The beer scene in my home city of Bac Giang was somewhat limited. And by somewhat limited, I mean there were Bia Hoi (local draught) joints, one bar that sells Budweiser and Hoegaarden, and convenience stores. There’s nothing wrong with the Bia Hoi places – I was quite attached to my local, with its 7k dong glasses, cheap food and great staff. But sometimes you need a little variety; for that, I had to jump on board the 203 bus for the 50km trip to Hanoi.
My circa monthly trips to Hanoi provided some welcome respite - here’s my 326 dong worth (at current NZD-VND rates) on my “sightseeing”.
A Hanoi taproom of the HCMC brewery, it’s staffed by an affable group of young Vietnamese. Good location on Hàng Buồm in the heart of the Old Quarter so perfect for a post-dinner beer or as part of a night of bar hopping. And if you can grab one the two tables by the window, you're in prime position for an aevening of people-watching. Just don’t expect fast service – the aforementioned group of young Vietnamese staff are inevitably glued to their phones J
Alice Amber – a red ale with a good balance of malt and hops. Great value for a Vietnamese craft beer at 50k a glass.
King Black – a little thinner than I’d normally like in a stout but all the better to rehydrate with in the Hanoi heat and humidity.
Located a mere stone’s throw from the St Joseph Cathedral on the edge of the Old Quarter (ideal for ticking the sightseeing box before indulging your thirst). The staff were friendly and attentive and knew their product well.
Their tap beers consist of year round beers and seasonal productions. - at any stage there'll be around 12 to choose from.
being in South East Asia it was hard to go past the Dragonfruit Gose
among their regular pours, the Jasmine IPA is hard to go past.
A Lord of the Rings craft beer bar - just the thing for a Kiwi who’s been away from home for more than a year.
Indeed, the LOTR lore runs deep with this owner, with a quick search online (as an English teacher, don’t make me use the noun Google as a verb!) being required to find that the titular Evenstar is derived from a pendant that Arwen gives Aragorn.
You'll find Evenstar in the Hai Ba Trung district, a few km south of Hoàn Kiếm Lake for those wanting a break from the Old Quarter
They also have a decent menu - I plumped for the chicken nachos and wasn't disappointed.
Emphasis is on their own Golden Perch beers, (named for an inn featured in the book).
They've got seven taps (4 Golden Perch,1 Pasteur Street,1Furbrew, 1 Homie) plus extensive range on bottle
Doppell Beck - malty, earthy and warm (no surprise at 9%)
Chinook IPA -
A mere 100m from the Hanoi Train Station
I struck the jackpot here on my first visit – whilst ordering what I intended to be my last beer I was invited to a table by a friendly Vietnamese chap. Turned out he ran one of Vietnam’s largest flower exporting companies and was in the North to meet up with his sales managers. After a couple more beers and some great conversation, I went to pay my tab, only to find they had added my tab to theirs and had already taken care of it.
Second visit for birthday
King IPA. Dark Chocolate
Located on the shores of West Lake, a glorious sunset beckoned but clouds appeared in the western distance and soon put paid to that. Nevermind – I have sunsets in Bac Giang but I don’t have craft beer.
Turtle Lake offers one of the more relaxed drinking environments in Hanoi. Inside, a spacious bar area serves numerous tables, while a tiled beer garden wraps around the front and side of the main building, with vine-wrapped trees bursting from the tiles. If you’re in the side garden, welcoming glass windows give a view of the brewing operations.
Staff were friendly and knowledgeable, happy to help with an honest recommendation.
Helmet Boy Saison – the usual earthy flavours of a Saison but with a banana twist.
0 & 2 Stout – huge taste of dark chocolate, a very decent stout
The best service I encountered in Hanoi. Knowledge and affable.
Located in Truc Bach (between the historic Old Quarter and the expat-ghetto Tay Ho)
Downstairs is the bar and a handful of tables (several of those being upcycled oil drums), upstairs are larger tables, a balcony and glimpses of Truc Bach Lake through the trees.
Fish and chips special Fridays
Views of the lake from the front deck (although car and bikes fumes will quickly get to you), while out the back is a small seated area with tables and leaners (and, surprisingly for Hanoi, views of a small farm!)
I'm currently writing this in quarantine back home in New Zealand. I'll be back to Vietnam (maybe around July) and there will be plenty more craft beer exploring to do. Chops, Container Bar and San Dieu were always on my to-do list but were never checked off, while a continuation of Vietnam's great handling of the Covid situation could see more new players on the market as the economy improves and (fingers crossed) tourism gets up-and-running again.