When I first visited Vietnam 13 years ago the beer options were spectacularly limited. Bia Hanoi and Bia Saigon were the main players and, while they were different, held tremendous similarities. They were relatively light beers, unassuming and not particularly bold in flavor. They’re well suited to the hot weather but very lacking in character that would make them a memorable pour. My, how times have changed.
Stepping up to the bar at Imperial Craft Bia in Hue, the new craft beer scene is on full display. A couple dozen empty bottles sit on the bar for customers to peruse. Four taps hold a range of additional brews or, on the weekend I visited, a “tap takeover” from one of the breweries, showcasing the range of options. And whoa is there a range.
Looking for an English porter or a Belgian amber? No problem at all. IPAs, hefeweizens, and pilsners are readily available, too. Brewers are also experimenting with more unique local flavors, like a dragonfruit Goss or passion fruit wheat. There’s even an Pho-inspired beer (and it was surprisingly inoffensive. The options are impressive.
And not just from one or two breweries. There are plenty to choose from. Heart of Darkness, Pasteur Street, Furbrew, Seven Bridges and Fuzzy Logic Brewing are just a few of them. Fortunately Shaun behind the bar knows all of them well and is happy to talk beer with guests.
With more than a decade in Vietnam now, by way of California and Lithuania, he spent time guiding tourists in Da Nang and then selling for one of the breweries before taking over an old restaurant in a residential area and converting it to sell the beer he loves.
He’s also not alone, even in the small town of Hue. The Chàm Craft Beer and Coffee is closer to the tourist district and has a similar selection of beer, though all nothing on tap. It carries an upscale feel, including air conditioning, though also not nearly as engaged a staff. And they take credit cards, which is helpful when the beer prices start to creep up.
In a country where cheap beer is part of the tourist fabric these beers are in a different category. Prices for the craft beers run near 100,000 VND (~$4 USD). A more typical brew will run closer to 25k VND and imports seem to top out around 80k. But selling single beers for the same price as a bucket of cold cans is not an easy task.
Fortunately it appears that the breweries and bars are making progress. Turns out delivering a quality product can attract customers.
(And, yes, the craft beer scene is not spectacularly new. But it is relatively young and this was my first change to explore it more closely.)
More from my Vietnam Adventures
- Six new (to me) airlines booked; more to come!
- Tapping in to Vietnam’s craft beer scene
- DLD 262: Hello from Hanoi!
- Hanoi’s Train Street is awesome and is being shut down
- DLD 263: A Hong Kong connection
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