Hanoi Beer - Favorite drinks of Hanoians

Nga Do
Hanoi has been named one of the cheapest and best places to drink fresh beer in Asia by travel guides and journalists, thanks to its lively drinking culture.

Many tourists look forward to the chance to join local Hanoians and enjoy the city's famous Bia Hoi (fresh beer) - a light-bodied pilsner without preservatives that is brewed and delivered daily to drinking places throughout the capital.

Hanoi has become a magnet for tourists who enjoy drinking beer, which is readily available at local pavement shops as well as in luxurious bars.

There are thousands of corner bars with tiny plastic stools set out on the sidewalk and small low tables laden with glasses of beer. Visitors should taste Vietnamese beer and learn how local people drink. “Mot, hai, ba…zo!!” (One, two, three …go!!) and “Tram phan tram!” ("100 percent" or "bottoms up") are common chants that accompany a drinking session in these local establishments.

“Bia Hoi is one of things you should not miss when you come to Hanoi,” says Thomas, a foreign tourist who chooses Hanoi’s old quarter as his favourite place to imbibe a cool brew.

He says he likes Hanoi beer because it is very cheap and delicious. Another thing that amazes visitors is that the beer bars are mostly on the sidewalk where drinkers sometimes have to raise their voices over the din of motorbike traffic or breathe in the clouds of diesel exhaust belched over the plastic tables by a passing bus. “Sitting on the pavement, listening to the mixed sounds, drinking beer and just looking at what's happening around me has become my habit during my time in Hanoi,” Thomas elaborates.

Tristan Parker, a London-based music journalist interested in writing about the arts and culture, says Hanoi’s impressive selection of beers include Larue, Saigon, Huda and Halida.

He says once after drinking several glasses of beer, a sudden downpour made sitting outside no longer an option, so he had to retreat back into the backpacker bar trail and ended up soaking up the atmosphere and more beer inside a colorful and enjoyable reggae bar.

“Bars are officially closed at 11.30pm, but many are not, as I have quickly found, "lock-ins" (some subtle, some less so) to be a rather common practice,” he adds.

Reporter Russ Juskalian has a lot of interesting experiences with beer in all three regions of Vietnam.

Tourists can see Bia Hoi restaurants almost every where, with knee-high plastic tables and semicicular chair placed close to the sidewalk, he says in an article published in The New York Times.

In his opinion, the best draught beer restaurants in Hanoi all serve "crisp, cool beer with a clean taste suggesting rice and an almost subliminal whisper of something like hops.”  Going through these places during the day, it is easy to start a conversation with local people but in the evening, they are too busy talking with each other so they pay no attention to tourists. Vendors also walk along the street offering skewers of roasted meat, dried cuttlefish, dumplings, and noodles that make great bar snacks.

He also provides a list of the freshest beer venues in the city on Hang Tre, Ngoc Ha, and Ta Hien streets. He writes that he spent a number of evenings wandering around the intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen Streets, also well-known as “Bia Hoi corner,” where a lively lot of both foreigners and Vietnamese tend to gather.

After discovering the vibrant beer drinking culture in Hanoi, he says he is not in a hurry to pack his bags and head out to the airport.

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