6 popular beverages to enjoy in Bhutan

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From butter tea to different types of alcohol, Bhutan has something for everyone.

Nestled on the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is an enchanting country frozen in time.

But apart from the picturesque landscapes and majestic dzongs, Bhutan has a treat for the thirsty.

The literally thirsty.

Bhutan spots a nice spread of drinks—from alcoholic to non-alcoholic—there’s something for everyone.

On that note, Bhutan has an alcohol culture, especially in eastern districts.

Serving alcohol is a sign of respect, honour, and hospitality. Alcohol is offered as a welcome drink and farewell drink; it is consumed with food, it is desert, it is drunk before bed, and also first thing in the morning. People drink it as a blessing for the road and to wish one good health.

Given the alcohol culture, most (but not all) of the drinks on this list are alcoholic drinks.

And without further ado, here are 6 beverages to enjoy in Bhutan:

  1. Suja (Butter Tea)

Suju (butter tea) is a creamy and savoury tea popular among the Bhutanese people. 

As the name suggests, a generous helping of butter is blended with tea leaves and salt.

It’s a go-to drink, a staple at celebrations like Losar (Bhutanese New Year), weddings, or other religious events.

On top of that, the butter will keep you warm during the winter!

  1. Ara

Ara is the national drink of Bhutan.

It contains alcohol.

Grains are fermented, and the liquid produced from the fermentation process is then used to make Ara. Ara is usually creamy, clear, or white in colour.

Ara is popular at religious events. It is also a staple at archery tournaments. Apparently, the alcohol improves the archers’ aim.

Word on the street is that the best way to enjoy Ara is with an egg that has been cooked with butter.

  1. Bhutanese Beer

This might come as a surprise to you, but Bhutan actually has quite the range of their own quality beer! These are not imported beer, but beer actually brewed locally within Bhutan.

In fact, there are two breweries you can visit if you please: Namgay Artisanal Brewery and Bumthang Brewery.

Namgay Artisanal Brewery pioneered the craft-beer industry in Bhutan. The brewery houses Bhutan’s only brewpub and is the country’s second craft brewery. Since their establishment in 2016, they brew 2000 litres of craft beers, dark ales, wheat beers, and apple ciders every day.

Do book the brewery tour in advance though.

Also, the brewery is closed every Tuesday in observance of dry day in Bhutan where sale of alcohol is prohibited.

Similarly, Bumthang Brewery is open for tours too. Located next to a cheese factory, it was founded by a Swiss national, Fritz Maurer, who married a Bhutanese.

The brewery produces draught beer, apple cider, wine, apple brandy and juice.

Last but not least, here are some locally brewed Bhutanese beers to enjoy in Bhutan:

a) Druk 11000

Brewed by: Bhutan Brewery Private Limited, Pasakha

This is a common one among the locals. It’s clear and white and easy to drink.

b) Druk Premium Lager

Brewed by: Bhutan Brewery Private Limited, Pasakha

Expect a clear and pale gold colour brew with a ricey and fruity aroma.

c) Druk Supreme

Brewed by: Bhutan Brewery Private Limited, Pasakha

It has a clear gold appearance and you might taste a tinge of sweet corn.

d) Thunder 15000 Strong

Brewed by: Kinjore Brewery

This one tastes like apple juice with an alcoholic edge.

e) Red Panda Weiss Beer

Brewed by: Bumthang Brewery

Expect a cloudy yellow beverage with a hint of citrus.

It is unfiltered and preservative-free.

f) Wheat Beer, Dark Ale, Red Rice Lager

Brewed by: Namgay Artisanal Brewery

Brewed from locally farmed red rice, Red Rice Lager is the flagship beer of Namgay Artisanal Brewery. The brown colour lager is fragrant and slightly sweet. Aside from that, the other popular Bhutanese beers are wheat beer and dark ale. 

  1. Bhutanese Liquor

Other than beers, Bhutan also has a nice assortment of hard liquors.

Of the many, here are two popular ones:

a) K5 whiskey

Named after the 5th King of Bhutan, King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, K5 is Bhutan’s most popular whiskey. 

It has a mellow flavour and is a combination of Scottish malt and Bhutanese-grown organic grain spirit.

Appearance-wise, it is pale in colour. Furthermore, K5 is smooth and an easy drink.

If you miss K5 whiskey, pssst... K5 whiskey is on discount at Bhutan Natural online store now. 

b) Grain Whiskey

Look forward to a delicious blend of grain and scotch. It has a high alcohol level of 42.8% though, so that’s something to keep in mind.

  1. Bhutanese Wine

 a. Takin red wine

If you like your wine sweet, this is perfect for you.

b) Vintria Shiraz Dry Wine

This wine is best enjoyed with a bowl of salad or a plate of fruit. Vintra is arguably the best wine in Bhutan.

c) Zumzin Peach Wine

If you prefer a playful twist to your wine, try Zumzin for a pure peach flavour. Each sip is guaranteed to have you reaching for more.

Get your favourite Zumzin Peach Wine from Bhutan Natural store.

6) Chang

There’s a taunt during archery tournaments. Archers who miss the target are mocked, “You are left in the barrel!”

This saying has its history in Chang.

The second King of Bhutan, Jigme Wangchuck, commanded that archers who did not score a single hit be offered a drink from a barrel of Chang. And that is why, up till today, the jeer remains.

Chang is made from fermented grains. Many locals brew it at home. You could say that it’s traditional beer, and like suja, it’s soothing and will keep you nice and toasty during the cold winter.

And there you go. 6 beverages to keep you hydrated in Bhutan. Enjoy!



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