As we look for the people behind the steady modernization of Vietnamese brands, we met up with the team behind Pasteur Street Brewing Company.
As one of the pioneers of craft beer in Vietnam, Pasteur Street Brewing Company has not only established itself as one of the premiere brands in restaurants and hotels, it also has its own tap room in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, right on Pasteur Street – it’s namesake.
Pasteur Street Brewing Company, one the first craft beer options in Vietnam
We decided to sit down with Mischa Smith, Pasteur Street Brewing Company’s head of sales, to learn more about their craft beer strategy in Vietnam.
How do you integrate Vietnamese ingredients into the Pasteur Street beer?
For the highest quality we have to import hops, malt, and yeast. And then we add at least one local ingredient to all of our different beer styles to root the product right here in Vietnam.
Every single beer has at least one ingredient from Vietnam. Our IPA has Vietnamese jasmine for instance. Passion fruit, jackfruit, watermelon, durian wheat ale. Chocolate styled beer with Marou Chocolate was another fun local play on our beer.
Do you plan on opening more tap room locations? Or are you more focused on distribution? Anything outside of Ho Chi Minh City or Vietnam?
We’re focusing on distribution right now, domestic and international. We are beefing up our current facilities to keep up with the demand. As a small company expanding quickly we just have to be very careful about allocating resources and making the best decisions about where to expand. We’re currently sending our beer to Malaysia, Hong Kong, and the USA. Internationally, it’s important for us to find local distributors who are passionate about our product and care as much as we do about ensuring the quality and care of the beer.
Having the tap room controls the space and quality. At first, we tried to tackle distribution head on: going after five-star hotels first. But hotels didn’t want to work with a craft beer. A year later, after we establish quality and consistency, they came back to us. Moreover, regular customers that were local F&B owners came to our taproom. It was a showroom essentially. Two of our biggest buyers, Quan Ut Ut and The Boathouse, came to us through the taproom. We bring our new clients to our tap room so they could see how many people enjoy the beer. Winning awards and getting great press has helped for sure, but at the end of the day we let the beer speak for itself.
How do you market the product differently overseas?
There are a few identity changes we make when we send the product overseas. Firstly, we market it as a Vietnamese craft beer. When we go international, we change the logo title from Saigon to Vietnam.
What’s your ratio of foreign to local customers?
When we first opened it was pretty much all foreigners. Craft beer was practically unheard of in Vietnam. We’re happy to report that with each passing month we are getting more and more local people trying and enjoying the craft beer experience. The response has been great, especially to the locally flavoured beers like Passion Fruit, Chocolate Stout, and a lot of the many, many different styles of beers we have. These days at the tap room you’re just as likely to see a house full of Vietnamese people.
What was the process like for getting approved to make, sell, and distribute beer in Vietnam?
We used to always tell people that if they were really passionate about paperwork, if they really, really loved it, then they should try to set up a brewery in Vietnam.
It is a long and painstaking process to get all of the correct certifications and permits. Luckily we have a team who can really focus on that part of the process and leave our brewers to be able to focus on making the best beer that they can. Distribution has been its own beast as well but taking care of it ourselves all the way has forced us to think on our feet and adapt quickly.
Can you tell us one short, memorable story about doing business in Vietnam?
We started working with The Hill Station when they opened their first outlet in Hanoi but at the time they already had places in Hoi An and Sapa. So when things went well in Hanoi we went to Hoi An. Then when things went well there they were pushing us to get the beers on up in Sapa. We had our doubts and reservations but they were able to convince us to give it a try. When I got up there for the launch event one of the guys there, a local hotel owner, said he wanted to discuss getting our beer up there too as he’d been trying unsuccessfully to get Tiger Draft up for months. So basically, in Sapa, if you want draft beer you can have either bia hoi or Pasteur Street Jasmine IPA! That really blew my mind.
What are some interesting things about Pasteur Street Brewing Company that people don’t know about?
- As far as I know we are the first brewery to produce and sell a Durian beer.
- Our 3 gold medals in Singapore at the 2016 Asian Beer Medals were the most golds by any brewery in attendance that year.
- Our gold medal win at this year’s World Beer Cup for our Chocolate Stout was the first medal Vietnam has ever won at this prestigious competition.