Beer has become incredibly intertwined in Vietnamese culture. From Hanoi in the north all the way down to Kien Giang in the south, there are many different breweries big and small throughout Vietnam. Craft beer has grown very quickly in Vietnam, and continues to push on despite covid.
In recent years, particularly before covid, craft beer exploded onto a scene that was previously dominated by bia hơi or bia tươi, the cheap and light local brews served up by many Vietnamese restaurants.
Different consumer expectations
In Vietnam, most people drink at quán nhậu, which are essentially Vietnamese izakayas, though more similar to Taiwanese 熱炒 in style. These places function as both bars and restaurants, and it is common to go with work friends, family, and for any kind of special occasion. The main rule for these kind of places is that the beer must be cold and it must be cheap. Ice cubes are continuously added to drinkers’ beer glasses. Vietnam is super hot in the summer everywhere, and almost always in the south. In north Vietnam, people often drink beer more in the summer, and rice wine in the winter, as it is less chilling. Many quán nhậu in richer parts of Vietnam are beginning to serve craft beer too.
More and more, craft beer has grown among locals. Before covid, the craft beer market was probably 80% foreigner driven, of which tourists were a significant part. When Vietnam closed their borders to tourists, the customer base for breweries dropped a lot. It caused companies to change their marketing strategy more towards the local clientele. In
A bigger homebrewing community
As a brewer, I have also noticed a much bigger grassroots local homebrew movement such as on TAY MƠ NẤU BIA. The English speaking version, Vietnam Home Brew Share has also seen growth and hosted lots of events. There are many hustlers who pick up brewing and use it to make some money by selling homebrew to their friends for around 20-30k VND per beer. Some people make good beer, but there is a lot of mediocre beer sold this way as well.
There are also plenty of classes in Vietnamese about brewing, tasting, and other aspects of beer culture. Craft beer in Vietnam is something with a ton of latent potential, and a large amount of local adoration and uniqueness that gives it a truly special place in the world.
In Vietnam, craft beer is somewhat new, and because of that some beers are not readily available everywhere. This leads to large regional differences in craft beer in Vietnam.
Craft Beer in Saigon
Saigon is arguably where the seeds of craft beer were planted in Vietnam. The earliest breweries, Pasteur Street and Fuzzy Logic both began in Saigon, though other breweries in central and northern Vietnam developed soon after.
In Saigon, you can find craft beer in most convenience stores, restaurants, some quán nhậu, and even sold on the street at popup bars. The fact is, one doesn’t need a guide to enjoying craft beer in Saigon. It is everywhere. Taprooms generally have good service and cleanliness, but most places will have cold beer and a beer glass.
Rooster Beers generally have great value in convenience stores especially, if you don’t want to spend too much for nice beer.
Steersman has a very fun atmosphere for a taproom. The clientele is mostly younger Vietnamese than most other craft beer places, as they are situated right in a big college area of Saigon.
Craft beer in South Vietnam
There are actually a lot of places for craft beer nearby Saigon. Any small city might have a place or two with craft beer. Some are good. Go in, have a beer, and if it’s not good then leave. Most places will have whatever local beer is popular in that area as well or a contract brewed house beer for a reasonable price. I am a firm believer of choosing my own adventure, so I like recommending people to take chances.
In bigger cities like Nha Trang or Phan Thiet, there will be more craft beer available, and any google maps search will get results easily. Dalat is the same, but something more special about there is Lang Biang Mountain Brewery. The owner, James brews beer on a system, using natural cooling from ambient temperatures. Dalat is a mountain town with great weather for ales in the summer time and great weather for lagers in the winter, and the beer is in some ways what beer used to be before technology. Seasonality is a cool thing, and as I do a seasonal business selling Hatch chile in Albuquerque, I think about it a lot. Seasonality is something that still affects beer, as people don’t want to drink heavier styles when it is hot. In the past, beer changed a lot with the seasons, and the brewery up there feels like a more traditional beer environment.
Craft beer in Central Vietnam
In central Vietnam, you have some famous locations like Hue, Danang, and Hoi An. Hue has some decent options such as Imperial Brewpub
Danang has a much more diverse craft beer scene, with 7 Bridges, along with others such as Section 30 and Ong Balo Quan. Heaven is a cool place if you want a more hippie banana pancake trail type of experience.
Hoi An has plenty of craft beer available too, especially in An Bang beach area. 7 Bridges has another location here, as well as Bungalow Beach Bar. Hoi An is also home to The Shamrock, the only place with Guinness stout on draft in Vietnam.
Craft beer in Hanoi
The north of Vietnam has its own unique subcultures with craft beer. Something nice about places here, is that they can be much more spacious than in Saigon. There are typically two major craft beer festivals in Hanoi per year, with one taking place at Turtle Lake and one at The 100 Beer Garden.
The Bottle shop is a great place to get a large variety of beers and also attend various events in the big backyard area. Standing Bar is a cool place right next to the lake. Pasteur Street has a nice taproom near the old quarter too. Bross is a great brewery if you like beers with lots of honey. They can be somewhat like a weak braggot.
Where to get craft beer in more rural Vietnam?
There are many, many places with craft beer in smaller and less famous cities too. Some places are well run, but many don’t have good standards for a craft beer bar. Many local homebrewers set up shops or sell online. You can find them by searching bia thủ công and then the nearby city on facebook. There are a decent amount of hustlers on Facebook just trying to make money, so sometimes you might get mediocre beer. A decent amount of places places make actually good beer. I would recommend you to keep an open mind when you see the word craft beer in rural Vietnam. That being said, ask about the local Ruou, or other locally brewed beverages too. Rural Vietnam has lots of small time moonshiners and brewers of various alcoholic beverages. There are some interesting flavors available in many agricultural areas especially. Vietnamese, men especially, like to party. There is a really rich drinking culture here, so make sure you try new things.
This post is a first draft, which I will update and improve a lot in the near future. If you have any ideas for improvements to this list, please send me a message to my facebook page.