Beer consumption here is high and everywhere you find people drinking beer. In northern Vietnam and Hanoi in particular, the streets are filled with small plastic chairs and tables where people drink Bia Hoi from lunch time until late evening.
Bia hoi is a light beer only with the most basic ingredients, quick and easy to produce, which has around 3-4% alcohol and can also be produced easily at the restaurants.
Some friends who used to meet every Wednesday in Hanoi and drink beer introduced me to local microbreweries. I was chocked the first time I went to Hoa Vien Brewery, one of the oldest breweries in Hanoi, where they brew and sell two kinds of beer, full of malt and hops. Ever since I have felt a consuming passion for more local beer.
Microbrewery and intense competition
|Hoa Vien brewery and their three kinds of beer in Hanoi
A microbrewery can only produce less than a couple of million litres a year, much lower than the average capacity of an alcoholic beverage company. It uses a lot more malt and hops than the big breweries that produce regular lager beer on can or bottle using preservatives. So, the taste is more lively and fresh.
There is a growing trend to drink fresh beer in Europe and North America.
The normal price for a glass of tasty beer at one of the microbreweries in Hanoi is about VND35 000 – 40 000 (nearly US$ 2). It is not reasonable for the regular worker with a monthly income of US$150 to consume local beer.
As for foreigners or overseas Vietnamese working in Vietnam, they do not know much about the local breweries.
20 microbreweries in Vietnam
There are about 20 microbreweries in Vietnam including 15 in Hanoi which brew Czech or German styled beer. But they are still in low profile. The reason is that most of their beer production serves local drinkers only.
|Legend brewery at No 4 Vu Ngoc Phan, one of the few breweries
that are known to expats in Hanoi
A couple of days ago, while driving around in Hanoi on my motorbike, I saw a small sign written in Vietnamese and dotted with the word PLZEN. It looked like any regular restaurant at first sight. However, just two minutes later I was inside trying three different kinds of Czech beer brewed and served at the same place.
So far, I have known some 20 local breweries, and perhaps there will be a lot more to be found in the city.
A seafood restaurant or a microbrewery?
The rate of foreign drinkers at local breweries in Vietnam is just 1-3% or even below 1%, although some have amazing beer, black beer almost like a full bodied stout and lager beer with plenty of malt and charisma.
As there are no guides via the internet, there is no chance for a foreigner to find any of them – either restaurant or microbrewery. In Europe or North America they are clearly defined as microbreweries or brewpubs, nothing else.
Several times I have asked for the name of the brewery owner, but the answer is simply “you mean the guy that makes the beer, I have no idea”.
That’s why I started my beer blog (www.beervn.com) and the brewery tours, to update all beer enthusiasts on the existing microbreweries in Vietnam and encourage them to enjoy the wonderful taste of local beer.
If you travel to Vietnam, there is plenty of opportunity to taste different kinds of local beer.