include local wheat and barley, which are abundant in the mountainous regions of Bhutan. The water used in brewing Red Panda comes from the pristine springs of Bumthang, renowned for their purity and mineral quality, which significantly contributes to the beer’s flavor profile.
  • Flavor Profile: Red Panda Wheat Beer is known for its smooth, mellow flavor with hints of fruitiness and a subtle spicy note, likely from the traditional Bhutanese yeast used in fermentation. Its body is typically medium-light, making it both refreshing and easy to drink. The beer’s unfiltered nature enhances its natural flavors, offering a taste experience that is both authentic and enjoyable.
  • Cultural Impact: The introduction of Red Panda Wheat Beer has played a significant role in developing Bhutan's craft beer industry. It appeals not only to locals but also to international tourists seeking to experience Bhutan's local flavors. The beer is often enjoyed in social settings, reflecting Bhutan’s communal culture and its people’s love for gatherings and celebrations.
  • Conservation Efforts: Red Panda Wheat Beer is more than just a beverage; it's part of a larger effort to raise awareness about wildlife conservation in Bhutan. The choice of the red panda as its namesake highlights the brewery's commitment to environmental and conservation issues, resonating with both locals and visitors who are conscious of sustainability and ecological preservation.
  • Availability and Popularity: Available in most bars, hotels, and restaurants across Bhutan, Red Panda Wheat Beer has gained popularity for its quality and unique characteristics. It is also exported to several countries, helping to promote Bhutanese culture and biodiversity on a global scale.

Red Panda Wheat Beer is not just a refreshing choice for beer enthusiasts; it’s a sip of Bhutan’s rich environmental legacy and its burgeoning craft brewing scene, wrapped in a commitment to sustainability and cultural celebration.


Dragon Stout Bhutan

Dragon Stout Bhutan is a rich, full-bodied beer that has carved out its niche in the burgeoning Bhutanese craft beer market. Known for its deep, dark color and robust flavor profile, Dragon Stout is a perfect complement to the cool, often brisk climate of the Himalayas. This stout offers a distinctly Bhutanese twist on the classic stout style, incorporating local ingredients and brewing techniques.

Dragon Stout Bhutan 
  • Brewing Process and Ingredients: Dragon Stout is brewed using a combination of locally sourced barley, water from Bhutan's pristine mountain springs, and specialty malts that give it a characteristic dark hue and a complex flavor. The brewing process for stouts involves roasting the malt to a much darker level than typical beers, which imparts the deep, almost black color and the rich, coffee-like flavors that are synonymous with the stout style.
  • Flavor Profile: Dragon Stout Bhutan features a rich tapestry of flavors. Notes of dark chocolate and coffee are predominant, with a hint of caramel sweetness balancing the slight bitterness from the roasted malts. The mouthfeel is creamy and smooth, with a warming alcohol presence that makes it particularly enjoyable in colder weather. The finish is typically dry, encouraging another sip.
  • Cultural Impact: In Bhutan, where the climate can vary drastically from the warm, lush valleys to the cold, harsh mountain peaks, Dragon Stout serves as a comforting beverage that suits the colder regions and seasons perfectly. It's often enjoyed in the evenings, paired with hearty Bhutanese meals or during social gatherings and festivals, enhancing the communal and festive atmosphere.
  • Popularity and Distribution: While lighter lagers dominate the beer market in many parts of the world, in Bhutan, the robust character of Dragon Stout has earned it a loyal following. Its popularity is not just confined to stout enthusiasts but extends to those who appreciate the craftsmanship and local ingredients that go into every batch. Dragon Stout is available across Bhutan in various restaurants, pubs, and stores, and it is beginning to make inroads into international markets, showcasing Bhutanese brewing prowess.
  • Symbolism and Naming: The name "Dragon Stout" reflects the national symbolism of Bhutan, known as Druk Yul (Land of the Thunder Dragon). The dragon symbolizes the power, strength, and mystery of Bhutan, attributes that are aptly mirrored in the bold and complex nature of Dragon Stout.

Dragon Stout Bhutan is more than just a beverage; it's a warm, inviting experience that resonates with the traditional Bhutanese ethos of hospitality and the rugged, spirited landscape of the Himalayas. Its growing popularity underscores Bhutan's expanding capability in the craft brewing scene and its potential to appeal to a global palette.


