Top 10 Beers in Vietnam

By: Vinh Dao

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.

Check our guide: Saigon Nightlife - The Best Bars and Clubs.

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.

top 10 beers


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.

top 10 beers

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…


Rank

Beer

1

Bia Hanoi

2

333

3

Saigon Special

4

Biere Laure

5

Saigon Red

6

Tiger

7

Heineken

8

Saigon Green

9

Huda

10

Zorok

 

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.

Banner Image source: doanhnhansaigon.vn


Folliet Introduces New Biodegradable Coffee Capsule

By: Mervin Lee

Coffee capsules are surging in popularity. They are a fast, mess-free and tasty alternative to professionally extracted espresso without the responsibilities and price-tags associated with cafe-hopping and owning a dedicated Italian machine. However, modern conveniences are not spared from the related waste. Worldwide, 13,500 coffee capsules are consumed every minute and used capsules made from plastic or aluminium pose a serious threat to our planet.

Coffee

“People love the convenience… and they’re going to go for convenience over waste.” Said Jean-luc Voisin, French coffee roaster and managing director of Les Vergers Du Mekong, renowned for it’s high-quality line of products ranging from tropical juice, jams and Vietnamese teas. Folliet® is the major shareholder in Les Vergers Du Mekong.

Folliet Coffee

Hope is in the air and Folliet® has successfully developed a 100% biodegradable and compostable coffee capsule which is fully-compatible with the popular Nespresso line of pod-based espresso machines. Made of natural paper pulp, the resultant compostable fibres are stable and protect the flavours of the coffee to ensure maximum extraction without affecting the subtle nuances of well-roasted coffee.

Folliet Coffee

Folliet® combines 140 years of experience in small-batch craft-roasting and a family passion for sustainable coffee to bring you a quality cup of java in the comfort of your home. Coffee beans are sourced from Vietnam and Laos and roasted to perfection in Can Tho city. The roasted beans are then blended by experts at Folliet® to create two flavours, Prestigio and Ta Lai. Prestigio appeals to caffeine-lovers who are seeking a true, intense Italian espresso experience while Ta Lai is enjoyably subtle and created from a blend of arabica & responsibly grown robusta coffee from a region of minority tribes in Dong Nai province, which borders the beautiful Cat Tien National Park. The natural shade provided by the dense rainforest canopies of Dong Nai province provides an excellent condition for cultivation, creating flavour & fragrance unseen in other coffees.

Image source: Mervin Lee


Pasteur Street Expands to Five Locations in Vietnam

By: Molly Headley

Topping Up the Taps

Off of Pasteur Street in District 1 you’ll find an alley with a secret.

What is it? Hint: it has to do with the street name.

First, you’ll notice that the alley itself—white painted walls brightened with cool street art and strings of faerie-lights—has become a top selfie destination for hipster Vietnamese youth. Head a little further down this hem to discover the real draw of this side street.

At this point, any beer aficionado will be able to describe the well-travelled stairs that lead up to the home of one of the pioneers of craft brewing in Vietnam: Pasteur Street Brewing Co.

Pasteur Street Brewing Co. was established in 2015 and this taproom, dubbed “The Original”, has been brimming with beer lovers ever since. This observation drove the team at Pasteur Street Brewing Co. to expand their operations in order to welcome more of their fanbase on a nightly basis. The first taproom to be added to the brand is in the same eye-catching alley as the Original and is known as the “Hem”. The expansive new space boasts two floors, one of which is a rooftop, making it the perfect location for events, private parties, and tastings.

pasteur street

Head to the Original taproom if you want to see where it all started! Everyone is made to feel welcome at this cosy bar where it’s just as easy to have a solo after-work drink as it is to kick back and enjoy a few pints with a group of friends. The ‘Hem’ taproom is the perfect place to go for a party or larger groups, or just to enjoy the warm rooftop breeze while you sample Pasteur Street Brewing Co.’s excellent selection.

pasteur street

The expansion has been so successful that as of October 2017, the brand has grown even further to include a third taproom in Phu Nhuan District, known as Phan Xich Long “PXL” taproom. This district is more local and the area includes a large selection of cafés and restaurants. However, craft brewing is still a new concept here. The “PXL” location, which is the largest to date, will host beer tasting events and meet and greets with Pasteur Street’s all important brewers.

pasteur street

In addition, fans of the company should be aware of the “Ha Noi” taproom, which opened directly behind the historic St. Joseph’s Cathedral in the Old Quarter in Hanoi in July of 2017. The location spans two levels and includes an outdoor seating area. The brand also has a presence in Thao Dien—a tiny 15-seater taproom named the “Filling Station”.

