Picture of Legend Brewery above which is at nr 4 Vu Ngoc Phan, Hanoi, one of the few breweries that are known to expats in Hanoi because of the previous German brew master.
The following article was submitted to my blog for publication by Jonathan Gharbi. Jonathan is the Founder of the beer blog www.beervn.com and he is based in Hanoi, Vietnam. This article is in response to my earlier article on Microbreweries in Asia.
Since I came to Vietnam, for 1,5 years ago, a newer ending search for good beer and breweries has been going on. After almost a year I realized that there is no imported ale, ipa, stout etc to be found in Vietnam despite 95 millions of beer interested inhabitants. Beer consumption here is high and everywhere you find people drinking beer. In northern Vietnam and Hanoi, the streets are filled with small plastic chairs and tables where people drink bia hoi from lunch time until late evening. Bia hoi is a light beer only with the most basic ingredients, quick and easy to produce which has around 3-4% alcohol and can also be produced easily at the restaurants.
Then some friends who used to meet every Wednesday in Hanoi and drink beer introduced me to the breweries. I was chocked the first time I went to Hoa vien brewery in Hanoi, one of the oldest breweries here, was this really true, do they brew and sell two kinds of beer, full of malt and hops in a real brewery.
Pictures of Hoa vien brewery and their three beers, Hanoi
I don’t think people understand how it is here in Vietnam, the economy is struggling and many businesses are going bankrupt. The normal price for a glass of tasty beer at one of the microbreweries here is about 35 000 – 40 000 VND (ca 2 USD) it’s not reasonable for the regular worker with a monthly income of 150 USD to consume beer with these prices. Some breweries are really struggling to maintain their production while some already have down scaled. There are a couple of thousands of expats living in Vietnam and their consumption of beers is to low to justify an import unless it’s consumed by locals also. Many expats does not know about the existence of these breweries, they are often unseen in media, on the web and some of them also lack English speaking staff which makes it difficult for foreign customers.
There are about 20 microbreweries in Vietnam whereof about 15 are placed in Hanoi, all are either brewing Czech or German styled beer. The explanation is that Vietnam had strong relations with former DDR and Czechoslovakia and today the largest groups of Vietnamese diasporas is to be found in Germany and Czech republic.
Dunkel, Lager and Munich from Legend brewery (German inspired) at 222 Tran Duy Hung, Hanoi.
Black and blond beer from Goldmalt brewery (Czech inspired) at 17 Van phuc, Hanoi.
As mentioned before, they are unknown for most locals and in particular for foreigners, partly because of their low profile but also because the breweries don’t know what good products they have. All the beer are brewed and sold in same place. Only three breweries sell their beer in another pub/restaurant, so unless you visit them there is no chance to taste the beer.
A couple of days ago I was driving around in Hanoi on my motorbike and saw a small sign which said something in Vietnamese with the word PLZEN in it. It looked like any regular restaurant here but I went in to see if they had any beer. Two minutes later I was standing by the taps and was trying three different kinds of Czech beer. Brewed and served at same place. There are only 20 breweries I know off so far but guess after this experience that there are plenty more to be found.
Two of the three beers served at Nha hang plzen at 167 pho Hoang Ngan, Hanoi. Is it a seafood restaurant or a microbrewery?
Some breweries have 1-3 percent of foreign customers but some breweries below 1 % which I hope will change later on. Some breweries produce amazing beers, black beer almost like a full bodied stout and lager beer with plenty of malt and charisma. But without homepage, no advertisement or defined as regular Vietnamese restaurants at facebook, there is no chance for a foreigner to find them, in many cases, not even for a Vietnamese. In Europe or North America they would be defined as microbreweries or brewpubs, nothing else. Several times I have asked for the name of the brew master at the breweries which I found out is a very odd question here. The regular answer from the staff is “you mean the guy that makes the beer, I have no idea”.
That’s why I started my beer blog and the brewery tours, to enlighten all beer enthusiasts of all the microbreweries in Vietnam and to encourage the breweries to continue their fantastic work so we can continue to enjoy wonderful beer. If you travel to Vietnam, there is plenty too see but most important of all, it’s a reason to come here only for the beer.