Being a foodie tour provider, Flavors of Hanoi has been taking generations of travelers on ourdaily Hanoi food tours. For those who love street eats Hanoi, having bia hoi on the sidewalk is one of the experiences they love the most. Within this blog post, you’ll learn everything about this beloved beer.
What’s Bia Hoi?
Bia hoi, or fresh beer, is a popular draft larger beer in Vietnam. It’s often served on recycled glasses, and available primarily on the street across the country – especially in the capital Hanoi. The beer is authentically packaged and delivered daily in steel kegs on motorbike.
Since the alcohol content of this foamy beer is just 3%, bia hoi is exceptionally cheap – a glass of bia hoi costs less than 50 US cents (11,500 VND), with some vendors offering it for as cheap as 20 cents (5,000 VND). Thus, bia hoi is known as the cheapest beer in the world.
Thanks to the quick turnover, the restaurants and street vendors that serve bia hoi often get a fresh batch delivered promtly from the breweries. Therefore, there is few preservatives, dregs are chucked down the gutter at close of the business each day.
History of Bia Hoi
The history of bia hoi is much like that of the Vietnamese coffee, beef noodle soup, and banh mi pate, it began with the French colonialists – who first brought beer into Vietnam in the late 19thcentury.
Before beer, traditionally, Vietnamese drank home-brewed rice wine – ruou gao. As the first beer brewery in Hanoi was opened by the French in 1890, the beer drinking culture of Vietnam caught on quickly.
After defeating the French in 1954, Vietnam took over the beer production and tried to bring beer to the masses. To deal with the shortage of materials to make glass bottles, reusable metal kegs were utilized. As it turned out, people loved the affordable and fresh taste of bia hoi.
Today, Vietnam is one of Asia’s biggest beer-drinking countries, consuming 4,6 billion liters a year in 2019, taking per capita beer consumption to 46 liters, according to Ministry of Industry and Trade.
How is Bia Hoi Made in Hanoi?
Unless you’ve homebrewed or have read a lot about the technical side of brewing, we’d suspect you might have question about how bia hoi is made. Fear not! Let’s us get you familiar with the process of making bia hoi in Hanoi.
From the imported barley, the state-run Hanoi Beverage Company (Habeco) starts the regular malting process involving multiple steps; steeping, germinating, and kilning. The malting process is mainly about enzymes, which initiate the process of converting starch to sugar.
The malt solution will then boiled while hops (also imported) are added to create aroma and bitterness for the beer. The beer wort will then be cooled to a temperature where fermentation can begin, provided with additional enzymes necessary for the growth of yeast.
It’s this wort that they’ll also add yeast to, which will be very happy about all that grain-based sugar and nutrients it has to eat. Once that yeast finishes its work during the cooling and fermentation, they’re left with Hanoi beer. After filtering, the beer is packaged in kegs for delivering.
Is It Safe to Drink Bia Hoi?
Since it’s cheap and found mostly on the street, there has been many discussions when it comes to the safety of bia hoi. We haven’t experienced any problem while drinking it, except a hangover sometimes. It’s normal as we Vietnamese are insisting on fishing a beer in one sip. It just adds up after many bottom ups!
We haven’t heard any negative experience about bia hoi from our clients neither, though there were few headaches from those who had too many bottom ups though. Hence, it’s more than enough for us to say it’s safe to drink bia hoi. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that this a street style beer.
Best Places to Drink Bia Hoi in Hanoi
Hanoians love drinking beer, not because of its taste, but because they’re fond of the ambiance. Every day, after finishing work from about 5 pm, they flock to favorite bia hoi restaurants to congregate on little plastic stools.
These are their best places to hang out with their best buddies, sharing a piece of gossip and putting the world to rights, all while sipping on the cold beer and enjoying tasty local foods.
Though establishments serving bia hoi are relatively basic, the food and the beer are more likely to be fresh, even fantastic if they are busy places with high turnover of customers. Here are some of the best places to drink bia hoi in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
Bia Hoi Restaurants
Bia Hoi Hai Xom, Bia Hoi Lan Chin, Bia Hoi Viet Ha, and Bia Hoi Hanoi are names that you will see across the city, including the French Quarter. These restaurants serve mainly fresh bia hoi with Vietnamese food that can go well with beer, including boiled peanuts and steamed carp fish.
If you’re not really looking for a specific place, then these restaurants are perfect spots to taste bia hoi. Their main customers are locals, providing a unique vibe while drinking there. Be prepared to get invited by locals to their table, and you may get few beers more than expected!
Hanoi’s Beer Corner
Located in the heart of the Old Quarter, the intersection between Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen Streets (north of Hoan Kiem Lake) is known as Hanoi’s Beer Corner. It’s where you won’t see any other thing than beer, plastic chairs, and local snacks.
The corner can get pretty crowded in the evening, so keep your valuables close to hand as pickpocketing may occur to unwary tourists. Try not to sit too far out in the street, as those at the edge lose their seats when the crowds are pushed back towards the house when local police patrol.
Generally speaking, be there between 7 – 8 pm for the most buzzing atmosphere! However, if you want to get off the tourist track, head to one of the quieter streets.
Bia Hoi Joint at 50 Bat Dan and 2 Duong Thanh Streets
Located by the intersection between Bat Dan and Duong Thanh Streets, there are two well-known bia hoi restaurants. Their customers are mainly local, so you can definitely experience a real and authentic culture of beer drinking in Hanoi.
The majority of their clientele are the working class and people living nearby, who wants to get relaxed after a hard day at work. They usually start to eat and drink around 6 pm and stay up to 11 pm. Pho Bat Dan, one of the best pho places in town, is also a few steps away.
Well, hope this post prepares you well with bia hoi – the world’s cheapest beer, don’t miss the chance to try it when you are in Hanoi. Join Flavors of Hanoi’s peronal foodie tour guide on our daily walking Hanoi food tour, and explore the best of what the city has to offer.
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