Craft Beer & A Family Holiday In Vietnam
Note: this article story is a follow up to a previous story, 6 Ways I Want To “Craft-Jack” My Family Holiday In V ietnam.
Back in Australia, fresh from a few weeks in Vietnam! If you have not been to Vietnam, I can highly recommend a trip over there.
If you go…be prepared for the heat, be prepared for a million mopeds and motorbikes to surround your every move on the roads, go with an open mind on what you think Vietnamese food is, and be prepared to come away feeling grateful for the life you live in your home country. The Vietnamese people make the most of what they have, but there are a lot of people doing it pretty tough over there.
An open mind on food
Before I get into the craft beer stuff his week, let me elaborate on what I mean as far as having an open mind on the food in the region, and let me clarify further that I did not necessarily have such an open mind.
One of our first nights in Saigon, we went to what we thought was a pretty family friendly restaurant, as we needed to cater for our two kids who are less adventurous with food than my wife and I. It looked like it was gong to be pretty tame on the food front, the huge Heineken sign out the front and the waitresses dressed in a uniform from a German beer brand made us feel comfortable that we would be okay. You see, we were pretty keen to eat what we thought was the traditional Vietnamese food, but later realised that what we thought was Vietnamese food was a pretty watered down and westernised version.
So when my wife picked up the menu and saw pictures of dishes than included one made with horse, another with chicken feet, and then one that read cat tails…our animal loving family was a little turned off. We left (after I finished my beer) and grabbed something Western that night, later Googling some tips on exactly what Vietnamese food was!
The next day, we were shocked a little more as we told our tour guide of our experience the night before. She was like “Oh yeah, we eat anything over here, we don’t waste a thing!”. She then began to elaborate on a few things, but one thing stuck with us all as an ongoing joke for the rest of the trip…Goats Penis. Yeah, you read it correctly, Goats Penis! She told us that the appendage of the common goat is a delicacy in Vietnam…in fact, she told us that they are actually shipped from Australia, of all places.
Apparently the “goods” are shipped in containers marked “Not For Human Consumption”, and these labels are simply removed upon arrival and the “GP’s” are then sold in the high end restaurants around town for top dollar…go figure!
For the rest of the trip, when the kids asked me what we were having for dinner that night, I would reply “Goats Penis”. Yep, I am that immature, and yep it never got old for me…for the entire trip!
I am happy to say that when we got to Hoi An we were treated to food of all kinds…local Vietnamese dishes, through to more Western friendly versions of the local cuisine, as well as Chicken Parmys’, Mexican, Italian and everything else you can think of.
But I digress…this is a beer blog, not a written version of an Anthony Bourdain travel cooking show. Let’s talk about beer!
Firstly, how did I go with “Craft Jacking” the holiday, let’s review the list of what I wanted to achieve.
Lunch At Pasteur St Brewing
Pasteur St Brewing was a sensational little bar, but not that easy to find. It was down a side alley filled with little old ladies, one floor up (past some dodgy looking wiring), but when I got there and the air-conditioning hit me, I was in heaven!
You see, it was a 35 degree day with 90% humidity and where I come from, it is like jumping out of a refrigerator and straight into a fire. We had been walking around the city all morning and in need of a some liquid refreshment in the cool indoors. I was that hot that I was tempted to nude up and lay on the cold floor to cool down, but my wife told me that nobody needed to see that, and so I gave it a second thought and decided just to take a seat and order a beer!
The bar was small, but very cool, littered with a few people from all over the world who were tapping away on Macbooks, chatting to each other, and most of all drinking great beer! The food on offer was a little less substantial that what the family was looking for after a big morning working up a hunger, so we just had a couple of beers.
I had the Jasmine IPA, which I had a lot more of during my trip thanks to my takeaway growler that I filled up wherever I could find it on tap! A great looking golden colour with a light and lacey head that just hit your nose with some serious citrus aroma, followed by a pleasant fruitiness and robust bitterness…like heaven in a glass!
I also tried the Passionfruit Wheat Ale, which was also great, but the Jasmine IPA was a stand out!
I left one of my new business cards for the beer blog on the pin board as I left, hoping someone would give me a shout out and want to talk beer…and it happened. I got a very nice email from Mischa Smith, Brand Ambassador for PSB, saying that he had taken my card down! He was very nice about it, telling me that the board is for places that serve PSB beer only, and that my card was far more intersting than the last one he took down for a “Stop Smoking By Hypnosis” business. We emailed back and forth a few times and he hit me up with some spots to be able to fund PSB on tap, which woulde very handy once I bought myself the refillable growler!
Schedule in some me time at Bia Craft
Now, I thought that Pasteur St was small, but BiaCraft took the cake…it was not a whole lot bigger than my lounge room! Not that the size of the place was a problem, if anything, it made it feel homely and inviting, and my family and I took our seats at the communal dining table in the the middle with a bunch of people from all over the world…I picked up accents from England, America, France and I am pretty sure there was one from the Ukraine!
