Home Brewing in Vietnam

by Jonathan Gharbi of BeerVN

There are a hopeless group of beer enthusiasts in Vietnam who doesn’t drink industrial beer or satisfy themselves with a visit in one of the 40 local microbreweries that we have in Vietnam. People who just have to make it complicated by mixing several kinds of malt and hops with other ingredients to make real hand crafted beer.

Belgian styled beer on keg

 

 Belgian saison on tap

Above:  Charlie, Ludo and Jonathan from Hanoi home brewers are tasting some hand crafted Belgian saison based on pilsner malt and some hand roasted malt, premiant hops (Czech) together with orange peel and hibiscus. 

Can you have a proper IPA in Vietnam?

Yes, only if you are a active member in the brewing clubs in Saigon and Hanoi. But their activity is increasing and since the demand for other beers than lager styled beers are high, its just a matter of months before we all can go somewhere and have a proper IPA or a tasty belgian styled beer on tap. This summer, happiness was spread to a bigger crowd than a few beer enthusiasts on a small roof top. Two kinds of ale was delivered on keg and served to an enthusiastic crowd at the Swedish embassy in Hanoi.

beer at swedish embassy

hanoi home brewers

Above: Charlie delivered 40 liter IPA on tap for the national day event at the Swedish embassy, 6 June this summer which was very appreciated. Goldmalt was also delivering their Czech styled black and blond beer on tap, so it was like a small beer festival this evening.

Hobby brewers Vietnam Saigon                                                                                                A group of brewers that frequently make beer together since 2008, the oldest brew club in Vietnam. Visit their webpage: http://hobbybrewer-vietnam.de.tl

craft beer Vietnam

They have a lot of experience when it comes to both brewing and distilling. They do also many other things, above are some bottles with hand crafted whiskey. They rotate their meetings between one of the local microbreweries in Saigon and do also have the latest updates on the local beer scene. They have attended at a number of events and exhibitions in Saigon and experiment with a big variety of malt and hops. You can buy most things here in Vietnam and there are a couple of importers of malt and hops.

saigon home brewers

hand crafted beer Vietnam

 

 

 

 

     

Above: Fermentation barrels and hand crafted beer served from a bottle.

Hanoi Home Brewers                                                                                                                  Started up a few months ago and have hade weekly brews the whole summer.  A few years ago we had the Hanoi brewers guild active in Hanoi but since they ended their activities, there was a few years without any home brewing club in Hanoi.  Hanoi home brewers meet every week and make a new batch of beer, from Belgian styled beers, to different ales and a few experimental beers too. Watch a video clip from the latest brewing session in June: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6jo7aD7vAY

brewers Hanoi

Beer kegs

 

 

 

 

Above: a simple machine for malt roasting and some beer kegs and glass bottles.

hanoi home brewers

Hanoi home brewers

 

 

 

 

Above: malt waiting to be used. Mashing and boiling barrel. John and Ian making a experimental beer with orange peel, chili, hibiscus and cardamom.

Forum for home brewers and beer interested people                                                There is a forum for all beer interested people and specially for home brewers in Vietnam. Here you can come in contact with others or get the latest info about beer and local breweries in Vietnam. Web: beervn.freeforums.net

Is there any craft brewery i can visit today?                                                                         There are about 40 local microbreweries in Vietnam that produce 2-3 kinds of beer, but none that experiment and try to find new recipes. There are a few entrepreneurs that have plans to open a craft brewery and offer several different styles and beers, in particular some IPA which can’t be found yet. There are plans and there are brewers. Some told me that they will open after this summer, i wish them all the best in their preparations and hope their (and mine) dreams will come through.

Himawari Microbrewery – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Article by Diana Powell (Visit her Travel Blog)

Hoppy beer does exist in SE Asia and it can be found at Himawari Microbrewery in Phnom Penh. The Microbrewery is inside the Himawari Hotel but they have lovely outside seating right by the Mekong River. The beer is actually pretty good. We had the Centennial IPA (Jon thought it tasted familiar and he loved it!) , the Apsara Gold (a nicely hopped pale ale) and the Gem & Jade (earthy ESB). The brewer is on-site and he is not much of a craft beer guy. He said the recipes and the ideas for the microbrewery all came out of Singapore, which is no surprise. Singapore seems to be the only country in Asia that has a craft beer culture. We enjoyed Happy Hour from 5-8pm for two nights in a row. The beers are about $4.50 on Happy Hour which is expensive by Cambodian standards, but hey, this is craft beer!

10 Breweries and Pubs in Ho Chi Minh City

Brewery and pub crawl with 10 places in 8 hours

by Jonathan Gharbi

My mission was to visit at least 8 beer establishments this day and maybe more. I landed in Saigon by 11 am and i jumped on the rented motorbike and started my mission.

Big Man beer, German styled lager

I started with the closest three establishments that was a about 1-2 km from the aiport. First i visited the first Big Man beer in Saigon at 4 Phan Dinh Giot and tasted their beer. Big man beer is a German inspired brewery that has establishments in Saigon, Da Lat and Hai Phong. Big man offers a Vietnamese menu and basic service and many of their brewhouses are quite small except in Saigon.

Czech styled beer Saigon

Hoa Vien brauhaus

Hoa Vien Brauhaus (youtube clip here) at 16 Pho Qang had their first brewery in Saigon in 1995 and has since then opened up in Hanoi and Mui Ne, in total five establishments. This one opened in June 2014. All are big and well managed with english speaking managers and staff, despite that you still have a 300 ml beer for 34 000 which is the average price in most microbreweries. Both beers are more full bodied and stronger than previous Big Man beer, hints of cacao in the black beer and a slight fruityness in the blond one.

