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Lagers traditionally were made in the colder months and stored (lagered) in caves. As lager yeast prefers a colder fermentation and conditioning temperature than ales, why is lager regularly made in hot, tropical climates around the world instead of more temperature tolerant ales, or just imported?

On a tour around the Tiger Brewery in Singapore where the average temperature is 30 deg C, the guide mentioned the brewery started in 1932 and used a "tropical lagering process". The guide wasn't sure of details, and I haven't found details elsewhere on this process.

Is it a simple matter of economics, that it's cheaper to brew lager locally even with climate control than to import, or is there a way to successfully brew lagers at high temperatures?

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It's just marketing.

Lager fermentations are very clean so it tends to be a beer you want to drink in a warm and humid climate. The breweries want to make beer that will sell very well locally, and that just happens to be lagers.

At a commercial scale brewers are investing in temperature control regardless of ale or lager, so it's not a significant expense or savings one way or another. So since they're spending the money anyway, might as well brew what people will buy more of.

From the consumer perspective, it's cheaper to buy from a local company than it is to buy an imported beer in most cases. So the local beer sells better than the import.

  • Is it just a recent trend since air conditioning became available? – aportr Apr 26 '15 at 10:30
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Lagers tend to be more popular as they taste better colder, and are 'easier drinking' than heavier, more flavourful beers, and taste good very cold or with ice, so better for quenching thirst in the heat.

That said, stouts and darker heavier beers are often popular in rural areas in tropical Asia where ice is unavailable - think ABC Extra Stout, Beer Laos Dark, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, or Black Panther

  • But why brew somewhere hot that you have to cool instead of importing? Refrigeration in the home wasn't particularly common when the brewery started either, making it hard to have a cold beer. (Coffee was - and still is - served with condensed or evaporated milk which keeps better). Tiger today also brews ABC and Guinness amongst others. – aportr Apr 27 '15 at 6:26
  • Demand: people want to drink something light. – Umaomamaomao Apr 27 '15 at 7:17

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