A quick search on the internet will yield fascinating results: the craft beer scene in Ho Chi Minh City is booming in a previously unimaginable way.
Vietnam is en route to becoming the champion of alcohol consumption in Asia, defeated only by the Koreans based on an annual per capita alcohol consumption paper that was published by the Who Health Organisation in 2017. In Vietnam, when it comes to alcohol, beer is king—some people even describe beer as an alternative to soft drinks. The massive popularity of commercial beer in Vietnam has also enabled semi-commercial and non-commercial artisanal brews, otherwise known as craft beer, to flourish.
Image source: Malt Saigon - by Mervin Lee
Along with the chugging of beer in local beer halls and the downing of rice spirits, people who live in Vietnam are increasingly turning towards the more complex flavours of beer made in craft breweries all over Vietnam. Craft beer is best enjoyed fresh out of the keg. Our extensive list focuses on the best craft breweries in Saigon so that you can enjoy fresh off-the-tap craft beers without having to travel far from home.
This list includes both craft breweries with their very own tap rooms as well as brewers who distribute their beers to venues.
One of the Saigon’s greatest craft beer pioneers, Pasteur Street Brewing Company’s brews have achieved shining accolades abroad. The Cyclo Imperial Chocolate Stout (13% ABV, 55 IBU) made using award-winning MAROU cacao pods achieved the gold award at the World Beer Cup in 2016. Paster Street currently has four tap rooms in Ho Chi Minh City and one tap room in Hanoi and distributes its beers to approximately 150 locations in Vietnam—a testimony to their amazing taste.
Image source: facebook.com/PasteurStreetBrewing
Other must-try beers: Jasmine IPA (6.5% ABV, 50 IBU), Passion Fruit Wheat Ale (4% ABV, 15 IBU)
If drinking a glass of rich, smooth craft beer brewed on location is your thing, East West Brewing Company is an excellent choice. It’s been a few years since it’s inauguration and East West is already distributing its beers to more than 300 venues. The creative brewery also schedules an interesting seasonal brew on a monthly basis. A Christmas Tripel is usually available for the festive season.
Image source: East West Brewing Company
Must try beers: East West Pale Ale (6% ABV, 32 IBU), Summer Hefeweizen (5.9% ABV, 20 IBU)
Run by a self-described “Dark Army” of brewers, Heart of Darkness Craft Brewery has created more than 150 distinct beers since their inauguration in late 2016. In fact, you’ll find their beers well beyond the shores of Vietnam in cities such as Singapore, Tokyo and Taipei. The brewery also hosts special events on a regular basis—trivia night, comedy night…you name it. Starting from 8th November 2018, the brewery will also be offering unique and never-released brews every Thursday for their ‘Fresh Tapped Thursdays’ specials, a major reason to visit again and again!
Image source: facebook.com/heartofdarknessbrewery
Must try beers: The Kurt’s Insane IPA (7.1 ABV, 102 IBU) is one of the most intense and hoppiest beers in town. Other favourites like the lighter Sacred Fire Golden Ale (4.5% ABV, 28 IBU), which is described by the Dark Army as a “gateway to craft beer” and their Excited Magpie Irish Stout (4.2% ABV, 34 IBU) are a great place to start your craft beer journey.
Take your first step into Belgo and you’ll be greeted by three replicas of Manneken Pis, Brussels’ infamous urinating little boy. Gert, the resident brewmaster of Belgo, has been brewing with friends in Belgium since the age of 16. His love for beer’s magic component, yeast, has spurred him to create some of the most well-balanced beers in Saigon. The Belgo Blond (5.9% ABV, 19 IBU) is a hit amongst the ladies; it’s secret lies in two different kinds of malt, two varieties of hops and a top-secret herb!
Image source: Belgo - Belgian Craft Beer Brewery
Must try beers: What our team truly loves at Belgo is the Belgo Black (6.9% ABV, 21 IBU), which shouts chocolate and a lingering bittersweet citrus flavour. The Belgo Royale (7.6% ABV, 24 IBU) with notes of pineapple, peach and banana is also deceivingly easy on the palate. Most of Belgo’s beers are very low on IBU, great for people who love alcohol but can’t stand the bitter!
