Ho Chi Minh City | nightlife guide

Independent reviews and recommendations by Rusty Compass. No advertorial, no paid placements and no sponsored content.

Craft beer - Saigon's craft beer scene

Craft beer - Saigon's craft beer scene
Mostly District 1 - one in District 3
Our rating
10 Jul 2017

If you love your craft beer, you’ll feel right at home in Saigon. Vietnam is the largest beer drinking nation in South East Asia and Saigon now boasts an impressive line-up of craft beer specialists trying to woo the locals to their big flavoured brews.

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Just a few years ago, Saigon locals were content with their bia hoi local brew, or the bottled beers from the major players like Tiger and Heineken. All that’s changing. There are now close to twenty craft beers being produced in the city.  Apart from the beer, Saigon's craft brewers have also come up with some very cool brands.

Here's a tour of the tap rooms and craft beer specialists around town.

Keep an eye on our events page too as there seem to be craft beer festivals once a month around town.

 

Ong Cao Craft Beer

In the heart of Saigon's backpacker district, this place is pulling a good mixed crowd of locals and travellers over two floors. The city's best known craft beers are on tap and Jeremy, the owner, is a welcoming host.

Address - 240 Bui Vien St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

 

Winking Seal

Their cosy tap room is between downtown and the backpacker area. One of the quieter players as far as we can work out.

Address - 50 Dang Thi Nhu St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

 

 

Biacraft Artisan Ales

Biacraft offers the range of local craft beer. They’re a little out of town in District 3 (10 mins by cab) but this is where you'll see early-adopter locals exploring new beer horizons. They have plenty of food on offer and the area is worth exploring too - with eating and live music options nearby.

Address - 1 Le Ngo Cat St, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City

 

East West Brewery

More tap auditorium than tap room, East West are doing craft at an industrial scale. The brewery is in-house and they're targeting Saigon's young affluent types. An interesting spectacle.

Address - 181 Ly Tu Trong St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

 

Ong Cao
Photo: Mark Bowyer Ong Cao

 

Bia Craft Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Bia Craft Saigon

 
Bia Craft Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Bia Craft Saigon

 

East West Brewery, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer East West Brewery, Saigon

 

Ong Cao's taps, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Ong Cao's taps, Saigon

 

Pasteur St Brewing

For many, it's the birthplace of craft beer in Saigon. Pilgrims travel to Pasteur St to sample this time honoured brew. From memory they opened way back in 2015. They now have two spaces in the same alley - one at street level and the original shrine still operates upstairs. Pasteur St beer is widely available at bars around town too. These guys have done quite a job building their brand across the country. You'll find Pasteur St beer in Hoi An, Hanoi and other places.

If you’re on Pasteur St, pop by Rusty Compass’s little home in Saigon, The Old Compass Cafe. We’re hidden away down the lane at 63 Pasteur St, opposite Pasteur St brewing and we also serve Pasteur's Jasmine IPA on tap.

Address - 144 Pasteur St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City


Heart of Darkness Brewery

Heart of Darkness is another craft beer player that looks to have serious ambitions. The tap room is sizeable, with a vast selection of Heart of Darkness brews. The brew names are inspired by Jospeh Conrad's 1899 novel, from which the bar takes its name, and the 1979 Vietnam War screen adaptation, Apocalypse Now. There's a Kurtz’s Insane IPA, The Horror Black IPA, a Futile Purpose Pilsener, and many, many, more. If you're peckish, Heart of Darkness has a deal with Saigon's Japanese pizza legends, 4Ps. They host regular events and tours too.

Address - 31 D Ly Tu Trong St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City



Background

For now, Saigon’s craft breweries tend to be foreign owned. Most are trading on the US Pacific Northwest craft beer traditions. They're also churning out some fun locally inspired concoctions - durian beer anyone?

Drinkers are still mainly expats and tourists. Check out the Craft Beer Festival crowds in our video above.

There are signs the locals are starting to be drawn to the big flavours of craft beer too - Bia Craft and East West, both mentioned above, are the best places to see this transformation in action.

The brewers range from cashed up players with dreams of capturing a slice of Vietnam's existing thirst for beer, to garage operators in the business for love. We sense there are more of the former than the latter.

Which craft beer is a favourite? No idea.

I've enjoyed pretty much every drink I've had at all these places listed above. I like big flavoured beer, and it's available in spades.  I'm less excited by "flights" and mixing different flavours. I'll tend to find my beer and stay with it. I also prefer beer to lubricate the conversation, rather than be the centre of it - old-school beer drinking.

But these places are proof that craft beer culture is thriving, with its vast array of concoctions and theatrics. There are plenty of hard core devotees out there.

Keep an eye on the alcohol levels of some of the stronger drops - or you might have an earlier night and a rougher next day than planned.

For a full handpicked list of Saigon's best bars and nightlife, click here.

 



Disclosure
Rusty Compass recommendations are always independent. We list the places we think you should know about. That's it. We visisted and paid our way at all the places listed. It's possible the odd complimentary beer has passed our lips. But no compensation was received by us for a place in this list.

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Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.

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