Craft beer is in. And it looks like it’s here to stay. But if it’s something that has so far passed you by, don’t worry, there could be a craft beer venue in your neighborhood soon. "I expect the number of micro-breweries in Saigon to have doubled by this time next year," Travis Smith from Bia Craft told AnyArena. As someone who’s seen the growth of its popularity here first-hand (mostly from behind the bar), he should know.
Says Michael Rowland, co-founder of TeTe, a Belgian style range of wheat beers, "I think the reception of craft beer by the local market has been very positive. I’m not terribly surprised either. Vietnam already loves beer, so making better beer seems like a no-brainer."
Fellow craftie and Fuzzy Logic co-founder Colin O’Keefe gave us his opinion on the 'craft' experience. “A great craft beer is an art. The ingredients are top quality, the brewing is done with care, and the flavors that result are much more balanced, wholesome, and complex.”
So there you go, if that doesn’t whet your appetite, hopefully our Top 5 will. Here are some of our favourite craft beer venues in the city; we spent the last week drowning in the stuff to bring it to you. Poor us.
BIACRAFT - One for All and All for One
Vibes: Now in two locations, Bia Craft can give you the experience of an upmarket restaurant just outside the city (D3), or a down-to-earth beer-tasting with mates (D2).
The Brew: If you’re a fan of the all-in-one concept, this is also the place for you. Apart from their own brews, which are delicious, no one else in Saigon can boast the same variety on tap or in bottles.
Don’t forget to order: Choosing a drink on the super-loaded beer menu could prove difficult, so why not start with the ‘Don’t F*ck with Me’ Pale Ale or the ‘Stupid but Stubborn’ Amber Ale. To eat, go straight for the mussels!
Best time to go: Don’t get caught at the non-existing after party at Bia Craft. Go there for an early lunch (half-one is too late) or to jumpstart a big night.
Address: 1 Le Ngo Cat, D3 and 90 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, D2
PASTEUR STREET BREWERY - Birthplace of a Revolution
Vibes: The first dedicated craft beer spot in the city is brought to life on a nightly basis by a lively crowd of regular city drinkers and visitors made aware of its hip location by rave reviews online and the multitude of press it’s been getting.
The Brew: Aside from its award-winning staple of IPA’s and flavored infusions, Pasteur Street love playing with their recipes. On any given visit you’re likely to be asked what you think of their latest concoction, and it’s likely to be good.
Don’t forget to order: Nothing says you’re drinking in the tropics like a Coconut Porter. It’s full flavored with a rewarding finish. We also recommend the Imperial Chocolate Stout.
Best time to go: Straight after work if you’re in it for the long haul, or during the day for a lunchtime date.
Address: 144 Pasteur Street, D1
MALT - Destination Day Drinking
Vibes: Looking for a non-smoking pub in downtown Saigon? Enjoy playing games like shuffleboard and darts, inhaling tapas and downing reasonably priced beer? No? Are you alive? Yes? Well then, we think Malt is what you’re after.
The Brew: Craft beer can be pricey. Friends can be stingy. Life is tough. Malt has a fine selection of local crafts on tap, but still accommodates the cynics with inexpensive mainstreamers like Tiger and friends.
Don’t forget to order: The pork sliders are a must.
Best time to go: Malt has one of the happiest happy hours in Saigon. Prices are subject to significant discounts everyday from 9AM until 7PM. Just get there early.
Address: 46-48 Mac Thi Buoi, D1
PANAM THE BACKROOM - Keep Calm, Play Board Games
Vibes: “We want Backroom to be a chill place where people can hang out, have a nice meal, drink good beers and play board games,” co-owner Khiem describes. Panam is also brand new, so don’t miss its grand opening on October 7.
The Brew: Choice is good, but sometimes we don’t feel like making difficult decisions. Whilst Backroom's menu isn't as big as some of our other headliners, there's something for everyone on their hand-picked list of options.
Don’t forget to order: Suckle on a TeTe first. The reimagined Belgian style ales will put you in the right mood for backgammon. Food-wise, keep it interesting by grabbing one of everything off their value-for-money finger food menu. You won’t be sorry.
Best time to go: Whenever you’ve rounded up your friends. Backroom, as the name suggests, isn’t a big place, so it's best enjoyed with some buddies. Kick back and throw the dice.
Address: 91 Pasteur, D1
ROGUE SAIGON - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Vibes: Enter a backwards looking building in the center of town. Climb a flight of stairs. Play Arcade Ninja Turtle. Add an awesome rooftop and lifesize Jenga, and Rogue Saigon is exactly what it claims to be: an inner-city hangout for beer-lovers.
The Brew: Saigon Outcast's better looking sister offers you 16 different taps to choose from. That’s a lot of beer. It also serves a range of mixers and shooters that'll come in handy during their dare-to-do game of bricks.
Don’t forget to order: The 'Hot Chilli Cider' by Saigon Cider. It’s tasty AF.
Best time to go: After you’ve put the stationery away. It's play time.
Address: 2nd Floor, 13 Pasteur, D1
EAST WEST BREWING CO. - Honorable mention
AnyArena has been working around the clock (how else?) to get the skinny on places which will soon no doubt earn a spot on this list. Hashtag 'watch this space' is probably the best way to caption this location. East West Brewing Co. will be opening its doors soon and if you’ve been following their Facebook feed, you know it's worth getting excited about.
Address: 181-185 Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1
Words by Nick J