VietnamFood & DrinksBia Hoi in Hanoi (VERY Fresh Beer) and Hanoi’s Drinking Culture

Bia Hoi in Hanoi (VERY Fresh Beer) and Hanoi’s Drinking Culture

Hanoians have a soft spot for alcohol, especially their freshly brewed craft beer, known locally as Bia Hoi. Bia Hoi has become an indispensable part of the culinary scene in both urban and rural areas of Hanoi. You’ll find it common to see people sipping on a cold beer, chatting with friends, and munching on some bar snacks at any time during the day. In this blog, we’ll explain all the ins and outs behind the city’s “Bia Hoi craze” and some of the expected drinking etiquette to enjoy this foamy golden beverage with the locals.

What is Bia Hoi in Hanoi?

Bia Hoi is the name for local craft beer, freshly brewed, and must be consumed within 24 hours beyond leaving the factory. To break it down, “Bia” means beer, and “Hoi” means gassed, which refers to the process of compressing the beverage into a can (called a keg). Bia Hoi will be poured directly from the keg into your cup when you order. Hanoians drink their beer from a glass cup, not plastic or other materials. Some locals explain that the beer tastes better this way; others assume that they’re so used to serving Bia Hoi in glass cups that it’s become a tradition.

Discover more on Vietnamese Beers

A glass of Bia Hoi

The Origin of Bia Hoi

During the colonial period, the French brought their culinary creations to Vietnam, including their baguettes (Banh Mi) and beer. Alfred Hommel established the first brewery in Hanoi in 1890 to serve the French soldiers and introduce the drink to locals. At that time, not many Hanoians enjoyed the taste of beer since they were so accustomed to drinking traditional distilled rice wine, and a glass of beer was quite expensive.

After Vietnam declared its independence in 1945, the French brewery was renamed “Hanoi Brewery,” the term “Bia Hoi” was coined, and the alcoholic drink rapidly popularized among locals. It was no longer a luxury item only available to the rich. The first beer joint was opened on Ta Hien Street, selling a freshly made cup of Bia Hoi for only a few Vietnamese Dong. Hommel’s brewery started with 30 employees, producing 150 liters per day. In the 1950s, the brewery production quickly expanded to hire over 300 workers.

It’s hard to tell why Hanoians acquired the taste of beer so fast. Maybe it was much milder compared to the potent rice wine, or perhaps it was then affordable, even for those who weren’t particularly wealthy. Another reason would be that the cold Bia Hoi fits the scorching Hanoi’s summers perfectly.

How Is Bia Hoi in Hanoi Made?

Bia Hoi shares the same painstaking brewing process as any other type of beer. First, they inspect and choose barley grains that meet the size and starch content standards. Then, the grains enter the germination process to break down the starch and protein before being air-dried to halt the proliferation of bacteria. They add the dried grains, now known as “Green Molt,” to boiling tanks of water to turn starch into sugar, called “malt liquid.”

Next, workers extract the malt liquid and add hops to create the beer’s signature bitterness and aroma. The combined liquid is left to ferment with the help of yeast. During fermentation, enzymes transform sugar into alcohol and CO2, resulting in young beer. It is then transferred to maturing tanks, and the level of yeast is constantly observed according to the type of beer. The aged beer is filtered and moved onto packaging before being shipped to vendors and restaurants.

Modern Bia Hoi Serving Machine

How to Enjoy Bia Hoi in Hanoi

To fully experience the taste of Bia Hoi, we strongly advise you to try it like a local. There’s no need for fancy restaurants or luxury hotels; often, they don’t even serve fresh craft beer! Find your way to the streetside eateries, or if you’re around the Old Quarter, head for Ta Hien Street, also known as Hanoi’s Bar Street. You’ll know it’s a nice drinking spot if it is crowded. Locals will gather around the most popular sellers, and that’s where you want to go.

Grab a seat, order a glass of cold beer and a few bar snacks, you’re good to go! Hanoians don’t just drink Bia Hoi but pair it with some snacks to munch on. Hanoian beer foods are often chewy or crunchy, sometimes even pack quite a punch of flavor, like the fermented shrimp paste.

Take a sip of Bia Hoi, watch the daily life of locals just steps away from your seat, you’ll fathom why Hanoians cherish their beer so much.

See more Places for Drinking in Hanoi

Hands-on Tips for Hanoi’s Drinking Culture

How to say “Cheers!”

Say loudly and proudly, “Mot, hai, ba, dzo!” (One, two, three, dzo). Vietnamese and Hanoians alike developed a way to toast to grasp everyone’s attention.

Toasting like a Vietnamese

It’s all about the toasting in Hanoi’s drinking culture. When someone pulls up at your table and toast with you, you’re expected to return the favor later. Then, there’s also a group toast. You’ll often drink to a particular purpose, such as cheers to a friend, to health, or just gratitude for a fresh plate of food.

Best Snacks to Pair with Bia Hoi

As mentioned, Bia Hoi in Hanoi is often paired with snacks or foods. While most of the drinking foods are common, such as french fries, tofu, and peanuts, some extreme Vietnamese food requires a spirit of adventure. So make sure to choose dishes that suit your palette.

Fried tofu dipped in potent fermented shrimp paste

The Drinking Atmosphere in Hanoi

The Hanoian drinking atmosphere is fast-moving and nonstop. You’ll find yourself constantly switching between drinking, eating, and chatting, followed by more drinking, eating, and chatting. But that’s the real spirit of the city—completely unwinding and ready to party! Check out our guide about Drinking With Locals in Vietnam.

Check out more fun things to do in Hanoi:

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Our Closing on Bia Hoi in Hanoi

Overall, Bia Hoi is an excellent stepping point for foreigners seeking to comprehend the rich culture of Vietnam’s capital city. It’s a “drinkable” piece of history, evidence of the Vietnamese talent to adapt and create its signature. Stay tuned for more of our in-depth guides to everything in Hanoi!

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