Druk 11000 Beer

Druk 11000 Beer is a prominent figure in Bhutan's growing beer landscape, known for its strong flavor and higher alcohol content. It's a deep dive into the robust world of Bhutanese brewing, offering a blend of tradition and modernity that appeals to both local and international beer enthusiasts.

Druk 11000 Beer
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  • Brewing Process and Ingredients: Druk 11000 is brewed using the finest quality malted barley and hops, sourced both locally and internationally. The water, a crucial element in any brewing process, comes from Bhutan's pristine mountain springs, known for their purity and mineral-rich qualities. The brewing process for Druk 11000 adheres to stringent standards to ensure a consistent and high-quality output. This strong lager is crafted to meet the taste preferences of those who enjoy a more potent beer experience.
  • Flavor Profile: Druk 11000 is characterized by a bold, malty flavor that is both rich and satisfying. Its alcohol content, standing at around 8% by volume, is higher than many standard lagers, offering a warmer, more robust drinking experience. The beer has a clear, golden color, with a smooth finish that masks its strength, making it deceptively easy to drink. The hop profile is balanced, providing just enough bitterness to complement the malt without overpowering it.
  • Cultural and Social Impact: In Bhutan, where the beer market is predominantly dominated by lighter lagers, Druk 11000 offers a stronger alternative that has carved out a significant niche. It is particularly popular among those looking for a more substantial beverage that reflects both the boldness of Bhutan's natural environment and the strength of its cultural heritage. Druk 11000 is often enjoyed during festivals, social gatherings, and is a favorite among tourists seeking to immerse themselves in the local drinking culture.
  • Popularity and Availability: Druk 11000 has gained a formidable reputation not only in Bhutan but across various international markets where it is exported. Its distinct packaging, often adorned with images that reflect Bhutanese culture and landscapes, makes it a memorable pick for those exploring the variety of beers available in the region. It is readily available in most stores, bars, and restaurants throughout Bhutan and in select international locations.
  • Symbolism of the Name: The name "Druk 11000" itself is a nod to the iconic Druk or the Dragon, which is deeply embedded in Bhutanese mythology and symbolism. The number 11000 references the high altitudes of the Bhutanese Himalayas, symbolizing the lofty standards and aspirations of the beer itself.

Druk 11000 Beer stands as a testament to Bhutan's ability to blend its rich traditions with contemporary brewing techniques, offering a unique beer that is both high in quality and deep in cultural resonance. It's a taste of Bhutan's bold spirit, bottled for the world to enjoy.


Bhutan Highland Dry Gin

Bhutan Highland Dry Gin is an exceptional spirit that captures the essence of Bhutan’s unique botanical wealth, distilled and bottled in the heart of the Himalayas. This artisanal gin represents Bhutan's growing presence in the craft spirits market, emphasizing the use of local ingredients and traditional distilling techniques blended with modern craftsmanship.

Bhutan Highland Dry Gin
  • Distillation Process and Ingredients: Bhutan Highland Dry Gin is meticulously crafted using a blend of locally sourced botanicals, including juniper berries harvested from the high-altitude forests of Bhutan. These are complemented by a variety of other native herbs and spices, such as lemon balm, coriander, and Bhutanese cardamom, which are handpicked to ensure the highest quality and flavor. The water used in the distillation process comes from the pristine mountain springs of Bhutan, known for their purity and mineral-rich profile, contributing to the gin’s distinctive smoothness.
  • Flavor Profile: The flavor profile of Bhutan Highland Dry Gin is complex and refined. At its core, the juniper notes are prominent, providing the classic gin taste, which is then beautifully layered with citrus and floral hints from the lemon balm and other botanicals. The result is a refreshing and aromatic spirit, with a clean, crisp finish that lingers on the palate. The subtle spice undertones add depth and warmth, making it a versatile gin for various cocktails.
  • Cultural and Market Impact: Bhutan Highland Dry Gin is more than just a spirit; it's a showcase of Bhutanese flora and an embodiment of the country's rich natural heritage. It appeals to a global audience, particularly those interested in premium, craft spirits that offer a taste of their origins. In Bhutan, it has helped to elevate the local distilling scene, promoting a new appreciation for high-quality, locally-produced gin.
  • Popularity and Availability: This gin has quickly gained popularity both within Bhutan and internationally, appealing to gin aficionados and casual drinkers alike. Its success is attributed to its quality and the story it tells of Bhutan’s rich biodiversity and cultural heritage. Bhutan Highland Dry Gin is available in select specialty liquor stores and high-end bars, often featured in cocktail menus that highlight its unique characteristics.
  • Symbolism and Branding: The branding of Bhutan Highland Dry Gin reflects its Bhutanese roots, often featuring elements that represent the country’s pristine environment and cultural symbols. The packaging is elegant and understated, appealing to a premium market segment and making it a popular choice for gifts and collectors.

