Where in the world can you get a glass of cold, freshly brewed beer for less than 20 cents? In Hanoi apparently, and Jung and I didn’t get to try it till our very last day. Had we discovered this any earlier though, I might have had to peel Jung off from the little blue table every night so maybe it was a good thing. =)
Jung, the resident beer guru, told me that Vietnamese fresh beer was introduced by the French in the late 19th century and was quite expensive so not many Vietnamese people were able to drink it. However, after the French left, the Vietnamese people took over the brewery and ended up producing instant draught beer, known as bia hoi (fresh beer) and made it pretty cheap. It's now enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
Bia hoi is made daily and distributed by kegs to thousands of bia hoi establishments in Hanoi, like the one we went to above. You will see the kegs stacked up inside in the picture of the bia hoi store. It doesn't have any added preservatives in it so it’s best to drink it when it's fresh, which means early in the day. We didn’t get to it until night time, but it was still very light, frothy and quite refreshing. We were on the look out for bia hoi’s during the whole trip, but most places served only bottled beer. We came across this bia hoi while roaming around the northern part of the Old Quarter on our very last night. The intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen Streets in the bustling Old Quarter is supposed to be known for its “bia hoi corner,” but the one we ended up going to was more up north, near Nguyen Sieu and Dao Duy Tu Street.
Drinking bia hoi is the quintessential Hanoi experience. Time almost seems to stand still when you are sitting outside, watching a sea of motorcycles whiz by you. I’m glad we finally got to experience it before we left and it was a perfect nightcap to our awesome trip. Jung - we gotta do it again sometime.