Restaurant serving Gammer beer

Czech styled lagers in Saigon                   

Nha hang 85 at 85 Thang Long, Tan Binh serving Gammer beer (youtube clip here). I drove passed this place two times before finding it, it looked so simple so i couldn’t imagine that this place had Gammer beer on tap. This is typical for Vietnam, you cant judge by the appearance here, it is the inside that counts. Gammer beer has a restaurant both in Hanoi and Saigon and also this outlet. No one spoke english here so the visit was very short and i moved on to the next place.

Nao Beer Saigon

Nao beer at 247 Hoang Hoa Tham is a small pub that has one blond and one black beer on tap for a very cheap price, only 15 000 vnd for a 300 ml glass. Beers are lighter and good refreshers when its very hot outside but much value for the money. Both beers are more dry than fruity and a shorter finish. The name of the beer is Budman beer but are quite similar with Big Man beer.

Lan Anh club Saigon

Lan Anh sport clubAfter this i aimed at Golden Prauge at Lan Anh club, 291 Cach Mang Thang, district 10 (youtube clip here) which was a long ride. I switched from bike to taxi here after after all beers. Here i got surprised to see that they have green beer on the menu except the regular blond and black Czech styled beers that they brew. The green beer is a blond with blue curarao liquer in it and served at festival times which take place every week. Staff were dressed in some Czech insired cloths and you can rest your eyes on a old wolkswagen if you get tired of watching all the dancing. The beers are good and price too, just below 30 000 vnd, both are little more than 5% strong.

Big man beer 1 Pham Viet Chanh

I reach Big Man beer at 1 Pham Viet Chanh (youtube clip here) and this one is easy to find, just in a big roundabout. This one was also very easy to visit, after presenting my self and a paper on vietnamese about beer tasting and my blog, staff got nervous and asked me to leave when they saw my camera. No English speaking staff here either, so i gave up and moved on towards district 7 and a newcomer in town.

Czech beer Vietnam

Goldmalt at 40 Nguyen Thi Tap  (youtube clip here) is brand new and situated in a quiet area by a small river, i also saw a group of guys training their falcons here in the park. Fresh air, fresh beer and a fresh place, The brewery is already in action but the kitchen is not ready yet but will be soon. Goldmalt has 10 brewpubs in Hanoi and have been expanding lately. Their concept is smaller breweries and has plenty of local regulars. For people who like Guinnes, ales and stouts, Goldmalt and Hoa Vien are good options in Saigon while if you prefer lighter lagers and German black beer, Big Man Beer, Gammer and Lion could be your choice.

Mr Long, Goldmalts owner

Here i also met the legendary owner of Goldmalt, Mr Long who has spent 20 years in Czech Republic before he started to build a company here in Vietnam. He lives in Hanoi but this day he was here to meet the water supplier. Goldmalts water is brought from a dwell in Hoa Long about 80 km from Saigon. Mr Long explains that the water in Saigon has high levels of iron and clour which still affects the taste despite that they filter the water before brewing.

Lion Saigon

Lion brewery Saigon                                                                                                                                                            Lion at 11-13 Lam Son Square is the most central brewery and easy to find. Here they brew two German styled beers in a big beer hall. Come here during evenings and weekends to enjoy a buffet or just a few beers, you wont meet so many locals here, more tourists and expats due to the central location. Black and blond beer, lighter body than in Hoa Vien and Goldmalt and more dry than fruity with good strenght and off course a nice foam to attract all foam-loving Germans who can’t to drink beer without foam.

German brewery Saigon

A short ride from here you can visit Brauhof Nguyen Du at 97 Nguyen Du which is another German inspired brewery but much smaller. Prices are higher here and you can have German styled beers on tap and basic service, a good paus before you head for the next place.

Gammer beer

Gammer, czech styled beer

Gammer at 107 Pasteur (youtube clip here) beer is intense but quite cozy and more what you expect how a brewpub shall look like. Here you can see the brewing set in the middle of the restaurant and you can also sit outside. But make sure to book a table here during weekends, it can be quite busy here and specially when they have live perfomances and loud music played outside. Both beers have a dry after taste and reminds a bit of the dryness in Belgian beers and has about 5 % ABV. There is also a Gammer beer in Hanoi (youtube clip here)

Czech food in Vietnam

On my way back i was a bit hungry so i made a stop again at Hoa Vien and had some ribs and delicious potato patties together with a couple of beers before the flight back to Hanoi. I drank mostly the black beer which i found more tasty than a Guinness and good with food. Service here was excellent. I took a Xe Om and was at the airport 7 PM, just to experience that the flight was delayed. At the airport i drank a half can of tiger beer but couldn’t finish it after having so many better beers during my day.

Jonathan Gharbi                                                                                                         www.beervn.com

Gwangju Pub Crawl: Four Spots that Serve Your Favorite Beer

Gwangju, a metropolis of one and a half million people sprouting from the center of South Korea’s breadbasket province of South Jeolla, is often considered to be Korea’s number three cultural center: behind only Busan and Seoul. In many ways the democratic and artistic heart of South Korea, Gwangju should be fertile ground for the emerging craft beer market to take root.

