Drinking alcohol is popular in Vietnam, and it’s virtually a part of the culture here. Saying that Vietnamese like beer is a massive understatement. We deeply love it. The act of drinking alcohol impregnates every fabric of society. Vietnamese drink alcohol on many occasions or even on no special occasion at all. Like many other countries in the world, Vietnam has a serious binge drinking problem. But we digress.
In Vietnam, drinking alcohol is a tool for socializing with friends. Vietnamese love drinking so much, that they even have a word for it. The act of mass drinking with many companions is called “Nhau’’. Vietnamese are friendly people. They would love to share a drink or two with foreigners – tourists. If you came to Vietnam and wished to immerse yourself in this vibrant and drunken culture, feel free to have a look at our list of some alcohol in Vietnam. Maybe you can learn a thing or two about the drinking culture here.
The Legal Drinking Age in Vietnam
The legal age in Vietnam is 18 years old. This means people under 18 can’t buy or legally drink alcohol.
In Vietnam, beer is not only used as a fun party drink but can also be used to make great dishes like tom hap bia (shrimp steamed with beer). Now, find out your favorite brand of beer to drink or cook with.
Some say Tiger Beer is the national beer of Singapore, and it is also among the most popular alcohol in Vietnam. It is a pale lager with 5% abv (alcohol by volume). The ingredients are selective. The barley is from Australia and Europe, the hops are from Germany, and the yeast is from the Netherlands.
Another popular name, not just in Vietnam but worldwide as well. Heineken is also a 5% abv pale lager and is popular among grilled food tables.
Heineken is one of the most popular international beer brands in Vietnam
Recently, more and more international beer brands have been imported to Vietnam, such as Sapporo (Japan), Budweiser (Czech Republic), Corona (Mexico)
The company that brewed Saigon Beer was founded by a Frenchman in 1875. With the endearing name of “Saigon” Beer, this beer is quite beloved here in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and in the South. There are four types of Saigon Beer.
- Saigon Lager, which is nicknamed Saigon Xanh (Green Saigon) for the green logo. This pale lager has a 4.3% abv. The ingredients are malt, hops, and grain.
- Saigon Export, which is nicknamed Saigon Do (Red Saigon) for the red logo. This pale lager has the same ingredients as Saigon Lager but with a higher abv of 4.9%.
- Saigon Special, which is also nicknamed Saigon Xanh or Saigon Lun (Short Saigon) for the green bottle. This beer has an abv of 4.9%. The ingredients are hops, 100% malt with no rice.
- Saigon Gold encased in a glowing gold can. This 5% abv beer is the premium line of Saigon Beer. The ingredients are also hops and 100% malt.
Saigon beer is widely loved by locals and tourists
This beer is a product of the same company that brought us Saigon Beer: Sabeco. The abv is 5.3%. Coupled with the bitter taste, the beer can be pretty intense.
333 is more popular among the older generation of Vietnamese
Habeco – the brewing company that makes Hanoi Beer, was founded in 1890. Saigon has Saigon Beer, and Hanoi has Hanoi Beer. With its long history and dignified name, Hanoi Beer has earned its spot as one of the most favored beers in Hanoi, appearing in any street stands, restaurants, or family tables. Hanoi Beer has 3 lines.
- Hanoi Beer was first introduced in 1992. The abv is 4.6%. It’s another pale lager with the same malt, hops, and grain ingredients, a basic beer found anywhere in Hanoi.
- Green Label Hanoi Beer is marketed towards the Central Region, so its taste is engineered to fit the Central Region’s taste in beer. The abv is 4.2%
- Hanoi Beer Premium is a beer that is said to be for the youth. It’s made by utilizing a new creative way to ferment yeast. This is a 4.8% abv pale lager.
Draught Beer or Bia Hoi is a fresh, unpasteurized beer served straight out of kegs. The abv content is low, around 3%, and the price is quite cheap, less than VND 10,000 a glass. It’s perfect for refreshing yourself from the heat and not getting awfully drunk. Hanoi Draught Beer is arguably the most well-known draught beer in Vietnam.
