Back in November I had the opportunity to visit Vietnam. My wonderful girlfriend got me a surprise birthday trip which she had been planning since the past February. My entire plan was to soak up the culture by eating and drinking my way from Hanoi all the way down to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) all the while making Apocalypse Now, Deer Hunter, and Forest Gump references. Which I considered a great success. If you are a “foodie” I would highly suggest checking out this wonderful country.
Vietnam is perfect for a traveler with a budget and an appetite. I ate Pho just about every opportunity I got. On one evening our entire meal: Two heaping bowls of Pho ba, fried spring rolls, and two Hanoi beers came to $8 US! While traveling I am always looking to broaden my horizons. I mean that is essentially that is what you are doing by traveling. Seeing the sun rise and fall in different places than where you call home is essential to the human experience. To truly experience a new country or city, you really have to get out and experience what the locals eat and drink.
One thing I have enjoyed during my travels, other than just throwing myself into other cultures, is seeing how similar everyone is. How this world is so much smaller than we think it is. During this trip to Vietnam I got both experiences. The sites, smells, food, and especially the traffic are a complete world away from the states. So much so that I actually didn’t expect to experience the later. Especially when I walked into Pasteur Street Brewing and thought I walked back into a brewery here in Seattle.
Pasteur Street looks like just another unassuming storefront on just another crowded and bustling street in Ho Chi Minh City. Like many other restaurants and stores in Vietnam you make your way upstairs for the pay off, and in this case you find a craft brewery. Other than the tiny quarters this could be any brewery here in the states.
At the time of my visit the brewery had 12 different offerings on tap.
Of the light the Jasmine IPA was the best and most widely available at the more trendy spots around HCMC. What really surprised me was that the dark beers made by Pasteur Street made. As the beers got darker the better they got. I was thoroughly surprised as the temperature stays hot all year. For example it was November and it was over ninety degrees and humid when I visited. So you could assume, as I did, that they would make great light beers that would help combat the brutally hot tropical temperatures.
You would be wrong. The big producers have that covered enough. Hanoi beer, Saigon beer, Tiger beer, and Heineken have a great hold on the everyday drinker. But after a week of those light beers I was happy to stumble upon this gem.
As mentioned the light beers were not the best. Most did add a bit of the the locally available ingredients to the lighter offerings. At the time I visited they had the following on tap: Passion Fruit Wheat Ale, Spice Island Saison, Jackfruit Wheat Ale, Ich Bin Ein Pineappler, This (Rose) Bud’s for You (A Rose Saison),a Kolsch, and Jasmine IPA. All just ended up being mediocre at best. My personal favorite actually ended up being the Pineapple Berlinerwise. It was fruity, refreshing, and delicious in mid day heat.
Surprisingly the best offerings were on the darker side of things. Offerings included the ubiquitous Pumpkin Spice Ale, (Thanks a lot Merica!) Vanilla Smoked Porter, Chocolate Coffee Brown Ale, a nitro version of the vanilla smoked porter, and the piece de resistance at Pasteur Street the Cyclo Imperial Chocolate Stout. The stout winning gold at the World Beer Cup. At first given the climate I was truly shocked that the darker beers took the cake. But then I got to thinking how much coffee and cafe culture actually plays a role in everyday Vietnamese life. Then it begins to make sense that these beers exhibit great nutty, chocolate, and vanilla flavors that one can find in coffee.
I highly recommend grabbing a pint or two if you are ever in this part of the world and need a hop fix.