Microbreweries in Vietnam

Updated 2014-06-25 10:01

I came here for two years ago and started to discover the amazing potential of the beer culture in Vietnam. The bamboo here, over a night it can grow several centimetres, before you know it, the bamboo is everywhere. It’s the same with the microbrewery scene here.

The craft beer revolution in Vietnam

After one year I found 5-6 breweries in Hanoi and two in the coastal city Nha Trang. Today, one year later I am counting over 46 microbreweries in Vietnam. Most of them cant be found on internet, facebook or tripadvisor. Today I have visited at least 30 of them and I am amazed over the taste and price of the beers. You pay about 35 000 VND (1 USD) for a 30 cl glass of tasty beer with all the ingredients imported from Czech republic, Slovakia and Germany. Only 10 breweries make German styled beer, while the rest make Czech styled lagers which sometimes reaches the power and body of a IPA or stout. These breweries represent about 0.1 % of the beer consumption altogether.

What do people drink in Vietnam?

Vietnam is first of all known for its Bia Hoi, a light beer with less than 4 % alcohol and served directly at the street, cheap and convenient. Some people would like to call it the peoples beer. Bia Hoi costs 30-40 cent, 10 000 VND and is the most accessible beer, especially in northern Vietnam. Except that you have the bottled beer from the two rivals, Saigon beer and Hanoi beer and a handful of other locally produced light lager beers. This is what a majority of all consumers refer to when they explain their beer habits. Both foreign tourists and expats is following the same pattern. Most expats I meet in Vietnam frequently start to talk about bottled beers or bia hoi when I ask about their beer preferences.

Can 0.1 % be the first drops of a huge rain?

The lovely thing is that Vietnamese people are one of the craziest beer consumers in the world, each and one here drink about 30 litre beer every year and with 90 million people, that's a lot and the consumption has also been on a steady rise since more than a decade ago. First of all, the most people cant find the craft beer with the lack of marketing. Tourists get swapped of with the fascination over the cheap Bia Hoi which feels more like the genuine Vietnamese feeling because they know of no other options.

But the microbreweries are on the rise, with better marketing through social media and advertising, more consumers try and learn about beer and its ingredients. For the first times I haven know seen breweries starting to define themselves as microbreweries and are ready to answer questions about the malt, hops and other relevant facts for the beer enthusiast.

How many consumers are we talking about?

These 46 microbreweries or craft breweries are rising in popularity and hopefully we can see them expanding in both popularity and numbers. But even if they become popular as in other craft beer nations, they will still represent a small minority of all beer consumption.

I can compare with my home country, Sweden which has 9 million inhabitants and almost 100 craft breweries. The popularity for craft beers is overwhelming and many pubs do only serve craft beers on tap. Despite that popularity and its fans, the overall beer consumption in Sweden, about 90% chooses the regular bottled lagers. The 10 % of Swedens beer consumers are about the same numbers as 1 % of Vietnams beer consumers. So in other words, we have already tens of thousands in Vietnam that do consume special beers.

A bright future for craft beers is coming soon!

Many brewers I talk with are optimistic and work active with explaining more about the beers and reach out to new customers. The consumption is rising but at the same time when customers start to be picky with their beers, they do also care about service, food and the overall experience at a brewery. There are some areas that need to be improved also. But things are moving and that's the most important thing. In a couple of years you will see both better and also more breweries in Vietnam.

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