What is the best beer in Vietnam? Our team of writers beer experts taste tests 10 of Vietnam's most popular brews.
The variety of beer produced in Vietnam can be an enjoyable surprise to first time visitors as it seems that every city has a local brewery specialising in their own beer. Whether it’s sitting on a plastic chair in a humble Hanoi bia hoi or a chic brauhaus located on a bustling street in Saigon’s District 1, one thing is certain: Vietnam is gaga over beer.
Talking to the City Pass staff about their favourite brew, I also realised that Vietnamese are also quite tribal about beer! It became a heated discussion and before it descended into fisticuffs, I thought it would be best to hold a blind taste test to put the debate to rest.
We amassed a wide range of locally made beers in bottles and cans but also threw in a couple wild cards in for good measure. Here are the beers we tasted and a little blurb about them:
333 – First produced in 1893, it was originally known as Beer 33. In the seventies, another digit was added and it is now known colloquially as “333”.
Bia Hanoi – A pale lager produced by Habeco, it’s a bit hard to find in Saigon but omnipresent in Hanoi.
Heineken – A newish competitor in the Vietnam’s crowded beer market, it has done quite well in Vietnam with over 200 million litres sold in 2011.
Saigon Green / Red / Special – One of the most ubiquitous beer brands in Vietnam, you will find at least one of the three “Saigon” branded beers in any bar in the country.
Biere Larue – Established in 1909, this beer was named after Victor Larue, founder of the Brasseries et Placieres de L'Indochine Brewery. It was also known as “Tiger Beer” by American GI’s station in Danang during the American War.
Huda – The name of this beer combines Hue (Hu) and Denmark (Da) and is hardly found outside Central Vietnam. This beer is only available in two locations that I know of in Saigon.
Tiger – Brewed by the Asia Pacific Breweries, this brand found throughout Southeast Asia. Considered a premium brand in other countries, in Vietnam it is one of the cheapest international beers you can buy.
Zorok – Brewed in the Binh Duong Province, each bottle has 150 Calories, which is 16 percent less than the average beer.
Unfortunately, we tried to get some Bia Hoi but couldn’t find anyone open at 4:00pm in District 1 to sell it to us. . Also, extra thanks goes out to Bread and Butter for selling me the Huda bottles before they opened.
Disclaimer: For our blind taste test, none of our beer testers knew what they were drinking. The beer was tested specifically on taste, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best). I originally asked for taste, smell and aftertaste but found that several people didn’t bother putting in numbers for smell and aftertaste so I left them out. I also asked everyone to take a sip of water after each sip of beer to clean their palates (also to hopefully prolong enough sobriety to finish the test).
And the results from best to worst are…
These results were a bit of a shock for the whole staff as we expected the international players to place a little higher. Also, Bia Hanoi rated in the top two for both locals and foreigners which surprised quite a few of us. Several of the testers tried to guess the beers but failed miserably, not even getting a single beer correct. On a personal note, I rated Huda, one of my favourite beers very low in my ratings and for a second made me rethink my opinion of the beer. However, it was the last beer that I drank and it was a bit warm which made me ponder if beer in Vietnam needs to be served very cold for optimal taste.
The local staff rated Zorok as the worst tasting beer and rated 333 as the best tasting. Saigon Green came in dead last while Bia Hanoi came in first for the foreign staff. On a side note, Tiger beer came in first place for smell and aftertaste while Zorok also came in last place for aftertaste that made it a double loser.
The staff had a great time trying out all the beers and it was obvious that some of us had been brandwashed by the marketing of certain brands. That being said, I will continue drinking my favourites even though my palate has told me otherwise.