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


Can Vietnam Learn to Love Wine?

By: Jesus Lopez Gomez

The colonial French left in Vietnam their architecture and a handful of words: phô mai for “fromage,” the French word for cheese, or phốt for fault or the French “faute.”

Less visible is the French legacy of wine in Vietnam. Nevertheless, Vietnam’s wine drinkers today are showing more sophistication and acumen than ever before. Wine pairings may still be a challenge with the Vietnamese diet, but as we show below, it can be done.

A More Mature Affair

Beer may have more presence—it’s literally out on the streets—but for Finewines Deputy Wine Director Linh Bui, the Vietnamese love is wine is a quieter, more mature affair, a relationship with a more subtle kind of strength.

Wine’s abiding place in the Vietnamese lifestyle is due in part to its status as a much sought-after gift. Ms Linh said wine sales tend to spike around the end of the Western calendar year leading up to the Lunar New Year in late January or February. As much as 60 percent of Finewines sales are made during that time.

Ms Linh said Vietnamese consumers are becoming more familiar with viniculture through stores like her own that offer both the drink and the product knowledge to start building a wine culture bottle by bottle.

In Ms Linh’s case, a love of wine was part of her family heritage. She remembers her grandparents were wine drinkers. She was hired five years ago at Finewines and travelled to the United States to gain a WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) certification.

wineImage source: wsetglobal.com

Ms Linh said one of the biggest insights for her was having an American diet complete with a daily glass of wine.

“I learned that wine could be like, a daily thing, you know? I saw that every day when we cooked, we had a glass of wine at dinner,” she said. “It’s something new.”

Teaching the Basics

Wine knowledge certification was a basically unknown accreditation at the time when Ms Linh was seeking it. Back then, the only groups that offered certification in Southeast Asia were in Hong Kong.

Today, wine schools have sprung up in Singapore and even Vietnam too. Finewines intends to become a wine accreditation centre as well.

In the five years she’s been with the company, Ms Linh said the sales volume of wine has changed little. What has changed is the familiarity with the product and growing range of wines sought.

When she started, red wine was 70 percent of sales. Today, Finewines sells an even number of reds and whites.

“They’re getting more and more mature. They start to know what type of wine they want,” Ms Linh said. The average consumer is starting to figure out basic wine pairings too.

Francois Carteau, owner of the Wine Embassy Boutique in Thao Dien, said he’s seeing more wine lovers finding each other on social media. People are involving wine as part of their travels and even as a part of their corporate training, he said.

“There’s a sense of wine as a social network,” Carteau said.

wineImage source: oivietnam.com

Ms Linh said wine is starting to integrate itself as part of the daily diet as it would be in the west.

“The food culture, the wine culture is starting to become like something daily, not something too luxury,” she said.

“It’s a lifestyle, right?”

Wine began to flourish during the trade normalisation between the US and Vietnam in the ’90s. Other countries took the thawing as their cue to look at Vietnam too, and foreign goods began to flood the local market, including wine.

Finewines was founded in 1996, two years after the US formally lifted its trade embargo on Vietnam.

Ms Linh said back then the Vietnamese were calling all reds “Bordeaux”, so Ms Linh said there’s still plenty of work to be done building wine knowledge.

wineImage source: visual.ly

Ms Linh said the go-to wine for a Vietnamese consumer tends to be a dark, deep red. The sense that alcohol ought to have a pronounced, strong taste frame the red wine as the “normal” drink.

Carteau said it makes sense that new wine drinkers would go for a strong, pronounced taste.

At that point, “they’re not connoisseurs, so they’re going to go for something stronger,” he said.

Ten years ago when Carteau first arrived in Vietnam, Vietnamese drank almost exclusively strong, red Chilean wines with high alcohol content.

The palette has broadened since then to include more Spanish and French wines.

Ms Linh concurred saying French wine continues to be king, but it’s making space for wines from Australia and South America coming into vogue.

Does it Pair?

There’s a little bit of a mismatch with the Vietnamese diet, Ms Linh said. She predicts a better matched group of white wines and light-bodied reds are going to be the drink of choice for the next generation of wine drinkers in this country.

Some of the challenge in bringing wine into concert with Vietnamese cuisine is the difficulty of pairing the drink with the staple dishes.

“Phở?” Ms Linh asked laughing slightly when asked to offer a pair for the noodle soup. She hemmed and hawed for a second before suggesting the stew might go well with a sparkling, fruity wine.

As a professional, she said that wouldn’t be her first choice of food and wine pairings. But it can be done with the right drink.

That’s not to say there are no matches between fine wine and Vietnamese food.

wineImage source: i1.wp.com

A gỏi gà salad would go great with a well-chosen white—the fresh cabbage salad would complement sparkling white wine or a light-bodied chardonnay.

Barbecues are increasingly becoming a staple of Vietnamese cuisine. A US-made red like the Beringer cabernet sauvignon—Ms Linh said the hint of fruitiness is the drink’s special power—is a great choice to bring along the next time you’re invited. Ms Linh recommends something red and dry for occasions like these.

If you’re ever in doubt, look for something in a serious-looking shade of red.

“People in this culture love the red wine,” she said. “You will please every taste. No one says no to red wine. I myself never say no to red wine,” Ms Linh said gamely.

Banner image source: wishbonedev.com


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.

IS THERE A STORY OR TIP

YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US?

GET IN TOUCH