On a stream, Southwest of the downtown area near the Culture Complex Station. Just a few minutes walk from craft beer.
On a stream, Southwest of the downtown area near the Culture Complex Station. Just a few minutes walk from craft beer.

With help from Paul Flaherty of the Seoul Brew Club, I organized myself a one-man craft beer pub crawl in downtown Gwangju. Starting on the afternoon of July 25th, I visited The First Alleyway, The Boca Beer, Able Taphouse, and Amble, but missed the Alley Taphouse. Although the scene is young, I did manage to find a nice diversity of beer and get a sense of the present and future of craft beer in Gwangju.

The First Alleyway – 3pm

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My pub crawl just so happened to begin at the place where craft beer in Gwangju itself started about two years ago. Operated by Canadian Tim Whitman, Englishman James Green, and Korean Ko Young Mi, The First Alleyway group were sold on the idea of carrying craft beer by one of Seoul’s craft beer founding fathers, Rob Titley. Rob traveled to Gwangju looking to find a market for Craftworks beer and, with the help of some tasty samples, quickly found an enthusiastic partner in The First Alleyway.

From the left: Me, Tim Whitman, James Green
From the left: Me, Tim Whitman, James Green

The best words to describe The First Alleyway are friendly and casual. There’s no pretension in its bright, beautiful room of brick walls, wood paneling, and Star Trek references. The stereo plays good rock n’ roll like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin, but at a low enough volume for easy chatting. In the middle of the space sits a shelf full of board games, which captured my heart immediately. Looking around, one also notices a tabletop arcade game, dart board, billiard table, and foosball table.

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This foosball table is made with almost completely recycled materials and is certainly one of a kind.

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I was quickly greeted and seated by a friendly waitress. The staff is a balanced mix of Korean and foreign, and everybody speaks excellent English. I was delighted to see poutine on the menu and ordered that. They are still working on their beer menu, so I had to approach the bar to look at their selection, which mostly consisted of Craftworks beers.

The perfect comfort food!
The perfect comfort food!

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Upon approaching the bar, I was immediately greeted by Tim Whitman. He introduced me to the selection of beer, of which I chose a Rogue Dead Guy Ale. In addition to that and the Craftworks beer, they also offer Lost Coast’s Watermelon Wheat and Great White. Prices are on par with places in Seoul. For example, the Geumgang Mountain Dark Ale is 6,500won while the Rogue Dead Guy Ale is 9,500won. The most expensive beer is the bottled Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, which sells at 10,000won.

Tim was very helpful in answering my questions and chatting with me. His most emphasized point was that Gwangju is a close knit community and The First Alleyway strives to be a place which fosters that sense of community. A great example of this community spirit is the Alleycon. Tim’s pub hosted the first incarnation of this event last year, a festival for geeks and gamers to come together to have fun: playing D&D or Magic the Gathering, participating in cosplay, talking pop culture, Skyping with sci-fi and fantasy authors, or whatever else fires their photon torpedoes. In fact, during my visits there, I saw two separate games of Magic the Gathering played at tables, as well as a game of Skyrim on an Xbox 360 near the bar.

Alleycon

However, last’s year’s event reached maximum capacity quickly and it became clear that the Gwangju community would need a bigger venue. The First Alleyway is still involved in its namesake festival, and hopes to cater and perhaps even supply Craftworks beer at this year’s event, if possible. In between festivals, the pub does a great job nourishing this fun, nerdy spirit. As a gamer and self-confessed geek, this pub would definitely be a regular hangout spot for me if I lived in Gwangju. I wish I knew a place in Seoul like it.

Overall, I was very impressed with The First Alleyway. The food was very good (I had poutine on the first day and a classic burger on the second, although Tim said their specialty is pizza). The atmosphere was relaxed and casual, the staff was friendly, English was no problem, and Tim assured me that he is a stickler for taking care of his beer lines. This was the only place I visited twice during my weekend in Gwangju, and would be my number one spot if I lived there.

So good that I had to visit one more time.
So good that I had to visit one more time.

The Boca Beer – 6pm

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The Boca Beer was impressive in a very different way than The First Alleyway. Boca is definitely geared more towards Korean clientele, and looks more like a mix of dance club and chill lounge. Between the two staff members and the six customers in the room, I was the only foreigner. In contrast to the rock ‘n roll of The First Alleyway, Boca played smooth, Korean, R&B-style pop.

The beer selection was very impressive, more diverse than many Seoul craft beer venues. I ordered a Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA. They also had beers from Craftworks, Lost Coast, and even included CraftOne’s Mingle and Reily’s Jeju Tangerine IPA. As for bottles, Boca had a big selection of Brew Dog, Chimay, Brooklyn, and more. They also offered a beer sampler, but the details were in Korean and the bartender didn’t speak English. Considering I was already three beers deep with two more stops left on my pub crawl, I decided that one beer was enough.

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There were several comically classic signs that this was a Korean pub. First, the snacks they served complementary with my beer included frosted flakes. They also had a private room for special functions up in the terraced loft, which I imagine is just waiting to host a Korean office mixer. Finally, in a self-conscious realization that they might need to attract more foreigners, Boca advertised an unusual Happy Hour: 2,000won off all Craftworks beers… for foreigners only!

Is this even legal? Regardless, it's a pretty damn good price!
Is this even legal? Regardless, it’s a pretty damn good price!
I don't even know what these other snacks are!
I don’t even know what these other snacks are!

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Overall, Boca Beer was a cool place. Although it wouldn’t be my regular hangout spot, it is a place I’d take a date or go to find a beer that I couldn’t find anywhere else in Gwangju.

