Craft Beer in Saigon
In summary, there are about 12 different breweries in Saigon. Almost all of them are owned by foreigners from the west, but maybe as time goes on and their employees learn from them, we will see more locally owned and operated breweries. The best breweries have high prices that keep many locals from trying them. The prices are average by American brewery standards, but you will have a hard time convincing many Vietnamese people that any beer is worth $5-$7 when they have been drinking them for less than $0.50 their whole life. Most of the breweries have made some attempt to appropriate the Vietnamese culture into the craft culture and incorporate local fruits and flavors in their beers. We visited 8 different breweries during our stay and I am going to attempt to rank them for you based on the quality of the beers, the atmosphere of the bar, and their adoption of country’s culture within those things.
Rehab Station (Tap House)
Rehab Station is not a brewery itself, but a taproom with all of the local breweries on tap. I’m not ranking this place because they aren’t technically a brewery, but I am going to recommend them. If you are more interested in just trying the beers from the different breweries in town and not actually visiting each one, this would be a great place to go. They had beers on tap from just about every brewery I’m going to mention here, so it would be a great way to get to sample a few in one location. The atmosphere is very nice and the staff is friendly and professional. They had a great happy hour where the beers were BOGO. We had two small hefes from Winking Seal and it only cost us 90,000 VND total ($4.50) I definitely recommend visiting this tap room, especially if you are short on time, but still want to try some Saigon craft beer.
#7 Winking Seal Beer Co.
The Winking Seal is located in close proximity to the Bui Vien Walking Street. It’s a cheeky little brewery with distribution around the country. All of the beers on the menu sounded good, but they didn’t have many of them available, and the ones they did have unfortunately were not good at all. Their seasonal menu only had 2 of the 8 beers on it available and their standard menu was also missing 4 of the beers. So we spent a good deal of time just trying to figure out what beers we could actually have. We ended up having the Hefe, the IPA, and Summer Ale. Sadly they were all pretty flat and bland. They lacked carbonation and seemed watered down and syrupy. I also suspect that maybe their cooler was broken because while the glasses were cold, the beers were room temperature. The prices were on the higher end for the breweries in town and there wasn’t any kind of special going on when we were there. It’s worth a look, but this brewery is honestly at the bottom of my list after trying the others.
#6 Czech Beer on the walking street
Perhaps the first brewery you will notice when you get to town is located directly on the infamous Bui Vien Walking Street. This small brewery makes several traditional Czech styles and sells them at an affordable price. The tap room is very small, but nice for a quick pint while out walking around. They don’t really attempt to include anything authentically Vietnamese or have any seasonal brews. It’s really just a no thrills Czech beer taproom with about 6 Czech styles on tap. We had the gold and the brown and they were both just fine but I didn’t find anything particularly unique about this brewery.
#5 Hen House Craft Beer Bar (Rooster Beer)
The Hen House is a cool brewery located on the busy travel agency road just across from the nice park. The owner is from California, USA but the staff was all local and very friendly. They had a great special where certain large beers are only 50,000 VND ($2.50). The Hen House also had the best prices on food of any of the breweries we visited in addition to the fact that they served actual Vietnamese food instead of western pub food. We had an IPA, a Pilsner, and a Brown, along with some great Pho for lunch. We enjoyed talking with the staff about the different beers and where we were from and we got to walk out of there with some free swag for taking some pictures with our beers.
#4 East West
East West Brewery was the first brewery we tried in Saigon and they definitely set the bar pretty high for the others. The head brewer is from Orgeon, USA, but he works alongside and mentors a local up-and-comer to create some of the best brews in the country. The brewery has a huge taproom with the brewery on site and visible to the visitors. The beer is real western craft beer prices, but the quality tells you why. We had an IPA and a Hefe and they were both impeccable. The food is expensive though. The prices are very high considering local restaurants are using the same ingredients to prepare meals for a fraction of the price. However, that shouldn’t scare you away from trying the beer. My only issue with East Wast Brewery was that the place was full of more cigarette smoke than a Chinese casino, which made it really hard to truly smell and taste the beer. They have an outdoor patio, but for some reason the smoking section is at the bar. The beers were amazing quality and I wish I could have tried them all.
C-Brewmaster is my personal favorite brewery in Saigon. They are owned and operated by Vietnamese locals, which was refreshing to find out after learning that the owners of all of the other breweries were from the west. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful when we were asking about the beers. This was the only brewery that actually offered to let us sample the beers before ordering one, which is normal back in the U.S., but not something any of the other breweries in town did for us. They also put out beer nuts on the bar which is a tasty plus. My favorite part about C-Brewmaster was the number of uniquely Vietnamese beers they had on tap. Ingredients like passion fruit, cacao, and local coffee were only the start. They had a Pho inspired beer (the most popular dish in Vietnam) that incorporated some of the spices and flavors in a creative way to make one of the most unique beers I have ever had. They have some great specials such as BOGO from 4pm-6pm as well as BOGO on their bottles sometimes when they need to get rid of them. All of the beers we had were great but they still have some room to improve on overall quality. I would give them a 4/5 on quality with most of the beers tasting somewhere between some of the better home brews I have had and some of the newer nano-breweries that pop up around my home state of Colorado.
#2 Heart of Darkness Brewery
Heart of Darkness Brewery has an extensive tap menu of top quality beers. They have quite a few heavy hitters too, such as a double IPA and a few other strong beers that come in well above 10% abv. They don’t have too many experimental styles or anything that stood out to me as being unique to Vietnam though. However, their standard taps were super good and each one we tried was a 5 out of 5 stars. You can tell the brewers have a lot of experience and really know what they are doing. There is kind of an elitist hipster vibe there that I wasn’t particularly fond of though. The owners are foreign as are several of the employees, all of which could be found drinking their own beers behind the bar and shooting the shit with each other more than talking with customers. Myself and one other patron got the cold shoulder from the owner when trying to discuss beer with him while he and his buddies came in and started drinking beers from the fridge. I think that the atmosphere is a big part of what makes a brewery cool, and we kind of just felt like we had crashed a party we weren’t invited to. It could have just been that night though. Their beers speak for themselves and I had a hard time not ranking them number 1 for their superior quality of brews.
#1 Pastuer Street Brewing
Pastuer Street Brewing produces what is arguably the best beer in Vietnam. The brewery boasts several notable awards including a 2016 gold medal World Beer Cup for chocolate beer. The brewery has some American owners that really know their shit. One of the head brewers came from a previous position at one of my own state’s best breweries, Upslope Brewing CO., so we weren’t surprised to find that high Colorado standard in all of their beers. Pastuer Street incorporates many local flavors and ingredients from around Vietnam such as coffee, cacao, and dragon fruit. We had a nitro mocha porter, a dragon fruit gose, and a saison. They were all top notch. The brewery had a nice happy hour that got you a beer and a snack for 110,000 VND ($5.50) There are two different taprooms on site that you can drink at on the popular street that the brewery is named after. The supreme quality of their beers, the great atmosphere of the upstairs taproom and local staff, and the incorporation of native Vietnamese ingredients is why I think this is the best brewery in Saigon and I am not alone in that conclusion.