With a history of over 100 years, beer in Vietnam has gradually become a familiar drink in the Vietnamese’s lifestyle. Combining unique food, beer contributes to the colorful picture of Vietnamese culture.
As banh mi, beer has been brought to Vietnam by the French since the late 19th century. Gradually, this kind of drink has been more and more popular in Vietnam which is even the largest beer consuming country in Southeast Asia. By the time, beer has been in every cozy reunion, family meal and exciting festival. To some Vietnamese, beer is considered a “friend” who listens to their happiness and sadness.
I - Beer in Vietnam - from habits to culture
Beer has officially been in Vietnam since 1875, thanks to a French, named Victor Larue who operated a small factory in Saigon. At that time, local people had still not really welcomed this Western drink, because they had been familiar with traditional rice liquor. Day by day, beer has been accepted more and more and it has become popular with generations of Vietnamese people. In 2019, the total production of beer reached the number of more than 5 billion liters, meanwhile, total consumption was more than 4 billion liter of beer. Beer consumption in Vietnam per capita is accounted for 44.1 liters,
Note: Drinking alcohol when driving cars or riding motorbikes is fined very heavily, up to VND 40,000,000 (~ $1725).
During the subsidy period (1976-1986), beer was a commodity for the middle class only. Later, the living standard of Vietnamese people has been improved, the beer industry has been renewed, disrupted original notions and become more and more popular.
Today, Vietnamese people can drink beer all year round, not only at meals but also at parties. The price of beer in Vietnam is incredibly cheap (only from $0.5 for a popular can of 330ml). That is one reason for promoting the drinking habit of Vietnamese.
Ta Hien Street and Bui Vien Street are two great pictures which can help visitors clearly feel the excitement of Vietnamese people with this yellow drink.
In 1960, Hanoi Brewery Factory launched a kind of draft beer which has a light alcohol content of about 2-4% and it has an aromatic fatty taste. It is the beer type which has created the culture of sidewalk drinking beer in Vietnam.
Another strange habit of Vietnamese people surprising many foreigners is drinking beer with ice. According to the survey conducted by Brands Vietnam, up to 79% survey participants regularly have this preference. Drinking beer with ice can enhance the freeze feeling while reducing the alcohol concentration, which makes beer easier to drink. Because of this habit, Vietnamese people tend to prefer beer in glass rather than beer in a bottle. Cool beer glasses with a gentle aroma and smooth white foam on top have captivated many beer lovers.
II - Vietnam Beer market
1 - Local brands
HABECO – Hanoi Beer
In 1890, Alfred Hommel established the first brewery in Hanoi to meet the demand for drinking beer of French soldiers. At that time, this Vietnamese beer brand was a beverage with lower alcohol concentration than the traditional rice liquor and it was also cheaper than other imported alcohols, which resulted in a large number of people being attracted by this beer. In 1975, the Hommel brewery was under control of Vietnamese state and then, HABECO was born. The yeast in Hanoi beer has linked many generations and classes in society and been the pride of Capital residence.
- Hanoi canned beer: capacity 330ml, alcohol content 4.6%, price VND 11,000/can
- Hanoi bottled beer: capacity 450ml, alcohol content 4.4%, price VND 15,000/bottle
SABECO – Saigon Beer
This is one of the most famous local Vietnamese beer brands which is so popular with Vietnamese consumers. The development of Saigon Beer – SABECO is quite the same as HABECO. In 1875, a French, named Victor Larue set up a small brewery but it took a long time to develop into a completed factory in 1910 which provided beer, soft drink and ice water. In 1993, this brewery was officially named as Saigon Beer Company. The unique taste of SABECO beer has shown the generosity of Saigon people.
- Saigon canned beer: capacity 330ml, alcohol content 4.6%, price VND 11,000/can
- Saigon bottled beer: capacity 330ml, alcohol content 4.9%, price VND 13,500/bottle
Beer 333 - most popular beer in Vietnam
Beer 333 is special in both its name and its origin. The first name of this brand was “33 Export” – “33” is the capacity centiliter (means 10ml), “Export” meant the transportation from France to Saigon. During the war period in the 20th century, this beverage was popular with American soldiers.
After the reunion period in 1985, the number “33” was changed into “333” to refer to luck. Still in 1985, the first canned beer was publicized on Vietnamese market. Beer 333 is a quintessential combination between Hallertau hops from Bavaria, Germany as well as French hundred-year beer recipes and the talents of Vietnamese brewers.
Beer 333 can: capacity 330ml, alcohol content 4.6%, price VND 11,000/can
Craft beer Vietnam
Source: Fábio Alves
Not until 2015 did craft beer have a brilliant transformation in the beer market, in which Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh have been the two leading cities in the trend of enjoying craft beer. It is undeniable that craft beer has brought a new breath to beer lovers in Vietnam. Vietnamese craft beer brewing technique is not only simply a copy from the US, but also a delicate combination between local ingredients such as Ha Giang buckwheat, southern cocoa or Phu Quoc black pepper. The special thing is that each brewer has their own personality which affects the color and the flavor of their craft beer. Craft Vietnam beer prices range from 60,000 to 200,000 VND for a glass of cold craft beer.