Able Taphouse – 7:30pm

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I've seen worse English language mottos in Korea.
I’ve seen worse English language mottoes in Korea.

Able is a small establishment, with a friendly Korean staff. Neither server spoke English, but both were welcoming. Most surprising was the amount of 7Brau advertising. Able seems to have gone all-in on 7Brau. With the exception of a few bottled imports, the menu was so 7Brau dominant that it included a page called “History of 7Brau.” Apparently, Able had recently offered differently named beer, although I can’t be sure whether they were rebranded 7Brau or rebranded Ka-Brew.

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What about the story of Able?
What about the history of Able?

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This was an ad from a Gwangju magazine published just four months before. Notice the selection of beer seem the same, but with different names. 7Brau or Ka-Brew? Hard to say.
This was an ad from a Gwangju magazine published just four months before. Notice the selection of beer is the same, with the exception of the golden ale instead of a pale ale. Was it 7Brau or Ka-Brew? Hard to say.

I had the 7Brau sampler, consisting of four 200ml samples: pilsner, hefeweizen, stout, and IPA for 12,000won. Good value. They provided plain nacho chips and even added some grilled cherry tomatoes, which was a nice thought.

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For those who aren’t familiar, 7Brau is one of the original craft beer companies in South Korea. Cans of their IPA can be found in some grocery stores, though they’ve disappeared from On the Border restaurants and are rarely seen in convenience stores. They do have their own pub, and Able Taphouse is the only place that I’ve seen with four 7Brau beers outside of 7Brau’s pub in Gangnam.

Although a nice place, Able isn’t a place I would recommend over The First Alleyway or Boca. With a limited selection of both food and beer, no games, and music that was either unremarkable or non-existent (I honestly don’t remember hearing anything), I’d only recommend a visit if you really like 7Brau—or grilled cherry tomatoes.

Amble – 9pm

Yes, this was the best picture I could take. Deal with it.
Yes, this was the best picture I could take. Deal with it.

Paul, my online inspiration for this pub crawl, had not actually informed me of Amble. He had mentioned the Alley Taphouse, but I got mixed up when Tim Whitman named Amble as a place with craft beer. With The First Alleyway and Alley Taphouse, and then Able and Amble, things can get a little confusing. I found Amble quite easily. As Tim had joked, Amble opened right across the alley from Able and basically stole their name, just adding the letter “m” for the sake of difference. Considering this insight, I had expected Amble to be very similar to Able. I really wish it had been.

Amble has a unique look, so there’s that. There’s a pale cherry colored front wall, vinyl couch-like upholstered booths, and an antique wooden bar (antique as in a 1970’s rec room bar, big and solid). The wall behind the bar was adorned with vinyl album covers which showed a very hit-or-miss taste in music, ranging from The Beatles, to John Denver, to Nana Mouskouri (who is, apparently, a very popular Greek songstress). Curiously enough, there was no sign of a turn table and the music playing was all modern electronica. The mix of an old-time looking aesthetic with electronica music gave Amble a surreal vibe.

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I was seated at the bar, but the staff spoke zero English and seemed afraid of having any kind of communication with me. Perhaps they had correctly predicted that I was waiting to ask questions. The room was close to full capacity, but I was the only non-Korean. They eventually gave me some soda crackers, but I basically had to serve myself. I grabbed my own menu and waited about fifteen minutes before approaching the till and forcing them to take my order. All the while, the staff was just standing around: idle to the point of near boredom.

Although technically a purveyor of craft beer (Lost Coast’s ubiquitous Indica IPA was available, as well as Erdinger), Boca mostly traded in Max. There were three special, unlabeled draught beers on the menu that, due to their low price, concerned me greatly. Trying to squeeze an ounce of helpfulness out of the staff, I tried asking what Amble Draft, Green Grape Draft, and Mojito Draft were. Their answer realized my worst fear—the draughts were Max beers spiked with ingredients poorly described to me as “coffee”, “green grape”, and “mojito”. Although no longer in the spirit of the craft beer pub crawl theme, I decided to order the franchise’s namesake, which was Max plus coffee. I feel the need here to point out that I saw no espresso machine or any other recognizable coffee maker. Needless to say, the Amble Draft was undrinkable. After five sporting sips, I paid my bill and left.

Generally reasonable prices, but whenever the only beers more expensive than Max are unidentifiable, then you need to inquire.
Generally reasonable prices, but whenever the only beers more expensive than Max are unidentifiable, you need to inquire.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy anything about my time at Amble; but I could see its appeal, especially for Korean customers. Max beer was priced at 2,500won, which is pretty incredible. And less discerning palates might have enjoyed the Max fusions. As well, the food was very reasonably priced and the French fries actually looked and smelled amazing. On the other hand, the Amble Draft was… something. It had the same malty, adjunct-y, crisp taste of Max, but was overshadowed by an instant coffee taste—especially the aftertaste. Instead of imparting a toasty, dark lager flavor, the coffee made it syrupy and nauseating.

They served plain soda crackers with my beer, as if they knew I would need something to settle my inevitably nauseated stomach.
They served plain soda crackers with my beer, as if they knew I would need something to settle my inevitably nauseated stomach.

Thus, my Gwangju craft beer pub crawl ended with a literal bad taste in my mouth, and I had still not visited Alley Taphouse. So, the next day I revisited The First Alleyway. After a beer and burger, I asked Tim for directions. He graciously pointed me in the right direction, but warned me that it was in an alley that didn’t look like much until you took a sharp turn left.

