Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think of beer as being political. It is of course highly individual, and is often an expression of personal identity. Many people drink the kind of beer which they feel reflects the kind of person they think they are, and to some extent that can include one’s political orientation. Nonetheless, when I order or purchase a beer in the US, I don’t immediately associate it with a particular political party. Yes, I suppose that you could say that more Republicans drink Budweiser and Miller than Democrats, and Democrats are probably the only people who drink a beer like Stella Artois. However, then there are people like me who will drink a Stella or a microbrew first, and then follow it with a Miller because it all tastes the same after the first bottle anyway, so you might as well go for the cheaper beer starting from bottle #2 onward.
In any case, while I suppose there is an indirect relationship between beer and politics, somehow it feels a bit more direct here in Thailand. I always think of Chang Beer as the Thai “working man’s” beer. It’s the “bia thi khon Thai tham eng,” the beer which Thais make themselves. Of course Singha is too, but that’s not how they market their beer.
Chang started getting involved in soccer in 2004 when they began sponsoring and working with the English football club, Everton. Then Singha did the same in 2007 when former prime minister Thaksin bought Manchester City. Then this summer, Chang was a sponsor of the World Cup.
The political scene in Thailand right now is of course very complex. When I reach for a beer, I often do so in an effort to escape complexity for a while. This then makes me wonder what happens when a Thai picks up a Singha and sees that it is an official partner of Manchester City. I would think that many of the Red Shirts, working men and women that they are, would prefer Chang over Singha, but do the Thaksin supporters among them drink Singha? And I would think that Yellow Shirts would prefer Singha over Chang, but do they avoid it now because of it’s obvious links to Thaksin and his business dealings?
Whatever the case may be, the Thais need to solve this political crisis. Choosing a beer should not be this difficult.