The best thing about the place was the fact that the only alcohol they served was beer! So for my wife, who is a wine drinker, it meant she had to bite the bullet and drink a beer! To her credit, she actually drank two schooners of the BiaCraft Blonde Ale…and thoroughly enjoyed them! Maybe she will become a beer drinker, yet!
I thoroughly enjoyed the short time that we stayed at BiaCraft and worked my way their menu of local craft beers, including Fuzzy Logic, Paster St Brewing, LACS, Te Te, Platinum, and their own in house brews. Stand outs for me were the LACS Session Pale, Fuzzy Logic Pale Ale and the Bia Craft Blonde Ale.
I mentioned above that we were only at the bar for a short time, this was due to a lack of communication between wifey and I. You see, I picked BiaCraft as our pre-diner drink destination, as I was absolutely busting to check the place out, and she picked the restaurant for dinner. However, we got our wires crossed…she thought BiaCaft was in down town Saigon, District 1, where we had been dining most nights…not across town in District 2! Because of this, and having some pesky hungry kids we had to feed, we had to cut the pre dinner drinks short and get some food into them. Remember the time before kids when you could eat whenever you wanted, or not at all if that was took your fancy that night!
Anyway, it was a great venue and we enjoyed our time there. I even got to grab a few bottled takeaways from the bar, some beers from NZ brewery, Bach Brewing and a Brown Ale form Left Coast Brewing that sadlyt turned out to be out of date, resulting in a glass full of fizz!
Try a Bia Hoi
Checked out BiaHoi in HoAn…yeah, it was roughly 30c a glass, and yeah that’s about all you would pay for it!
Explore Micro Brewery Central in Hanoi
My plan to explore the breweries and send the family shopping didn’t really work.
However, thanks to the aforementioned email from Mischa, I was able to find my way to a couple of places in Hanoi that offered to fill my growler from Pasteur St Brewing with another litre of the sensational Jasmine IPA. We were staying in the West Lake District that seemed to have a large ex-pat population, therefore there were plenty of quality eateries that also served up some PSB on tap! It was so nice of them to help me out that I couldn’t help but take them up on their offer of a cold, fresh litre of craft beer!
A great burger from Chops and a steak at Republic, both followed by a takeaway growler of Jasmine IPA left me a happy Beer Healer!
Find my favourite Vietnamese dark beer
Unfortunately I was not able to find a locally brewed dark ale to enjoy. Bia Craft didn’t have the Phat Rooster Gallo Negro on tap the night I was there, so I missed out. There wasn’t anything of note amongst the local larger brewers to try, so I will have to say I failed in this area!
BONUS: Do some food pairings with local beers
Do French Fries and BiaCraft Blonde Ale, or a lamb burger and PSB Jasmine IPA at Chops count for this? If so, then I absolutely nailed it…sort of.
Unfortunately, the craft beer scene and the home grown local food scene don’t really cross paths that much. From my experience, the local eateries (like the one in Hoi An where we were eating in a families backyard) seemed to serve the same local and imported beers like Bia Saigon, Bia Hanoi, Tiger, Budweiser, and Heineken…the craft beers were in more upmarket venues that served more westernised foods.
I did do one more beer and food pairing with a local craft beer…the Fuzzy Logic Pale Ale and a James Brown Burger at Soul Burger…that counts right? We sat on the first floor balcony, chatting to a few Kiwi’s, directly above the locals as they set up the Ben Than Night Market stalls. Great food, great beer, and a great view of the locals bringing in all of their stall infrastructure and products by way of dragging things behind their mopeds. I kid you not when I say a saw a guy on his moped, driving along with his feet off the bike, as they were dragging along two 3×3 marquee frames! Insane!
While I am on the topic of imported beers…man, despite being a relative newcomer to the beer scene in Vietnam, Heineken is bloody smashing it. You cannot go anywhere without seeing a Heineken sign, or beer bottle in the fridge…it is everywhere…even at the Independence Palace in Saigon!
Not sure if Heineken is always plastered around the place as much as when we were over there, there was actually a promotion on during our trip where Dutch soccer legend Ruud Gullit and former Barcelona/Spanish national defender Carles Puyol brought the UEFA Champions League trophy to Vietnam. On a side note, Carles was on our plane into Dha Nang and kindly posed for this photo with my son…to say he was excited is an under statement!
So…how do you think I went in trying to “Craft-Jack” my family holiday? Overall, we had a fantastic trip to Vietnam and I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who might be interested…families, war buffs, beach lovers, backpackers, foodies, history buffs and lovers of architecture…it has a bit of everything for everyone!
I hope you are enjoying my 60 Second Beer Reviews, Bridge Road Brewing Little Bling IPA was my last one, and you can see a new one from Six String Brewing this Wednesday. Subscribe to my You Tube channel if you are keen for more!