Some notable addresses where you can enjoy this unique drink in Hanoi and Saigon:
- Hanoi: Hoa Vien Brauhaus, Thom Brewery, Furbrew, Vietnamese Craft Beer
- Ho Chi Minh City – Saigon: Heart of Darkness Brewery, Malt Bar, Ong Cao, Rehab Station, Rogue Saigon.
Fresh Beer (Bia Hoi)
The phrase “Bia Hoi” can be comparable to “Pho” or “Bun cha” in the popularity of Vietnamese cuisine. This is the best beer in Vietnam that is so favored by local people. This kind of beer is usually unpasteurized; therefore, it still can keep a richer taste than bottled or canned beer. This rustic drink costs less than VND 10,000 per glass. The culture of drinking fresh beer is also very special. Only some plastic chairs and tables can help you enjoy a sip of beer comfortably and join stories with your friends.
2 - Imported brands
Meanwhile Vietnam is one of promising beer consumption markets, domestic brands are not able to meet the demand of the high-end segment, that is the reason why some foreign beer brands have imported into Vietnam and created diversity for the beer industry. Some global brands of beer in Vietnam have become very familiar with beer lovers.
Imported into Vietnam in 1991, Heineken has dramatically developed to become a trustworthy brand of Vietnamese people. Heineken beer is extracted from purified water, hops and malt, it has a slightly sour and sweet taste, mild aroma and bright color.
Heineken canned beer: capacity 330ml, alcohol content 5%, price VND 17,500/can
This is the oldest beer brand in Japan, it has a distinctive mark of the land of the rising sun. Sapporo beer has a light aroma of nuts, herbal hops and the scent of toast; it has successfully convinced even Vietnamese beers connoisseurs.
Sapporo canned beer: capacity 650ml, alcohol content 5.2%, price VND 60,000/can
Despite not having been imported into Vietnam for a long time, the beer originated from AB InBev Group has found its own position. With the flavor of oak wood, amber golden color and sweet aftertaste, Budweiser is an authentic drink sought after by beer connoisseurs.
Budweiser canned beer: capacity 330ml, alcohol content 5%, price VND 17,000/can.
III - Where to drink beer in Vietnam?
1 - In Hanoi
Hanoians have a great love for beers. Arriving in Hanoi, you can easily catch the image of a group drinking beer, laughing and talking happily. If you want to enjoy beer in Hanoi, you can take a trip to the following addresses:
The pubs in Ta Hien Street
Ta Hien Street is about 100m long, located in the center of the Old Quarter. It is famous for its close-knit stalls and is filled with the sound of glasses clinking and exciting laughter. The grilled squid smell together with the sour taste of fermented pork roll creates excitement and makes people fall in love with this hub. Along this narrow street, you can find it crazily fun and exciting with lots of types of beer in Vietnam, drinks and food with an unbelievable price from $0.5 per cup of fresh beer. This is definitely a paradise for beer lovers and the best place to visit at night in Hanoi.
Location: Ta Hien Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
Opening hours: 6pm - 0am
C – Brewmaster Craft Beer
The pub is located 0.2km from the city center, offering different types of bottled beer and craft beer. Comfortable space with excellent food helps Craft Beer in Vietnam to get 4.5/5 rating on TripAdvisor.
Location: No.45A Luong Ngoc Quyen, Hang Buom Ward, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi.
Opening hours: 11am - 0am
1900 Le Théatre
Being the heart of Ta Hien Street, 1900 Le Théatre bar has a contemporary and artistic space with live music performances. 1900 Le Théatre is really a popular bar in Hanoi to the youngsters and tourists. This is a nice place for having fun with music and beer in Vietnam.
Location: No 8B Ta Hien Street, Hang Buom Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
Opening hours: 8:30pm - 0am
2 - In Saigon
Saigon is the youngest and most exciting city in Vietnam. Saigon’s sunny weather creates the feeling of “craving” a drink of Saigonese.
Bui Vien Street
Bui Vien Street or Foreigner Street is extremely attractive when the light is on. Only about 500m long, but the street has dozens of eateries as well as pubs. Sipping some glasses of Vietnam local beer, enjoying street art performances and gossiping are definitely an unforgettable experience.
Location: No.50-82 at Bui Vien Street, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1
Opening hours: all day
Located on the front of busy Bui Vien Street, Ong Cao is a familiar place to drink fresh drinks for local people. Rooster Dark with a cool and fresh taste, easy to drink and refreshing feeling is the signature Vietnam local beer of this restaurant.
Location: No.240 Bui Vien Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening hours: 5pm - 0am
Qui Lounge space has a breath of contemporary Asian street art combining with European elegance. As a high-class bar, Qui Lounge offers a premium menu with unique wines, creative cocktails and unforgettable beer. Qui Lounge brings guests comfortable relaxation and is a place to enjoy the Saigon atmosphere at night.
Location: No.22 Le Thanh Ton Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
Opening hours: 5:30pm - 2am
In a nutshell, it can be seen that Vietnamese beers have a unique style and have become a custom in every party, a catalyst for conversations. When you come to Vietnam, you should definitely try this wonderful drink.