After some wondering and backtracking, I finally found the building Tim eluded to and saw the sign he described. However, upon searching, I concluded that there were no alleys nearby. The location was in the middle of a block of businesses, with the only exits and entrances being into other businesses. Confusingly, the arrow on the sign simply pointed outside. After some fruitless turning ‘round and ‘round, I noticed that the red wall next to the sign was actually a door; and despite having a padlock on it, the door could open.

This arrow just points back out into the street. WTF?
This arrow just points back out into the street. WTF?
After some fruitless searching I realized that maybe the arrow was pointing to this secret red door!
After some fruitless searching I realized that maybe the arrow was pointing to this secret red door!
Wow! It's like a treasure hunt! Except that I have to pay money for the treasure when I find it.
Wow! It’s like a treasure hunt! Except that I have to pay money for the treasure when I find it.

This door revealed pretty much what Tim said: an alley that wasn’t much, but sharply hooked left. I followed the alley to the end, but saw two other doors with number-coded locks. Neither looked like the Alley Taphouse. Frustrated, I retraced my steps again and again, feeling like I was in a Zelda game and missing some obvious detail to trigger the next phase of the quest. Alas, the mythical route to the Alley Taphouse guarded its secret too closely for me, and after ten minutes of searching I gave up and went to the park that’s south of the stream, and which I later concluded was haunted.

A dinky alley, just like Tim said there would be!
A dinky alley, just like Tim said there would be!
Hmmm... clearly neither of these doors are Ally Taphouse.
Hmmm… clearly neither of these doors are Alley Taphouse.
And this is a dead end. At this point, I realized I was probably trespassing on private property.
And this is a dead end. At this point, I realized I was probably trespassing on private property.

So what did I learn from all this? Well, Tim was the only owner I could communicate with, so he and I talked a lot about craft beer in Gwangju and its future. Tim agreed that it was inevitable that the market will continue to grow. He has observed that his customers split pretty evenly along Korea/foreign and male/female lines, which is a very positive sign.

However, the scene is only two years old. Tim expects growth to be very slow for the next few years. As well, until things grow bigger, Tim foresees many suppliers and distributors being less than enthusiastic in dealing with the logistics of doing business so far from Seoul. Having spent only three days in Gwangju, I can’t really argue with him.

That being said, I do have a naive faith that the scene will grow quickly in Gwangju. Partly because of the hard work of guys like Tim, partly because of all the growth and development in other parts of the country, and partly because of my faith that—once you get a taste for finely crafted beer—there’s just no turning back.

Craft Beer Fest Korea: How Did Seoul’s First Major Commercial Craft Beer Fest Hold Up?

By Rob Shelley in Seoul

On July 5th, Seoul saw its first craft beer event since January’s Seoul Brew Club Winter Beer Fest. That event (written about here) was a major success. Anticipation built with the coming of the Spring Beer Fest, until government regulators threatened legal action. While the SBC and their friends raced to find some sort of legal solution, Media Paran capitalized on the opportunity by organizing a commercial festival: Craft Beer Fest Korea. Craft breweries who participated were Craftworks, Platinum, Levee, Craftone, Weizen Haus, and Lovibond.

Brochure for the CBFK. The first of its kind!
Brochure for the CBFK. The first of its kind!

Entrance 1

 

The CBFK was a grander festival than the previous Winter Beer Fest or the Craft Beer Fest at COEX last November. The crowd was bigger and the amount of beer was greater. As well, there were free snacks and live bands. Certainly, in many ways, it showed an evolution of the beer fest in Seoul.

Of course, with a new festival and new organizers, the main concern becomes: how did it compare? The CBFK did a lot of things right and offered a very good time. However, as it is with any first time, there are lessons to be learned.

First, let’s start with what the CBFK did right!

January’s Winter Beer Fest was a great event. However, its main concern was the lack of, well, beer. All kegs ran dry after 2-3 hours and most, if not all, ticket holders were left with holes to punch on their ticket but no reason left to punch them. A friend of mine had four samples instead of the promised fourteen. In its defense, the Winter Beer Fest was a grassroots, home brewer supplied festival looking to cater to a fast-growing market. Although the event organizer promised to correct this shortcoming at the now-cancelled Spring Beer Fest (which I was so looking forward to!), the Winter Beer Fest remains the standard to compare from.

Every one of those punched spaces represent good times. However, the  words "Good Only While Supplies Last" still haunt me to this day! What did they taste like? Arrghh!
Every one of those punched spaces represent good times. However, the words “Good Only While Supplies Last” still haunt me to this day! What did they taste like? Arrghh!

At the CBFK, ticket holders had no problem getting their allotted amount of beer. For 25,000won, participants were able to get one beer from each vendor, plus two extra of their choice, for a total of eight 3-4oz beers. Added to that were free samples of snacks: pretzels, jerky, crab-flavored potato chips (I judge the flavor from the creepy crab on the bag, not from personal experience), and a piece of bagged pizza. Although the pizza was cold, greasy, and stored in a plastic bag, it did come with a coupon for a free pizza, so it kind of evened out.

Cold, greasy, and inserted into plastic. Yum. I hope someone got a stern talking to for this. I still ate it, though. I'm only human.
Cold, greasy, and inserted into plastic. Yum. I hope someone got a stern talking to for this. I still ate it, though. I’m only human.