A glass of draught beer with some peanuts
Vietnam has only had craft beer for 3 to 4 years ago. Despite that short period of time, the craft beer market here is booming. Growing from a niche market, craft beer here is slowly penetrating the mainstream consciousness. The taste of craft beer is inherently different from all the other commercial beer. There are also craft beers with fruity or flowery flavors.
Some craft beer brands to watch out for are Platinum, Fuzzy Logic, Pasteur Brewing Co (these are the early players in the market), Tê Tê (European style), Heart of Darkness (Strong yet tasty), East-West Brewing Co (Fine beer and dining experience), Winking Seal, Rooster Beers, Lac Brewing Co (the new entries) and many more.
Belgo is a nice restaurant with signature craft beer
With many other names, such as Ruou Trang (White) or Ruou Gao (Rice), traditional Vietnamese rice wine is a common alcohol choice for many Vietnamese. The origin of rice wine is that it was a moonshine distilled in answer to an alcohol monopoly put on by the colonial government, and it remains popular to this day. Liquor is a prominent drink in the Mekong Delta Region, appearing at almost every “Nhau” table and every momentous occasion. The abv is relatively high, around 40%, so it sometimes can be used to make infused spirits and in cooking to clean off the smell of meat and fish.
Ruou Nep (Glutinous Rice Wine)
Glutinous Rice Wine (or Ruou Nep) is a type of rice wine made by fermenting glutinous rice with yeast. The color of this alcohol depends on the types of glutinous rice used. The final product can be a drink or a pudding depending on the different ways it could be prepared. It is a tradition to drink Ruou Nep on May 5 (Lunar Calendar), which is Doan Ngo Tet, also known as the Parasite-killing Festival. It is based on an old belief that alcohol can kill parasites dwelling in your body.
Depending on the type of rice and the agricultural scene in each region, the people develop their regional version of rice wine.
The color and texture of the liquor also vary depending on the type of rice and distilling method
Moc Chau rice wine
Mu Cang Chai rice wine
Ruou Mau Son
This liquor is traditionally made by the Dao people living in Mount Mau Son. It is distilled at an 800-1000m height above sea level. The unique ingredients are freshwater procured from streams high up in the mountain and yeast made from 30 exotic mountain herbs.
A stylish bottle of Ruou Mau Son
This is a type of rice wine indigenous to the ethnic minorities in mountainous areas (Tay Nguyen, for example). To make Ruou Can, the fermented grain is mixed with herbs and stored in a big earthenware jug. People will drink straight from the jug using long tubes. Many people Can usually share one jug of Ruou. Ruou Can has a special role in the culture of many ethnic minorities. The drinking of Ruou Can is then accompanied by music and dancing, especially when guests are joining or when there are feasts, festivals, weddings, and generally all of the happy celebrations.
Ruou Ran (Snake Wine)
This drink is quite a horror show at first look. Snake Wine is brewed for medicinal purposes. The processes of making Snake Wine are as follows: First, removing the innards of the snake, then cleansing the snake with alcohol. Next, the snake is soaked in a mixture of ginger and alcohol for around 30 minutes to eliminate the pungent smell. Finally, the snake is then infused in a jar of grain wine. There are also methods of putting an entire living snake in a jar of grain wine. Snake hearts and bile can be consumed individually with rice wine in a shot glass. Ruou Ran is believed to have many medicinal properties, like helping improve digestive health or blood pressure.
Jars of snake wine
Ruou Ngam Thao Duoc (Infused Spirit)
There is a broad variety of infused spirits here in Vietnam. Many herbs are discovered to have excellent medicinal properties, so they are often infused with grain wine. Some notable herbs are ginseng, mistletoe, licorice, cinnamon twigs, Indian mulberry, etc.
Ruou Sim (Myrtle Wine)
This is a delicacy of Phu Quoc Island. It is a wine made from the fruit of the Myrtle tree. Sugar and the aforementioned fruit are the main ingredients. The fruit is quite extraordinary. The wine will taste marginally different than wine made from grapes (in a good way). Its abv is 7.5%.
In Summary of Alcohol in Vietnam
There are many kinds of alcohol in Vietnam. To try them all would probably take you more than one or two days. Exploring them would be quite a spectacle, a daring experience. If you can come to Vietnam, many locals here are friendly enough to want to grab a drink with you. But remember one thing: the legal age in Vietnam is 18 years old.