Living in the heart of a communist country, but the city is more of a food and drink paradise for foodie and connoisseur like me. People like Hanoi for so many different reasons including the French colonial buildings with green tree-line boulevards, the bustling Old Quarter with lively sidewalk life, and the welcoming atmosphere that’s just everywhere in this developing city.
As soon as the sun sets around where we live, taking the advantage of living in our home city, we start our old motorbikes to quickly make ourselves show up at our favorite Beer Corner. It’s really known as “Beer Corner”, as the famous intersection in the Old Quarter lures travelers and locals alike to socialize over ice-cold Bia hoi Hanoi.
Getting to the corner, for me, isn’t just about enjoying a couple brews, but it’s also the ambience and cultural immersion. There is no better way to get up close and personal with Hanoi than strolling the sidewalks, sitting on local plastic stools among the residents and having a nice cold beer.
Like coffee, the French brought the beer drinking culture to Vietnam with the first brewery in Hanoi opened since the 1890s. Prior to that people drank tea and rice wine, which my dad and uncles still prefer to drink, beer comes on their last resort. Vietnamese did not take the colonization easily, but the beer culture caught on quickly even during the resistance war against the French.
When Bia hoi, a light fresh draught beer with 3% alcohol, was introduced as an affordable option for everyone with just a few cents a tumbler, beer consumption started on the rapid growth. Every day, metal bia hoi kegs are being transferred to every crevice and corner in the city. A friend of mine always calls it “instant beer”, like instant coffee or instant noodles, since it’s made, sold and bottom up quickly.
According to the Vietnam Beer Alcohol Beverage Association, we the Vietnamese consumed some 4 billion liters of beer in 2018, meaning consumption per capital was nearly 43 liters.
Vietnam has been a bright spot on the global beer map over the past decade. The country ranked third among the biggest beer-consuming markets in Asia in 2016, following only Japan and China. Today, it is among the 25 countries with the highest rates of increase in alcohol and beer consumption in the world. With some 129 brewing facilities in big cities like Hanoi, Hue and Ho Chi Minh City, we export over 70 million liters of beer each year, and also imports 3 million liters.
During our Hanoi Street Food Tour, we inevitably stop by a Hanoi’s sidewalk bia hoi so that our clients can have a couple of tumblers, and mingle with the locals. Though I said above that it’s for the ambience and culture, what I really mean is that it’s really the cheapest beer in the town.