VietnamFood & DrinksA Guide to Vietnamese Beers

A Guide to Vietnamese Beers

Beer is everyone’s favorite drink to cool down their thirst on hot summer days, especially for people living in tropical countries. In Vietnam, beers are pretty cheap, and the Vietnamese beer culture welcomes any love for beer; from simple lagers to craft beers in any range of prices and services. Discover your favorite types of beer and where to drink with our guide to Vietnamese beers.

Vietnamese Beer Culture

When Beers First Came to Vietnam

Beer production was brought to Vietnam by the French at the end of the 19th century. The brewing process at that time was done entirely manually without any machines. This was also the beginning of two big domestic Vietnamese beer brands: Habeco (Hanoi Beer) and Sabeco (Saigon Beer). In 1970, the government’s adaptation of the new economic policy changed many industries and welcomed many foreign tourists to Vietnam. One of the impacts of this change was the development of the Vietnamese beer industry, thus creating job opportunities in other sectors like agriculture, engineering, and packaging. Many joint ventures were established during this period, and beer production systems were upgraded with new tools and equipment.

Beer Consumptions in Vietnam

In 2015, about 469 breweries in Vietnam produced 1,021 million liters of beer annually. 2016 reported that Vietnam had made 3.8 billion liters of beer and that the average beer consumption by Vietnamese was 42 liters per person. Vietnam is now listed in China and Japan’s top 3 beer consumption.

When Do Vietnamese Drink Beers

bia hoi vietnamese beers

Beer is a refreshing drink for the hot summer days, but that is not the only reason why many people in Vietnam enjoy drinking beer. Drinking beer has become more or less a cultural trait and a routine for many Vietnamese. In Vietnam, the expected courtesy is to invite each other for a beer when doing business, attending events, celebrating, or having friend reunions. People, mostly men, usually go for a drink with their clients and friends after work. Therefore, you will be more likely to witness the streets lined up with plastic chairs and tables on the sidewalks and packed with people from different walks of life. Read more about the Drinking Culture in Vietnam.

How Vietnamese Drink Their Beers

Vietnamese usually drink beer poured into a mug with ice cubes rather than refrigerated beers straight from bottles or cans. When drinking with the locals, sometimes they say “yo” – which means “cheers” in English, and they may try to pour beer into your mug as well, as an act of hospitality or merely to test your capacity. If you find this unfamiliar, you can order your refrigerated beer.

snacks snails vietnamese beers
Sea snails on a plate

The unusual thing about drinking Vietnamese beers is that it is like a feast with delicious food. The typical foods are shells and snails (grilled, steamed, stir-fried), the infamous balut (fertilized duck embryos), salted fish, fried rice, deep-fried salted chicken feet, fried frogs with fish sauce, fermented raw sausage (sometimes grilled) wrapped in freshly green herbs and dipped in fish or chili sauce. The snacks for their beers also vary, such as peanuts (boiled, steamed, grilled), beef jerky, grilled dried squid, Vietnam rice crackers, fried tofu, fried okra, French fries, and cheese sticks. The food and snacks also vary in different regions of Vietnam.

bbq snacks vietnamese beers
BBQ goes hand in hand with some chilled bottles of beer

Types of Vietnamese Beer

Vietnamese draft beer (bia hoi)

Bia hoi” is a beer that is brewed in a short period (about 7-10 days), and pasteurized. Thus, its shelf-life is shorter, its ABV and its sugar content are lower than other beers.

bia hoi 2 vietnamese beers
Bia hoi is a signature of Hanoi

Bia hoi is considered one of the most authentic Vietnamese beers. No preservatives are put in during fermentation and the brewing process to preserve its fresh taste. After fermentation, the beer is extracted into kegs and sterilized with compressed air, hot water (80 degrees Celsius), sodium hydroxide solution (2-3%), and hot steam (135 degrees Celsius), then cooled down with carbon dioxide gas. This type of beer is most common in the North of Vietnam and is the cheapest, about VND 10,000/mug. You can also see draft beer made in brewpubs with mini brewery equipment, but this may be a little more expensive than those beer sold in sidewalk restaurants.