One fine improvement was the ability to buy things throughout the CBFK. Although they sold vouchers instead of letting people use cash, participants were able to buy burritos, sandwiches, and coffee at Duke’s. More importantly, however, 12oz beers could be purchased from the vendors themselves at the reasonable price of 4,000-5,000won. In contrast to the Winter Beer Fest, one could actually get more festival beer long after their ticket was punch drunk. One’s favorite beers from the day could be revisited or, more importantly, the avid beer geek could try almost everything!

All of my spaces got punched this time! However, almost half of those spaces were for things like crab chips and bagged pizza.
All of my spaces got punched this time! However, almost half of those spaces were for things like crab chips and bagged pizza.

Booths 1 Booths 2

The main difference between the two festivals was the source of beer. The COEX festival had professional and homebrew beers. The Winter Fest was solely homebrew. And this festival was solely professional beer, finally a possibility with the amount of craft brew businesses starting to take off.

Although the festival served beer from professional brewers instead of homebrewers, these breweries are young. Many of them I had not heard of before. The SBC members, in most cases, have been around longer and produce beer that is pretty much on par. This gives a slight advantage to the SBC Winter Beer Fest, as it offered a greater variety and more novel beers.

Some beers did stand out at the CBFK, for better or worse.

From the misstep category, the Lovibond beers were far too cold. They offered a Tropical Pale Ale and Chocolate Porter, and both were initially tasteless. I spent a few minutes warming the cup with my hands, and then letting the sip sit in my mouth for several seconds before swallowing. The beers were much improved! Dispensing off-site can be a challenge, so I’d love a chance to taste the beers on-premise.

Brochure Lovibond

My companion and I were split on the two Levee beers. I had the Double Stout and thought it was strange. It tasted much stronger than the 6.8% would lead me to believe. However, it had a very light mouthfeel and no taste of dark malt: no chocolate, caramel, toast, biscuit, coffee, etc. It also had a homebrew-like aroma, as if it contained some slight imperfections. My friend, however, really enjoyed his Citrus Rye. He loved the heavy mouthfeel and its hefeweizen-like banana esters.

Brochure Levee
Yes, I know; the Citrus Rye isn’t on the menu here. Some the of vendors ran out of a few brews and some had extra brews not advertised.

As for beers of note, there were lots of great brews to choose from. I’m leaving out Platinum and Craftworks because those brands are established and their beers are always very professional and high quality. For the newcomers, I was most impressed by Weizen Haus’ Harry Porter and Craftone’s “I hop so.” Both were high-quality brews that hold their own against both the established brands and the recent flood of craft beer imports.

Brochure CraftOne

Brochure WeizenHaus

Another big change in this festival was choice of venue. The CBFK was hosted in and around Duke’s at the Korean War Memorial. The War Memorial itself is gorgeous, displaying beautiful monuments and back-dropped by a view of N-Seoul Tower. The festival area itself included a paved courtyard, Duke’s café, a balcony, and a fenced off area partitioning a performance stage. The venue offered enough space to feel comfortable, but hardly felt like an improvement.

Entrance to the War Memorial. N Seoul Tower overlooks from the background.
Entrance to the War Memorial. N Seoul Tower overlooks from the background.

Balcony 1

Balcony 2 Venue 1 Venue 2 Venue 3

On the other hand, the Winter Beer Fest’s choice to use several hip, popular pubs and restaurants in and around the gentrified, craft-beer Mecca of HBC and Gyeongnidan provided a really cool atmosphere. The crowds were broken down into smaller groups, allowing more interaction and exchange. As well, participants could order food or beer from these places with real cash, not vouchers. In contrast, the CBFK had a live band and collected everyone together one area. For some people, that might be better than walking all around the neighborhood. Though I enjoyed the intimacy and adventure of the Winter Beer Fest more, it’s really a toss-up.

As with everything after its first time, there are lessons to be learned and improvements to be made. Although the beer lines moved rather quickly, the line to get a punch card and bracelet moved very slowly. The lines were also confusing at first, snaking around the back of the venue, up some stairs, then into and throughout Duke’s itself. Also, having the line run through Duke’s meant it was very inconvenient to buy anything there during the first few hours, and that there was absolutely no seating.

Dukes 1 Dukes 2

Seating was a bit of a problem throughout the first hours. More concerning was the location of three vendors’ booths set up near a sidewalk that was barricaded from the road. This bottlenecked traffic. If it’s possible to move the barricade into the first lane of the (not busy) road, that could improve things next time. Also, more seats, benches, or even tables to lay down your beer could help.

Additionally, without giving offense to Duke’s pre-made burritos or California Pizza Kitchen’s pizza-in-a-bag, why wasn’t someone grilling on a BBQ? Some fresh-made food would have scored big time with hundreds of beer drinkers. Instead of including crab chips and jerky sponsors, where were Vatos or Gusto Taco? A zillion vendors around Seoul could have provided awesome food, freshly cooked from a truck or BBQ.

Finally, the value of offering only eight samples and cheap snacks for the price of 25,000won is still being debated amongst Seoul’s beer enthusiasts. Considering that the snacks came from sponsors, and weren’t very impressive, why couldn’t there be more beer for that price? This whole event is, at least partially, about advertising and exposing a product; be it jerky or stout, businesses are here for exposure, not short-term profits. If one thought the snacks were not satisfactory, then they were basically paying 25,000won for two pints of beer. Not everyone considered this good value for their money.

