Beer is so popular in Vietnam along with many wine bars and gastro pubs. My Vietnamese beer guide gives you an introduction to the famous ‘fresh beer’, including what it is, where to find it, how to drink it, and what to eat with it, so you’ll be downing beer like a local in no time.
VIETNAMESE BEER GUIDE
In a tropical country like Vietnam where it is constantly hot and humid all year round, beer is wildly popular for its taste and coolness, which can immediately freeze the heat and thirst. Vietnam is one of the countries that consumes the highest amount of beer in the world. Since the residents were introduced to this alcoholic beverage in the 1900s, beer drinking has become a culture.
Bia hoi or ‘fresh beer’ is the drink of choice for locals and visitors alike. It is considered the freshest beer because it is made without any preservatives and must be drunk within 24 hours of production. Bia hoi dominates about 30% of the country’s beer market. Like baguettes and beef apparently, it is the French bringing beer to Vietnam, introducing it in the 1890s when the Hommel brewery was established. It costs about 8,000 VND or under 40 US cents a glass, making it one of the world’s cheapest beers. Lightly carbonated with a fine white head that quickly disappears, the light golden brew is clear, crisp and clean to taste. The thirst-quenching beer is so easily quaffed because it’s so low in alcohol – just 2.5-4.5%.
Served icy cold, it’s consumed fast and in large quantities during summer. There are many “bia hoi ” joints on nearly every blocks, and in Hanoi’s labyrinthine old quarter on almost every corner. The occupants of joints will be holding recycled-glass tumblers, completing with bubbles, chips and nibbling on pumpkin seeds, peanuts or rice crackers. Other popular snacks include grilled dried squid, hot cheese sticks and French fries sprinkled. Generally, the best time to hit a bia hoi for the most boisterous atmosphere is around 5-6pm.
BEER BRANDS IN VIETNAM
There is a wide range of local beers in bottles and cans. Here are some branded beers 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”.
Beer 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 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 and Denmark and is hardly found outside Central Vietnam.
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 Binh Duong Province, each bottle has 150 Calories, which is 16 percent less than the average beer.
RECOMMENDED BIA HOI JOINTS
Some famous places for beer, besides those around the Old Quarter in Hanoi or Pham Ngu Lao area in Ho Chi Minh City. It might be fun to join in with the local but beware that waiters at these restaurants might not know English to communicate with foreigners.
Beer Corner is located at Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. It has become a popular drinking spot for locals, expats and backpackers that its name was changed to “Beer Street.” Customers sit on mini plastic stools on the street for hours on end, but with 10 beers costing 50,000 – 70,000 VND (2.25 – 3.15 USD) you can understand why! Beer Corner is so busy that you’ll just need to grab a stool wherever you can find one.
In recent years, many more formal restaurants have been built to serve the high and middle-class customers with more beer options. They mostly offer customers diverse kinds of beer bottles and cans, along with fresh beer, draught beer in the small keg and imported beer from countries such as Germany, Czech or Australia. These places are cleaner than the sidewalk ones, but the price is often 15 -20% higher. Plus, you will hear much noise and cheers than the street ones.
Except for Ta Hien street, here are other famous bia hoi joints in Hanoi
BIA HOI HA NOI — CUA HANG NGOC LINH
Old Quarter Classic
2 Duong Thanh Street
BIA HOI THIEN NGA
Hanoi’s First Bia Hoi
86 Tran Hung Dao Street
NGOC HA BIA HOI
Beer Garden Bia Hoi
19C Ngoc Ha Street
BIA HOI HAI XOM
22 Tang Bat Ho Street
Hai Ba Trung
BIA HOI NHA HANG TRUC BACH
Beside Nha Khach Truc Bach restaurant
1 Tran Vu Street
Truc Bach Lake
1A AU CO STREET
Near the InterContinental Hotel
BIA HOI CUONG HOI
264 Thuy Khue Street
BIA HOI NGO HUONG
Off The Beaten Track
Ngo Huong Alley, between Ly Nam De & Phung Hung Streets
Old Quarter By now you know bia hoi is cheap and can easily be found throughout Vietnam. Because of its accessibility, finding a place to drink beer is a great beginning to a night out!
So, by for now my fellow traveler who coming to our Vietnam don’t for get to give a try on our Beer Hoi =)))