Bhutan Highland Dry Gin not only offers a distinct and enjoyable drinking experience but also represents the spirit of Bhutan—untouched, natural, and steeped in tradition. It stands as a testament to the craftsmanship and environmental richness of the region, making it a proud addition to the global craft spirits community.


Bhutanese Brewery Tours

Bhutanese Brewery Tours provide a unique opportunity to explore the burgeoning craft beer scene in Bhutan, a country traditionally known for its monastic culture and breathtaking landscapes. These tours are an excellent way for both tourists and locals to gain insight into the traditional and modern brewing processes that create some of Bhutan’s most popular beers and spirits. Here are some highlights of what one can expect from a Bhutanese brewery tour:

  • Educational Experience :Participants in a Bhutanese Brewery Tour are treated to an in-depth look at the brewing process, from the initial selection of ingredients to the final bottling and labeling. Guides often delve into the specifics of malt selection, the importance of water quality, and the intricacies of fermentation. This educational aspect is particularly appealing to home brewers and enthusiasts eager to learn more about the craft.
  • Sampling Local Brews: A major highlight of any brewery tour is the opportunity to taste a variety of beers produced on-site. In Bhutan, this includes everything from the popular Red Panda Wheat Beer to the robust Dragon Stout Bhutan and the high-altitude Druk 11000 Beer. Tastings usually feature a range of styles, providing a comprehensive overview of Bhutanese beer offerings.
  • Interaction with Brewers: Many tours offer the chance to meet and interact with the brewers themselves. This interaction allows visitors to ask questions about the brewing process, the challenges of brewing at high altitudes, and the brewers’ personal inspirations. It’s a fantastic way to get a behind-the-scenes look at the passion and expertise that go into every batch of beer.
  • Understanding Local Ingredients: Bhutanese breweries often use local ingredients that impart unique flavors to their brews. During the tours, visitors can learn about how local barley, wheat, and even indigenous herbs play a role in crafting a beer that’s distinctly Bhutanese. This focus on local ingredients ties into broader themes of sustainability and cultural pride.
  • Scenic Locations: Breweries in Bhutan are often situated in picturesque locations that offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The scenic beauty adds to the overall experience, making brewery tours in Bhutan not just about beer but also about enjoying and appreciating the natural beauty of the country.
  • Cultural Integration: Finally, these tours often highlight how beer and brewing are integrated into local culture, including the social aspects of drinking and the incorporation of beverages in various festivals and celebrations. Understanding this cultural context provides a deeper appreciation for the beverages beyond their taste and craftsmanship.

Bhutanese Brewery Tours are more than just a simple visit to a production facility; they are a comprehensive cultural experience that combines education, tasting, and scenic enjoyment. For anyone visiting Bhutan, these tours are a must-do activity, offering insights into the country’s craft brewing scene and its cultural fabric.


Guide to Bhutanese Beers

A Guide to Bhutanese Beers is essential for anyone looking to explore the unique and flavorful craft beer scene of Bhutan. Nestled in the Himalayas, Bhutan offers a variety of beers that reflect its rich culture, pristine natural resources, and burgeoning interest in craft brewing. Whether you're a seasoned beer enthusiast or a curious traveler, this guide will help you navigate the best of what Bhutan has to offer in terms of local brews.

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Understanding Bhutanese Beer Styles:

Bhutanese breweries produce a range of beer styles, from traditional lagers to more unique craft options. Here are some of the key styles and brands to look out for:

  • Red Panda Wheat Beer: A popular choice among both locals and tourists, this unfiltered wheat beer is known for its refreshing and slightly fruity flavor, making it perfect for the mild to warm Bhutanese climate.
  • Dragon Stout Bhutan: For those who prefer a darker, richer beer, Dragon Stout offers a deep malty taste with hints of chocolate and coffee. It’s ideal for the cooler months and higher altitudes.
  • Druk 11000 Beer: This strong lager is favored for its bold, robust flavor and higher alcohol content, suitable for those looking for a more intense beer experience.
  • Bhutan Lager: A staple in many local bars and restaurants, this beer is light and crisp, perfect for easy drinking on any occasion.