How do you put a price on this?
How do you put a price on this?

I see that argument but personally disagree: I will spend that money again—every time—if they organize more festivals.

The beer is only part of what is paid for; one must also consider the value of being at the festival itself, surrounded by hundreds of fellow craft beer lovers and local experts. Plus, according to one vendor, this festival was actually run at a loss for his brewery. When one considers the expense of renting equipment, paying staff, and setting up an entire festival for only a few hours of business, maybe this fact shouldn’t be so surprising. Besides, a participant isn’t paying 25,000won for a few samples of beer. They’re paying for entrance to a whole event: music, friends, socializing, tastings, etc. Where else in this country can you try all these beers or gather these many beer lovers in one place?

And that’s really the bottom line. As with the Winter Beer Fest, though some may squabble over value and other issues, this event was fun and I want to see more of them. I’d be disappointed if there weren’t improvements, but I would do this four times a year if they held seasonal events. Why not? This is a chance to try lots of different, good quality beer, mingle with like-minded people, and (hopefully next time) taste some good food.

I just can't help myself. Who does this? California Pizza Kitchen is actually really tasty. And I know giving out hundreds of slices of pizza is a financial and logistical nightmare, but damn... this is negative marketing! If this is what you want people to expect by coming to your restaurant, then you need to switch careers and become a drifter or Congressperson. Your talents are wasted!
I just can’t help myself. Who does this? California Pizza Kitchen is actually really tasty. And I know giving out hundreds of slices of pizza is a financial and logistical nightmare, but damn… this is negative marketing! If this is what you want people to expect by coming to your restaurant, then you need to switch careers and become a drifter or Congressperson. Your talents are wasted!

 

Cheers to good times and good beer!
Cheers to good times and good beer!

First visit at the new Goldmalt in Hanoi

by Jonathon Gharbi of BeerVN

Goldmalt opened up brewery nr 8 in Hanoi a few months ago, the first microbrewery on the Northern side of Red River.

This brewery is a few months old and situated in Long Bien district. After crossing the Red River you have another 7 km to go before you can pour beer into a thirsty throat.

Gold malt Hanoi

Staff are helpful and does their best to make your visit pleasant. As a foreigner you are always surprised of the number of staff that a restaurant can have. This evening there was about 15 other customers and number of serving staff was seven. The food came in quickly and the beer was delivered with a smile.

As in all other Goldmalt brewpubs you can find a rare collection of posters and pictures of motives from Europe.  You will find pictures of blond women serving or drinking beer in all Goldmalt breweries, as of today we have never seen a blond vietnamese serving the beer.

gold malt hanoi

The food is good and both noodle dishes and their tasty ribs is recommended along with a few glases of beer. The safe card is to order french fries (don’t forget to ask for mayonaise), grilled ribs, stir fried noodles with vegtables and beef, morning glory and sausages. For a few hudred thousand Dong (15-20 USD) you will have several beers and plenty of food for two people.Goldmalt Hanoi

The prices on food are normal but the beer costs 29 000 vnd for a glas which is cheaper than in the other Goldmalts. Right now there is also some ongoing discount on beer so if you have the plan to drink every day, you might consider move in to one of the empty apartments that are available here. The blond beer is well structured and has notes of grapefruit and some bitternes from the sass hops. You get a malty and refreshing taste. The black beer has clear notes of coffe from the dark malt and is quite a good option if you want something to pair with the grilled ribs.

Goldmalt sai dong

Most restaurants and pubs are closing by 10-11 pm in Hanoi, if you want refill you better go back to Hanoi, everything in this area is closed by 10 pm. That is also one of the benefits with visiting this brewery, you can have your dinner and beers in a peaceful and quiet environment. afterwards you can take a stroll in one of the small parks in the area.

If you live in Hanoi, you can come here with the taxi / bike or take local bus 11, 40 or 59 to the shopping center Big C in Long Bien and a taxi the last kilometres to Sai Dong area. You will find many half conctructed houses and empty areas here.

Goldmalt beer Hanoi

Czech beer Hanoi

Cheers to Goldmalt, despite tough times Goldmalt opens new breweries in remote areas like Sai Dong. While many businesses are struggling with the numbers it seems like goldmalt has a winning strategy to cope with the numbers and keep on delivering cheap and good beer to the masses. Tasting panel: Jonas Hjerpe, restaurant manager from Lotte Tower and Jonathan Gharbi,http://www.beervn.com.

It’s Almost Festival Time in Manila – Drink Up PH!

Immerse yourself in this one of a kind outdoor festival as we celebrate all things alcoholic with Drink Up Philippines on May 24, 2014 at the Forum on Federacion Dr. and 9th Avenue, Fort Bonifacio.

Local Craft Beer includes Pivo Praha, Craftpoint Brewing, Katipunan Craft Brewing, GPoint Brewing, Fat Pauly’s from Iligan and Xavierbier from Baguio. I think this qualifies as a beer festival in Manila!

Craft Beer, Food and Cocktail Festival.
A Festival of Craft Beer, Cocktails and Great Food at Drink Up PH!
    • COME THIRSTY

      Drink your way through hundreds of artisanal cocktails, unique beers and quality wines

    • COME HUNGRY

      Feed your belly with a wide variety of mouthwatering dishes

    • COME PLAY

      Enjoy a full day of bands, contests and drinking games, so bring your friends and challenge them!

For more details check out Drink Up PH website, Twitter or Facebook Page. See you there!