Winking seal needs little introduction. Their adorable mascot and emblem is literally a seal, one eye closed. Most, if not all, beers at Winking Seal Beer Company are irresistibly smooth and stunningly creative. The Năm Năm Năm Cream Ale (5% ABV, 16.3 IBU) is light, floral with hints of fruit…and the low alcohol content makes it great session beer in our opinion. If you’re looking for something even fruitier, we bet you’ll love the Dragon Fruit Pale Ale (4.6 ABV 11 IBU) that’s made with local red-fleshed dragon fruit. The crisp and refreshing tropical fruit aftertaste makes it irresistible.
Image source: facebook.com/winkingseal
Must try beer: The One Eye Imperial IPA (10.1 ABV, 101 IBU) is possibly one of the most powerful beers found in Ho Chi Minh City. Somewhat syrupy and dangerously drinkable and balanced, don’t over-indulge because this stuff packs a punch.
Founded in 2015 by a group of passionate beer loving friends, Rooster Beers started as a small operation in the outskirts of Can Gio District and has grown to become a favourite of both expats and locals. Rooster Beers tastes great taste because they source the finest American hops and top-grade barley from Belgium malters. Their tap room location in District 1 makes it somewhat too convenient for late night indulgence: smack in the middle of the infamous Pham Ngu Lao backpacker street.
Image source: facebook.com/roosterbeersvietnam
Must Try Beers: Rooster Beers offers 6 standards on tap: Blonde (5.5% ABV, 18 IBU), Pale (6.0% ABV, 40 IBU), Dark (5.5% ABV, 26 IBU), Wit (4.5% ABV, 10 IBU), IPA (7% ABV, 60 IBU) and Pilsner (5.5% ABV, 18 IBU). We’re certain that they’ve got pretty much every popular style covered!
Biacraft is unique in a magnanimous manner. They brew their own beer yet also distribute. Biacraft has one of Vietnam’s largest selection of craft beers and ciders. We counted almost 20 different breweries and more than 50 taps. Beyond local brewers, top American brewers such as Stone Brewing and Melvin Brewing are also well represented here. The extensive food menu, which sports hard-to-find items such as SPAM fries and Viennese schnitzel is also interesting.
Image source: drinkmagazine.asia
Must try beers: Biacraft’s own brews beat everyone else on the list for having the darndest names: The ‘F*cked if I know’ Double IPA (8.8% ABV, 81 IBU) is a potentially deadly combination of fruity flavours and relatively high alcohol content. Fancy something lighter? The ‘Let’s get naked’ Wildberry Wheat Ale (4% ABV, 16 IBU) seems apt.
Led by brewmaster Cuong Nguyen who has experience with brewing for numerous big commercial brands such as Carlsberg and Budweiser, C-Brewmaster’s aim is constant R&D and innovation to create truly Vietnamese flavours with local ingredients such as gooseberry and lemongrass while also utilizing trusted foreign ingredients including American hops and German malt.
Image source: facebook.com/CBrewmaster
Must try beers: C-Brewmaster’s Vietnamese Imperial Stout (9% ABV, 40 IBU) is a delicious and ultra-strong Dark Ale made with Vietnamese coffee and honey, something we’d prefer sipping with good company instead of binging. The Pho Essence Ale (5.5% ABV, 15 IBU) is an amber pale ale made with Pho spices including ginger, cinnamon and anise. We believe trying it in person will make for a better experience than simply reading about it!
CRAFT BREWERIES IN SAIGON THAT DISTRIBUTE TO BARS
Lac Brewing Co.
The founder of LAC Brewing Co., Lucas Jans, spent 12 years drinking nothing but the freshest IPAs from Oregon before moving to Vietnam. As a result, the brewery has managed to create some of the most unique beers in town. LAC Brewing’s Mango IPA (5.8% ABV, 39 IBU) is made with fresh local mangoes from sunny Phan Thiet making it crisp, citrusy and perfect for the local weather. The Devil’s Lake IPA (6.5% ABV, 55 IBU) is an Oregon-style IPA bursting with tropical fruit flavours and hops that shine above the subdued malts. Their Lava Red (6.6% ABV, 41 IBU) is another impressive IPA with American red-ale genes—piney with a citrusy finish.