Where to Find Bhutanese Beers:

Bhutanese beers are available throughout the country, but the best places to enjoy them are:

  • Local bars and pubs: These are great for experiencing beer in a social setting, often accompanied by traditional Bhutanese dishes.
  • Hotels and resorts: Many of the higher-end establishments offer a selection of local beers, sometimes even featuring exclusive brews.
  • Brewery tours: For the most authentic experience, visit breweries like the Bumthang Brewery, where you can try beers straight from the source.

Brewery Tours:

Taking a brewery tour in Bhutan not only allows you to taste the beers but also gives you an insight into the brewing process, local ingredients, and the craft behind each bottle. Tours typically include:

  • A walk-through of the brewing and fermentation areas
  • Sampling different beer styles
  • Interactions with brewers

Pairing Bhutanese Beers with Food:

Bhutanese cuisine, known for its spiciness and bold flavors, pairs wonderfully with local beers. Here are some pairing suggestions:

  • Red Panda Wheat Beer with cheese momos (dumplings)
  • Dragon Stout Bhutan with ema datshi (spicy cheese and chili dish)
  • Druk 11000 Beer with Bhutanese red rice and pork curry

Beer Festivals and Events:

  • Participating in local beer festivals or special brewing events can enhance your experience. These events are not only fun but also offer a deeper understanding of the cultural significance of brewing in Bhutan.

Cultural Significance of Beer in Bhutan:

  • In Bhutan, beer is more than just a beverage; it's a part of social and cultural gatherings. Understanding this cultural aspect can enrich your appreciation of each sip.

This guide to Bhutanese Beers provides a comprehensive overview of what to expect when exploring the local beer scene in Bhutan. Whether you’re enjoying a crisp lager or a rich stout, each beer offers a taste of Bhutan’s unique culture and natural beauty.


Bhutan's array of local drinks and crafted beers offer an enriching glimpse into the country's vibrant culture and rich traditions. From the traditional warmth of Bhutanese Ara to the refined flavors of Red Panda Wheat Beer, and the robust character of Dragon Stout Bhutan, each beverage tells a story of Bhutan's natural beauty and artisanal craftsmanship. Whether enjoyed amidst the stunning Himalayan backdrop or during a festive local celebration, these drinks not only satisfy the palate but also connect drinkers to the heart and soul of Bhutan. Exploring Bhutan's beverages is truly a journey through its heritage, making every sip a part of the unforgettable Bhutanese experience.


FAQs on Local drinks and Crafted beers in Bhutan

Q: What are the most popular local drinks in Bhutan?

A: Besides the globally known teas, the most popular local drinks in Bhutan include Ara, a traditional alcoholic beverage made from rice, maize, barley, or wheat, and Suja, butter tea, which is a staple in Bhutanese households.


Q: What is unique about Bhutanese beers?

A: Bhutanese beers often incorporate local ingredients and traditional brewing methods, giving them unique flavors not commonly found in other beers. Popular choices include Red Panda Wheat Beer, Druk 11000 Beer, and Dragon Stout Bhutan, each offering distinct tastes that reflect Bhutan's rich natural resources.


Q: Can visitors participate in brewery tours in Bhutan?

A: Yes, visitors can participate in brewery tours, which are available at several breweries across Bhutan. These tours are a great way to learn about the brewing process, sample various beers, and understand the role of brewing in Bhutanese culture. Popular tours include those at Bumthang Brewery, home of the Red Panda Beer.


Q: Are Bhutanese crafted beers available internationally?

A: Bhutanese beers, primarily Druk 11000 Beer and Red Panda Wheat Beer, are available in select international markets. However, their availability might be limited due to the smaller scale of production and export.


Q: What should I know about drinking alcohol in Bhutan?

A: Bhutan has a respectful drinking culture. It is common to offer alcohol during festivals and social gatherings, but public intoxication is frowned upon. It’s important for visitors to follow local customs and drink responsibly.


Q: How does the altitude affect brewing in Bhutan?

A: Brewing at high altitudes, like those in Bhutan, can affect everything from the boiling point of water to yeast behavior, resulting in faster fermentation. This can influence the flavor and alcohol content of the beers, often making them lighter but more flavorful.


Q: Is there a craft gin produced in Bhutan?

A: Yes, one notable example is the Bhutan Highland Dry Gin, which is distilled using local botanicals including juniper and various mountain herbs, reflecting Bhutan's rich biodiversity and unique approach to spirits.


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