The Business of Craft Beer

Although a study from the United States (by Kendall College Hospitality Student), this information is becoming very relevant in parts of SE Asia that are seeing the craft beer culture emerge.

The past few years have been good to fans of craft beer. As microbrews have gained popularity, more and more labels and flavors have found their way to grocery store shelves and bars. Some popular craft beers, such as Goose Island and Shock Top, have been bought out by Anheuser-Busch, but for the most part, craft beers are remaining independent and maintaining their own distinct tastes.

As of 2012, there were 2,403 microbreweries across the US. According to the Brewers Association, that’s the most breweries that have been in operation since the 1880s! Just as each region has unique food, each region now has craft beers that they can claim as their own—Brooklyn Brewery on the East coast, Kalamazoo in the Midwest, New Belgium in the Rockies, and Sierra Nevada in the west. The thousands of small craft breweries out there give us something to get excited about and take regional pride in, as they experiment with new flavors and roll out seasonal beers. All those breweries also give us the opportunity to discover new beers on a regular basis.

Another part of the reason microbreweries have taken off is because craft beer is a social experience for many people. Small breweries offer tours so craft beer fans can see how their beverages are made, and many breweries also have tasting rooms or pubs where locals can gather. Craft beers are frequently available at restaurants, giving people the opportunity to pair beers with complementary food. Some craft breweries are even starting to sell their beer in cans as well as bottles, so that people can take it with them to certain outdoor places like campgrounds and tennis courts that may not allow glass bottles.

The best news for people who love craft beer is that the industry is projected to keep on growing—while 36% of consumers already drink craft beer, 45% say they’re interested in branching out to craft beers. And when there’s more of a demand, there will also be more of a supply. Let’s drink to that.

For even more statistics on the growth of the craft beer industry, check out the infographic from Kendall College below.

Kendall College - Tap into the Business of Craft Beer
Kendall College recently had their hospitality program do a study into craft beer that provides insights into both the growth of the craft beer category as a whole along with food pairing suggestions to go with different types of craft beer.

Manila’s First Craft Beer Festival – Cerveza 2014

by Anne Paye – Craft Beer Asia’s Philippine Correspondent

A festival or gala is an event ordinarily staged by a local community which centers on and celebrates some unique aspect of that community and the festival. Add beer, and you have something memorable as I reflect back to the first craft beer festival in Manila. What made Cerveza really special was the people and vendors that put their heart and soul into the event. I had the pleasure in not just meeting these fellow colleagues but bonding with new friends and discussing what makes their choice of career so special.

Cerveza 2014
Cerveza Craft Beer Festival in Manila, Philippines

I first started out the Fat Pauly’s (from Illigan) booth. Here’s a man that obviously is obsessed with craft beers showcasing an incredible variety at the event. I can remember perhaps almost a dozen choices. You know this man must breath beer and have beer in his veins and you can tell how passionate and enthusiastic he is. He is so dedicated to his passion and I must say that the complex flavor and variety shows it. What a great palette this man has to create these monster flavors.

Fat Pauly's at Cerveza 2014
Fat Pauly’s Craft Beer from Iligan City, Philippines

Next, I went next to my regular drinking spot, G Point, were i spent most of my time. It’s really not just about the beer. I was spending time with people that are so passionate and hospitable and share their story and love for their product and it shows with their flavours. I talked to Rose and Morgan and this is obviously a couple and marriage which equals out to “beer heaven”. Rose and her husband, Morgan, from Sweden really wanted to go ahead and brand their products after the Filipino cultures and budget, even though it’s more affordable than some of the other brewers here in the Philippines.

G Point Brewing from Manila
G Point Craft Beer from Manila, Philippines

They don’t rely on luck for the quality and integrity of their beers. In fact, they told me that in making a particular beer for the palate of Filipino cuisine that they go through thousands of litres of experimental beer to keep their product consistent. They told me the reason for this was because when a beer first comes out a week later it might be different in taste the week following. They don’t want to perfect single beer but many varieties of beer to please the palette for customer in different moods. I asked Morgan, “why moods?” he told me it’s all about how you feel that day and what your eating influences what you drink. “Really” whats your favorite it depends on my mood. Lol… He has a different love for each beer he makes and thats why each individual beer is so special to him. Makes sense to me and I cant pick out my favorite to me. Its all good!

G Point Brewing Manila
Morgan & Rose from G Point Brewing with Anne at Cerveza Craft Beer Festival

I also want to welcome our new brewers from The Philippines – Palaweño Brewing. They already craft a beer for the pallet of Palaweños. Palaweños are already known for nice beaches and their cuisine, need i say more.

Always great and consistent and never disappointing also was Beerology. I think I want to major in that course. Hahaha! They brought a variety of beers from around the world. I had some of my favorite, Blue Moon form the U.S. and Chimay from Belguim and tried a new one for myself, a Tripel, rum-like beer very crisp and fruity in taste. A little unusual, but i liked it.

Katipunan Craft Ales at Cerveza
Katipunan Craft Ales from Manila

Katipunan Craft Beers also showcased their craft beers at the festival. Food was provided by a number of food trucks and their was a great lineup of local bands to provide entertainment.

Manila Food Trucks at Beer Festival
Manila’s food trucks at Cerveza Craft Beer Festival

I know that craft beer has a good future in The Philippines. Looking at the crowd (at the festival) you have your older generation of distinguished taste but the majority was a younger and more active enthusiast which bring a bright future for craft beers in the Philippines.