Craft beer - Saigon's craft beer scene - review by Rusty Compass
Ho Chi Minh City | nightlife guide

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Craft beer - Saigon's craft beer scene

| 09 Oct 2019
Craft beer - Saigon's craft beer scene
Mostly District 1 - one in District 3
Our rating
09 Oct 2019

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 lineup of craft beer specialists trying to woo the locals to their big flavoured brews. We love tasty beer but we're not afficionados. We'd prefer to drink it than talk about it. These Saigon craft drinkeries are where the drinkers and the talkers go.

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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.


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. Vibrant pub atmosphere and a hearty food menu that gets good reviews.

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

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

Lac Craft Beer Tap Room

Most of Saigon’s craft brewers have their hearts set on massive expansion and several have venture capital funding to help them make that happen. Lac, with roots in Oregon USA, seems to be holding on to the artisanal culture - keeping things simple and small. The opening of their taproom in Saigon’s District One gives their well-regarded brews a downtown home. We stopped by for a couple of glasses and liked the hyper-casual feel of the place - and the beer. “Lac” means “lost” in Vietnamese - and there’s plenty of scope for getting lost in some of the higher powered brews here. Lac’s right across the road from the massive East West craft beer emporium (see above). Jump between the two for a head-spinning night of crafted festivity.

Address: 72 Ly Tu Trong, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Lac Craft Beer Tap Room, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Lac Craft Beer Tap Room, Saigon
 

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

 

 

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 as well as a bunch of the other venues in other districts. If you're travelling to Saigon, head to the orignial shrine on Pasteur St. Pasteur St Brewings beers are also widely available at bars around town. These guys have done quite a job building their brand across the country. You'll find Pasteur St tap rooms in Hoi An, Hanoi too.

Address - 144 Pasteur St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City - down the alley and upstairs


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 - East West ia 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. There has been a big expansion of craft beer bars in 2019 and there are several located in the District 2 expat area of the city.

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.

Check out our independent guide to Hanoi's craft beer scene 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.

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