Craft Beer in Saigon: Where to Find it
Lovers of real beer have recently seen an improvement in both the quality and quantity of craft beers that are hitting the streets of Ho Chi Minh City on a regular basis. With the development of craft beers through companies like Pasteur Street Brewery and BiaCraft, there are suddenly drinking venues with craft beer in Saigon where the usual bland lagers are on sale. It is still very much hit and miss, but it is quickly improving.
So where are the best venues to tap into this beer revolution? Where can you find excellent craft beer in Ho Chi Minh City? Here are some of the venues in the city that are selling craft beers.
Source: Gartenstadt Restaurant
There have, for quite some time, been the famous German and Czech beer houses in the city. They all tend to have a similar formula. They serve great home brewed beers, good food and customer driven whacky entertainment in big barn type venues. The locals tend to get extremely drunk very quickly. However, in order to avoid the vomit filled toilets, it’s best to go early. Although the much smaller Gartenstadt Restaurant and bar on Dong Khoi does the job well. Their beers are excellent and well maintained.
BiaCraft opened its doors a year ago in District 2 and has proved to be a huge success. At the time of writing they are offering no less than 13 real ales from their hole in the wall venue at 90 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien. This, more than any other venue, proves the point of the popularity of craft beer. No TV Screens, no loud music, nothing but a small space offering fantastic beer, and it’s packed every night.
Partnered with BiaCraft is Quan Ut Ut on Vo Van Kiet in District 1. With the addition of a second Quan Ut Ut venue by the river on Truong Sa they have really upped their game. I love the new venue with a dozen real ales on sale and if you’re hungry, the biggest smoker imaginable offering a fantastic array of barbecued meats. Their ribs are fall off the bone fabulous. The service is a little shaky, but that is understandable with a new venue. I love the legend “In Hops We Trust” emblazoned above the more than slightly phallic hand pumps.
Pasteur Street Brewery of course have their tap room on Pasteur in the midst of the business district. This tiny upstairs pub is my kind of place. They normally have about eight real ales to choose from. About half are permanent fixtures on the menu and the rest rotate through their catalog of more than 30 brews. They keep the beer in impeccable condition and are well trained in serving it correctly. They have just won Vietnam's first ever medal from the World Beer Cup. Taking the Gold Medal with their Cyclo Imperial Chocolate Stout. This is available on tap for a limited time, then will be sold by the bottle. The Best Chocolate Beer in the World 2016, not bad eh?
Source: Pasteur Street Brewing Company
Malt is a superbly laid out bar on Mac Thi Buoi, right in the centre of town. Matt, the owner has really created something special here, from the homely feel of the place to the inclusion of a full size shuffleboard, which is very popular with the locals. The inclusion of a new beer dispensing system for the dozen craft beers on offer is a huge plus, eliminating early teething problems and ensuring the beers are served spot on every time. The bar also has an impressive collection of bottled craft beers. From the early evening after-work set right through to last orders the place is buzzing with life. This is a superb addition to the craft beer scene in Ho Chi Minh City.
I had heard that Hops was a good venue and with a name like that it should be. Alas it is just another noisy Beer Club that happens to have Platinum on the menu. The beer was cold and well served but the venue is certainly not for me. A big barn of a place with uncomfortable seating, pointless TV screens and loud music. The only really great thing about it was the rather beautiful greeter on the door.
Source: HOPS Beer Garden
Over in District 2 The Buddha Bar and Grill has undergone recent refurbishments, part of which has seen the addition of a new real ale bar at the front of the venue. They are serving Platinum, Te Te, Heverlee, a couple from Pasteur’s collection and more. It’s a good venue and this improvement in the quality of beer is a welcome addition to an already thriving bar.
East West Brewing Co. is another Saigon brewery making a name for itself in a big way. The American-owned and operated brewery has Head Brewer Sean Thommen at the helm. He hails from Portland, Oregon, one of the craft beer capitals of the world. The American influence on these bad boys is evident: you can take your pick between the de rigueur Far East IPA, or a surprising amount of different porters and stouts. You wouldn’t think these heavier brews would work well in Saigon’s heat, but they’re definitely a welcome change from the Tiger and 333 you’ll be forced to order elsewhere.
Quite a lot of bars throughout the city have now started adding one or two real ales as an alternative for their customers. Vinyl are stocking the Belgian Witte Biere from Heverlee Brewery, and DTwo Sportspub also sells it, along with Phat Rooster’s IPA, though you would hardly know it, as the real stuff plays second fiddle to the usual suspects like Heineken and Tiger.
Source: Vinyl Bar
There’s a new player that has just opened its doors in May 2016 - B3 Steakhouse & Craft Beer. As the name implies - the focus is on steaks and beer. At the moment, they have the largest selection of craft beer on tap in the city - 16 in all. There is also bottled craft beer available. The food is great, especially the affordable side dishes and excellent value-for-money steak. Reviews from other customers so far have been outstanding.
B3 Steakhouse & Craft Beer by Citypass
All in all, I am still disappointed with some of the venues serving great beer in Ho Chi Minh City. Those with a genuine vested interest are great; the beer comes first and they have managed to create an ambience in which people can enjoy it. But with the possible exception of The Buddha Bar the rest are just paying lip service. They just happen to have possibly one single pump selling the good stuff and staff are rarely trained in how to look after it, or even in how to push it in order to sell the required amount to keep it fresh.