Image source: facebook.com/lacbrewing
We’ve also included the address of their new tap room slated to open in December this year.
Established by Belfast-born Michael Comerton with 20-years of beer industry experience, Platinum Beer is now one of Saigon’s most accessible craft beer brands. Its beers appeal to a wide range of consumers and are found in many food and beverage venues in Saigon. Platinum’s Golden Ale (4.6% ABV, 18 IBU) is made with lightly-toasted wheat and malted barley, resulting in an extremely refreshing taste, low bitterness and hints of caramel and tangerine. Their East Sea Summer Ale (4.6% ABV, 26 IBU) is also a favourite—refreshing herbal mouthfeel and citrus zest, perfect with seafood and grilled meats!
Image source: facebook.com/PlatinumBia
We’ve also included the address of their new tap room that will be opening shortly.
Started by a group of advertorial experts who are immensely passionate about beer, Tê Tê Craft beer has become one of the most recognisable local brands in Ho Chi Minh City. Tê Tê currently offers 3 distinct beers: their signature Belgian-style White Ale (5.5% ABV, 19 IBU), a citrusy Electric IPA (5.8% ABV, 45 IBU) and a recently introduced Irish-inspired Mellow Red (5.2% ABV, 25 IBU) that is both smooth and earthy with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, something that’s swiftly becoming the talk of the town.
This nano-sized brewery has been concocting delicious beers since 2017 and is featured on the guest taps of many craft beer venues in Saigon. They are also a mainstay at Saigon Outcast’s Craft Beer festival that is organized several times every year. Mad Dragon’s Citra Majak American Pale Ale (5.8% ABV, 23 IBU) sports great balance of malt while delivering both citrus and floral aroma notes thanks to the addition of Citra hops, one of the most sought after in the market and known for its intense fragrance and flavour. The American Wheat Beer (7.1% ABV, 17 IBU) is a Belgian Abbey-inspired (monastic beer) American Wheat Ale brewed with honey malts, coriander and sweet orange peel making it irresistible, though tread lightly because it packs a punch!
One of the first craft breweries in Saigon, Fuzzy Logic was launched in 2012 by two American expats who recognized the lack of non-commercial beer choices in Ho Chi Minh City. Fuzzy Logic currently brews a total of five different beers and plans to expand to 12 styles in the near future. The Fuzzy Logic Pale Ale (5.4% ABV, 32 IBU) is a vibrant and hoppy American Pale Ale (APA) that combines hints of grapefruit with toasty malt flavours. The Celestial Blonde (4.7% ABV, 25 IBU) is also a hit among craft beer fans, refreshing, fragrant and ridiculously sessionable. For something really special, try their Hibiscus IPA (6.8% ABV, 55 IBU) that is brewed using fresh Hibiscus flowers, the stunning red hue is completely natural!
These guys brew for an admirable cause. A percentage of Mekong Brewing Co’s profits goes to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for the conservation of endangered Asian elephants and rhinos. All fruits and spices used to make their signature beers are grown locally, a match made in heaven when paired with international hops and fresh grains. The Blue Elephant IPA (7.1% ABV, 70 IBU) is malty and hoppy with an amazingly dry finish, something that is considered truly American. The Albino Rhino Double IPA (9% ABV, 82 IBU) also pays tribute to beautiful land mammals while satisfying even the pickiest of IPA connoisseurs. Ultra-hoppy with hints of pine and citrus that actively permeate your olfactory system, this tough gun finishes dry just like its gentle trunked brother.
Mekong Brewing Co. also plans to showcase a limited edition Saison and Christmas Ale for Saigon Outcast’s Beerfest on 8th December 2018. Stay tuned!
This brewery only produces one style of beer but they sure know how to do it well. The Dong Son Golden Ale (4.6% ABV, 27 IBU) is the brainchild of its founder Dzung Phan, who decided that it was apt to combine traditional brewing methods with both German and Australian malts. Cascade hops add a tropical fruit scent to Dong Son’s Golden Ale while the pleasant aroma of Columbus hops is reminiscent of pine, something we consider warm and homely. A beer that appeals to both locals and foreigners and engineered to be a perfect pairing for Vietnamese food.