Winter Heavies and Summer Sours

Each taproom features a selection of different beers on tap, so people can also get a taste of new flavours. There is always a balanced selection of light, heavy, dark, sour, and hoppy brews to ensure that there is a beer for every palate.

pasteur street

According to Anniek Voesenek, Pasteur Street Brewing Co.’s countrywide F & B Manager, in the South people are more used to experimenting with the different types of craft beer because Saigon is where the movement began in Vietnam. In the North, people still have to get used to some of the more funky flavours, like the sours, but now there are more and more places starting to serve craft beer.

pasteur street

Weather also plays a part. In Hanoi, Pasteur Street Brewing Co. tends to focus on the beers that are stronger in alcohol during the winter months whereas in Saigon they aim to have a good balance between the fruity beers, the heavier beers, sour beers and IPAs. All locations have their bestselling Jasmine IPA and Passionfruit Wheat Ale available, as well as the Imperial Chocolate Stout, the 2016 World Beer Cup winner.

Pasteur Street Brewing Co. fans should head to Hem on May 2nd, Ha Noi on May 15th or the PXL taproom on May 25th for a pint of your favourite brew and some live music. Keep your eye on the company’s Facebook page to learn more about these dates, as well as other special events and meetups with the brewers at all the locations.

Image source: Pasteur Street Brewing Co.


Best Craft Beers in Vietnam

By: Keely Burkey

You’re thirsty and you want to go out with your friends tonight. Do you want to drink a beer? Or do you want to drink a craft beer?

Some might consider craft beers to be slightly pretentious, the high-nosed brother of its Saigon Red and 333 counterparts but twice as expensive for a lot more head and not much else. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

The modern craft beer movement, hailing from Western countries and, in particular, the United States in cities like Denver, Colorado and Portland, Oregon, emphasizes a few things above all: beer brewed in small batches, with quality ingredients and just done well.

After spending nine years in Portland, I couldn’t help but get drawn into the scene, where some pretty incredible things were being done to the wholesome hoppy brew. When I moved to Vietnam, I thought one of the many life changes would be to get used to a watery Tiger at the end of the workday.

craft beerImage source: thoibao.today

Imagine my delighted surprise when I found out that craft beer is on the up-and-up in Saigon. What do I value in a good craft beer?

1) It’s suitable for the weather of HCMC. It’s hot outside. Who wants to drink a thick, creamy stout better suited for a cold winter’s night elsewhere? I like a beer that knows where it’s being served.

2) It’s unique. For me, the fun of craft beers is that they’re doing something different. We’re in Vietnam, so why not make use of the abundance of ingredients this fine country has to offer?

3) It delivers on what if offers. If a beer is labeled as a “cream ale” and it tastes more of old tires, that beer has definitely not done its job.

After a thorough search across Saigon’s thriving craft breweries, here are my personal favourites.

Cheers!

Pasteur Street Brewery’s Passion Fruit Wheat Ale (4.8% ABV)

I’ll just get this one out of the way because (spoiler alert) it’s my favourite craft beer in the city. Pasteur Street Brewery is probably the most well-respected beer establishment in HCMC at the moment, and with good reason. The epitome of their process can be found in the Passion Fruit Wheat Ale.

craft beerImage source: munchies.vice.com

They use real passion fruit in this nectar of the gods to make it tart, but not too tart. Here you’ll find a glass filled with beer the colour of wheat, with a smooth texture and just the right carbonation to complement the passion fruit… This is a beer one would be lucky to imbue in any country in the world.

Where you can get it: Besides Pasteur Street’s tap room (144 Pasteur, D1), you’ll be happy to know that these beers can be found on tap in over 80 outlets in Vietnam, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Here’s a tip: go to their website; they have a very handy “beer finder” map that lets you know exactly where you can wet your whistle.

FURBREW’s Bia Phở (4.6% ABV)

Notice this article isn’t named, “The Best Craft Beers in HCMC”. It had to be expanded to accommodate this magical beer, made by the fine people at FURBREW in Hanoi. Apparently, this beer was made as a challenge: make a beer that tastes like phở. They accepted that challenge and I, for one, am certainly glad they did.

craft beer
Image source: facebook.com/furbrew

They describe this treat as having an umami taste, but I didn’t get much of that when I tried it. There’s a good amount of sweetness provided by the cinnamon, star anise, cardamon and coriander seeds imbued. Apparently there’s also a note of chilli, though I didn’t get much of this, either. Instead, I was treated to a spice-heavy, intoxicating drink with enough hoppy kick to remind me it’s a beer. I couldn’t drink this all night, but one glass was terrific.