Bottled/Canned Beer

The number of hops in bottled/canned beer is usually 30% more than that in “bia hoi.” You would see more canned beer than bottled beer in Vietnam. The price is VND 15,000+ for a beer can and VND 20,000+ for a beer bottle.

saigon special beer vietnamese beers
Almost every city/province in Vietnam has a beer named after the place

Some of the familiar local brands of Vietnamese beers are Saigon Red, Saigon Special, Hanoi Beer, 333, Huda, and Su Tu Trang (White Lion). Many people also prefer the taste of imported or international brands like Heineken, Tiger, Biere Larue, Budweiser, and Sapporo.

bottled beers 2 vietnamese beers
Imported beers are also widely loved in Vietnam

Craft Beers

Some craft beer brands in Ho Chi Minh City, like Platinum, Pasteur Street Brewing, East West Brewing, Winking Seal, Heart of Darkness, and Fuzzy Logic, have become more familiar to Vietnamese consumers. These breweries have brought Vietnamese consumers a new taste of Indian and German beers and over 70 flavors of local fruits, cocoa beans, coffee beans, passion fruit, and durian.

bottled beers 2 vietnamese beers
Craft beer is more popular in Western-style restaurants

Because of the sophistication of the brewing process and ingredients, you may have to pay VND 100,000 for a pint of craft beer.

Where to Drink Vietnamese Beers

Streets

While in other countries, people go to pubs or bars for a drink. In Vietnam, people go to “quan bia” or “quan nhau” for beer. The differences are that these places also serve food that goes with beers and don’t have counters in their stores. If there are streets for electronics, flowers, for clothes, in Vietnam, there are also streets packed with beer restaurants.

In Ho Chi Minh City, you can find many “sidewalk” restaurants – tables are set outdoors, on the sidewalks like those on Bui Vien Street, Truong Sa Street, and Hoang Sa Street. In Hanoi, many beer restaurants are in the backpackers’ streets, like Ta Hien and the Old Quarter. You can go to these places and have a pint of “bia hoi” or enjoy the delicious food. Seafood or any other food restaurants also serve canned or bottled beer, but it would usually cost you more.

Bars and Pubs

With the integration of Western culture, many young people in Vietnam like to go to more high-class places for beers, like sports bars and trendy sky bars. Their price, of course, is also higher than that of small pop-up restaurants on the sidewalk. 

Things You Need to Know When Drinking Vietnamese Beers

Words and phrases you may want to know to order and have a drink like a local:

  • Nhau – Drink
  • Bia hoi – Draft beer
  • Moi – Food, snack goes with beer
  • Vo – Cheers
  • Chai – Bottle
  • Lon – Can
  • Pha moi – this phrase is used to complain when you don’t drink but keep eating the food (but who could blame you, the food is delicious).
  • Mot tram phan tram – bottoms up, literally means 100 percent.

Learn more Vietnamese with our guide, Useful Phrases in Vietnamese.

Alcohol Limit in Vietnam

If you travel in Vietnam with a private vehicle like a motorbike or a car, you need to know the alcohol limit in Vietnam. It is essential to have fun and be responsible at the same time. Drinking and driving is a problem everywhere.

For motorcycle riders:

You could receive a fine of VND 2,000,000 – VND 3,000,000, and your driving license will be taken away for 2 – 3 months if you are driving when there is 50 mg – 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or 0.25 mg – 0.4 mg of alcohol per one liter of breath.

For car drivers:

You will receive a fine of VND 2,000,000 – VND 3,000,000, and your driving license will be taken away for 1 – 3 months if you are driving when there is below 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or 0.25 mg of alcohol per one liter of breath.

For more information, read our blog on driving in Vietnam

Summary of the Vietnamese Beers Guide

Vietnamese beers have a younger history than other countries, but it has become a thriving industry since the 90s. There are many types of Vietnamese beer, but “bia hoi” is the most common, especially in Hanoi. The foods that go with the beers in Vietnam are also diverse and finger-licking good. If you cannot drink, you can still enjoy these snacks. The price of beer and one night out drinking will differ depending on the kind of beer and the places you choose to go to. And like any other country, it is illegal and dangerous to be drinking and driving, so make sure to read the law and keep your drink under the alcohol limit.

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