Four Craft Beers To Try In Ho Chi Minh City: Part One
This post is also available in: Vietnamese
The Vietnam craft beer scene is growing so quickly, consumers can easily get lost in all of the styles of beer that local brewers are bringing to their favorite bars. You can leap in and try a new brew—something we recommend. However, both Vietnam craft beer rookies and more experienced drinkers can always benefit with some guidance from the experts. In our first introduction to some of the best pours in Vietnam, Vietnam Craft Bia breaks down four craft beers with insights from their brewers and some tasting notes to guide you along the way.
Platinum’s East Sea
“Drinking craft beer in Vietnam should be fun,” Platinum reminds us as we have a sip of their East Sea, a 100% natural summer ale. The ale was specially designed with Vietnam’s tropical southern climate in mind. It’s refreshing with lots of fruit flavors. “You should be getting lots of hoppy aromas with a hint of grapefruit,” Platinum explain about the delicately straw colored brew, “and it should be a bit spicy with a herbal mouthfeel.” The East Sea has a long finish too, we note, with supremely summer elements like orange zest and even cut grass.
Platinum prides themselves on producing easy, drinkable beers—like the East Sea summer ale. In fact, the Platinum team is credited with kickstarting the industry here. They were founded in 2014 and their Platinum Pale Ale was the first to stand out “among a sea of beers that were all the same.” They were also quick to realize local tastes weren’t too familiar with bitter or cloudy brews and so they followed up their Pale Ale with a fuller-flavored but still refreshing Golden Ale. Between that brew and Platinum’s East Sea, they also delivered a Thumpin Pumpkin Ale, which was a collaboration with Rooster Beers, another local brewery, their Platinum Autumn, and their Rise of the Root hard ginger beer.
We finish off the hop-forward East Sea. “This also pairs perfectly with Vietnamese food,” Platinum adds before we move on to our next Vietnam craft beer.
The Beer: Platinum’s latest craft beer, the East Sea, pairs as well with seafood and Vietnamese cuisine as it does with a party on the beach in the heat.
The Specs: 4.8% ABV | IBU 33
The Taste: “You should be getting lots of hoppy aromas with a hint of grapefruit, and it should be a bit spicy with a herbal mouthfeel,” Platinum tells us.
Where To Try: BiaCraft, Gon & Nhe, and Great Hornbill Snackbar
East West’s Pale Ale
“Just take your time and enjoy the flavors and aromas of this craft beer,” the Saigon microbrewery East West Brewery shares with us as they serve us their Pale Ale. The craft beer is their flagship brew and they’re understandably proud of it. “It should taste very well-balanced. There’s a perfect mix of German malts and New Zealand and American hops in there,” they add. The light golden craft beer has 6% ABV making it a deceptively strong Vietnamese craft beer by a brewery that prides themselves on their authenticity and innovation.
And although they are a Saigon-based brewery, East West Brewery has always taken a global view of their brewing process, something we find with the East West Pale Ale. “We mix European and modern American ways of brewing, and we add in some approaches from the East too,” they explain.
We try the East West Pale Ale. It has a floral, citrus aroma and tasting it reveals honey, zesty, and even toasted flavors. “It should be really clean and flavorful,” East West adds as we finish off the beer.
The Beer: The East West Pale Ale, their flagship brew.
The Specs: 6% ABV | IBU 32
The Taste: “Really clean and flavorful” with a floral, citrus aroma, a light mouthfeel, and honey, zest, and toast flavors.
Where To Try: East West’s brewhouse in Saigon, Quince, Jake’s BBQ, and Circle-K convenience stores across the country.
Rooster Beer’s IPA
“You probably know us for our Blonde and Dark craft beers,” Rooster smile. “But we make such a nice IPA,” they add confidently. While some IPAs are known for their bitter tastes, Rooster’s IPA is deeply drinkable. “We like to think it’s the easiest drinking IPA in town,” Rooster nod.
The craft brewers began their mission to make classic craft beers in 2015. “We wanted to provide an attractive alternative to mass-market beers, without resorting to wacky flavors,” they add. Their approach has clearly been a hit—they went from a 150 liter fermentation system up to a 2000 liter system in only a year and a half. They use Yakima Chief hops and Belgian barley to create their “clean, crisp, and consistent product.” Here they bitter the brew with Mosaic hops, and combine it with Amarillo and Citra hops.
True enough, our pour of Rooster IPA goes down easily. “It was a challenge, but I think we were successful,” the brewers say proudly.
The Beer: The Rooster IPA, one of the most drinkable India Pale Ales.
The Specs: 7% ABV | IBU 60
The Taste: Very well-balanced, clean, and easy drinking.
Where To Try: BiaCraft, The Gangs, and Butcher Manzo
Pasteur Street’s Burnin’ Down The House Double IPA
This beer’s name is quite a mouthful. And fittingly, so is this drink itself. “It’s big, dank, juicy, and very hoppy,” Pasteur Street Brewing Company warns us as they serve us their Burnin’ Down The House.
The award-winning brewhouse—they won gold medals at the 2016 Asian Craft Beer was founded in 2014 upon a simple idea: “to combine American craft brewing techniques with fresh and exotic Vietnamese ingredients.” In four years, they’ve developed over 200 craft beers that can be found at their taprooms across the country, or in the 200 outlets nationwide as well as a few around Asia and in the US.
Pasteur Street’s Burnin’ Down The House Double IPA is typical of the Vietnam craft brewers. The hefty measure of hops is balanced and reveals citrus, stone fruit, and pine flavors. Inside there’s also locally-sourced raw rambutan honey which adds even more complexity to this craft beer. The magic of this beer is that it comes in at 8.7%, but you’d never guess that if Pasteur Street didn’t tell you. “One of our specialities is making really strong beers that don’t taste like they’re that strong,” Pasteur Street tell us as we finish off our last and strongest craft beer of the day.
The Beer: Pasteur Street’s Burnin’ Down The House is a combination of American techniques and local ingredients that’s typical of the brewing company.
The Specs: 8.7% ABV | IBU 100
The Taste: “Big, dank, juicy, and very hoppy.”
Where To Try: The Pasteur Street tap houses, Tap & Tap, and Urban Basement.