Where you can get it: If you don’t happen to be in Hanoi (and if you are, their tap room is on 8b/52 To Ngoc Van in Tay Ho), this can be tricky. I spoke to one of the brewers at a recent festival, and he seemed a little evasive about telling me where it can be found in HCMC, simply because the locations keep changing. You might get lucky and get a pint at Bia Craft, but other than that, keep these guys in mind the next time you’re up north.

Winking Seal Beer Co.’s Nâm Nâm Nâm Cream Ale (4.5% ABV)

Although this beer doesn’t have any specialised Vietnamese ingredients involved, I’m making an exception for this guy. Why? Because it’s the perfect beer for this balmy Saigon weather. Its description indicates that it has fruity notes, but these didn’t come through for me. It isn’t particularly ‘creamy’, either. Just obscenely light and refreshing.

craft beerImage source: vesperandlaura

When I professed my love for this beer to the bartender at Winking Seal, he said, “It’s not the best we have, actually.” So, I’ll definitely be back to find this out for myself.

Where you can get it: Two places in Saigon have got you covered. First of all, the Winking Seal taproom (50 Dang Thi Nhu, D1), unsurprisingly. Plus, Bia Craft usually has Winking Seal on tap, and if they’re smart they’ll keep the cream ale around for a long time.

Saigon Cider’s Hot Chili Cider (6.5% ABV)

Yep, I know this article is all about craft beers, but leaving this gem off a list celebrating craft beverages in Saigon would just be a crime. The main reason I love this chili cider so much is because it’s so controversial — some people (like myself) adore it, and some people can’t stand drinking a spicy cider.

The main thing to realise is that when they put “chili” in the title here, they mean it. It’s not an undertone flavour — it is the main flavour. The beautiful thing about drinking a glass of this fine brew, however, is that the flavour actually changes as you sip it. It’s a refreshing cider at first, and then it hits you at the back of your throat. The heat of the chili comes through, and it’s not subtle. Hannah Jefferys, the owner of Saigon Cider (and the only female founder of a craft beverage company in the country!) said that while it’s not the most popular cider on the roster, it’s definitely the most talked-about. I can see why.

craft beerImage source: Francis Xavier

Where you can find it: I usually get my fix of this unique creation at Rogue (13 Pasteur, D1). They don’t have a tap room yet — I hope this will change — but they also do home deliveries and distribute to bars, restaurants and cafes all over the city. Just keep an eye out for the chili variety.

C-Brewmaster’s Lemongrass Ale (4.5% ABV)

This playful little number joined the list because, as you sip it, you can tell it’s special. As much as I love American-style craft brews, you can always tell them distinctly from other brew styles. C-Brewmaster’s Lemongrass Ale is all Vietnamese.

craft beer
Image source: facebook.com/CBrewmaster

Although this brewery made their name in Hanoi, they just stepped into HCMC about a month ago, and they seem to be doing well here so far. Nguyen Van Cuong, the brewmaster, holds the honourable title as the first Vietnamese craft beer brewmaster, and he practices this title well.

Another notable brew on tap is the Ginger Ale, but do not be fooled — this one is much better. Light and refreshing and very lemongrass-forward, it’s a good beer to start off your night.

Where you can get it: It seems like C-Brewmaster is still finding their footing in the HCMC beer scene, so be sure to go to their taproom (52B Nguyen Binh Khiem, D1) to get the good stuff. Alternatively, Cuong says you might also find some bottles at Rogue and Rehab Station (27/6 Nguyen Binh Khiem, D1).

LAC Brewing Co.’s Mango IPA (5.5% ABV)

No craft beer list would be complete without a beautiful IPA to round it off. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been a big fan of IPAs. They’ve always seemed to place hops before flavour. However, LAC’s masterful addition has (somewhat) changed my mind.

Dark orange and with a foamy head, you can clearly taste the mango, but it’s not overpowering. It’s floral and surprisingly delicate for an IPA, and it just so happens LAC uses mangoes grown in Phan Thiet. You can tell.

craft beerImage source: facebook.com/lacbrewing

Where you can get it: You’ll always be able to find one or two offerings at Bia Craft, although it you want to play it safe, definitely head to their brick and mortar venue. Take a trip to 169/7 Nguyen Duc Canh in D7 for a very positive beer experience.

Banner image source: munchies.vice.com

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