Beer in Vietnam-Bia hơi

Bia hơi- ‘think global, drink local.’ That’s the moto here in Vietnam. I even have the t-shirt to prove it.   
I have found it. The holy grail. The cheapest beer so far in my nine long months of trotting the globe. Bia hơi, bia hơi, bia hơi!  

  
But what is it? Bia hơi is what would exist in every pub, club and restaurant in the free world if government taxes, health laws and alcohol restrictions didn’t exist. Bia hơi (hơi meaning gas, and bia coming from the French bière) is essentially home brew. The beer is made daily, matured for a short period of time and once ready, served fresh and consumed on the day. It’s fresh. It’s cheap. It’s beer. The cheapest I found was 3,000vnd (9p) and the most expensive was 10,000vnd (30p), and that was expensive as things went. 

   

   
The only downside to bia hơi is that it can sometimes taste a bit quirky and it isn’t particularly strong. It averages at about 3-3.5% max in strength. It’s a little like drinking light American beer, which may offend the beer connoisseur but is absolutely fine in my eyes, when all it costs is 9 pence a glass. Who cares if it’s weak. It’s cheap, so drink more. Feeeeeed that beer belly!!! 

  

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Lifting Laos spirits 

Laos seems to be very fond of the home made whiskey and vodka. A lot of bars tend to give the option of having your drink mixed with the local stuff instead of the premium global brands. The local stuff is cheaper and with the ratio of spirit to mixer (about 70% spirit to mixer), after sinking a couple you’re not bothered. They mix them strong in Laos. You can buy the Laos whiskey in the shops and whole 700ml bottles at the bar. The whiskey will set you back about £4 which is insanely cheap considering a 700ml bottle of Pepsi to mix it with costs around £1.50-£2. Spilt with a couple of pals and you’ve got a fine night on your hands. Not bad eh? 
 

BeerLao dark with a jack fruit whiskey chaser

 
  
Some bars and restaurants make and flavour their own stuff. The base alcohol is usually rice wine, vodka or whiskey. They then mix this up with a load of fresh fruit/ spices and sugar, then leave it to flavour. The results are surprisingly good. I think I will definitely try this at home. 

   
 

The Pride Of The South

Dunedin is home to one of New Zealand’s oldest and most popular beers: Speight’s. Whilst visiting the city, I couldn’t pass on the chance of visiting the brewery and sampling the fine array of beers brewed on site.   
$28 (£14) buys you entrance to the brewery, a guided tour of the manufacturing and history of the brewery and a tray of 6 sampler beers. For those less interested in the science and history, and more into the consumption, $16 (£8) will buy you a sampling tray of 6 of Speight’s most popular brews at the on site ale house. 

  
  
History

Speight’s started brewing their signature Gold Medal Ale on April 4th 1876 in Dunedin. Since then Speight’s has expanded it’s range of beer and global reach, distributing from the Pacific to New York and London.    
The Beer

The sampling tray consisted of Speight’s Porter 5%, Speight’s Triple Hop Pilsner 4%, Speight’s Gold Medal Ale 4%, Speight’s 5 Malt Old Dark Ale 4%, Speight’s Summit 4% and Speight’s Distinction Ale 4%..

  
  
   
 The images above give an adequate description of the flavours and taste and I can personally confirm that these are spot on. 

All were delicious, my personal favourite being the 5 Malt Dark Ale. It’s the perfect combination of dark malt and sharp hops, with a lovely sweet finish. 

Tui beer 

For today’s expedition I shall be exploring probably the most popular beer in NZ; Tui lager. You’ll find Tui beer in most places in NZ. There are a couple of varieties : Tui Pale Ale, Porter and Lager. The lager is a pretty standard affair. It’s described as;

‘A golden, full flavoured lager with a crisp refreshing bitterness.’ 

  
 I guess that sums it up pretty well. However there are two other things I like about this brand besides it’s simple lager taste. For one, it is named after a native NZ bird which probably has the best bird song I have ever heard. Check the link bellow. 
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Xk02PJBUODE
    

twist bottle tops are the future.

  
Secondly each bottle cap has a trivial pursuit style question on the inside. These make for some great little factoids and interesting drinking conversation. See if you can answer any of the following. Answers are at the bottom. 

A) What is a pregnant goldfish called? 

B) Opposite sides of a dice always add up to what number? 

C) What is NZ’s largest sector of the economy? 

D) Which city hosts Oktoberfest? 

E) How many sweat glands do your feet have? 

F) What type of car does Mr Bean drive? 

G) A typical American eats how many pigs in a lifetime?  
If you can answer them all without cheating then I promise to buy you a bottle if Tui. Game on. 

  

Answers

A) Twit

B) 7 

C) Agriculture 

D) Munich 

E) Approximately 250,000

F) Mini 

G) 28 

New Zealand budget beers part 1 

Wild Buck beer  

Wild Buck beer is at the lower end of New Zealand’s beverage price range. It’s a pale lager and comes in at 4% ABV. 

  
This lager is best described using the first words that came out of my mouth after my first swig- ‘It tastes like Fosters!’ It’s as simple as that. No beating around the bush with this one. It does the trick, and at $2.99 (>£1.50)  for 500ml you can’t really complain. 

The thing I like about this beer is it’s not bull sh** attitude. On the back of the bottle is says the following; 

‘Wild Buck has answered the call of real New Zealand beer drinkers. A beer that’s not fancy or soft, just a good no-nonsense New Zealand Ale. It’s made with our best local hops, malts and water, but don’t let that fool you, it’s still beer. Just without the bull. ‘

  

It does not try to sell itself as something fancy and trendy. It is a no frills attached lager and does exactly what is says on the tin (or bottle in this case). Its honesty is refreshing and for this reason I will be buying it again next time I’m thirsty and poor. 

The beer of Middle Earth 

The other day I had the pleasure of trying a very unique beer. In fact this beer is served in only one pub in the world. The pub is a real life realisation of a fictional creation by the one and only JRR Tolkien. That’s right, the Green Dragon in Hobbiton. 

As part of the entry price to Hobbiton you get a full tour and a complimentary drink at the end. Awesome! Then came the hard part. There were four drinks to choose from and we were only allowed to pick one. On offer were the following; 

Girdley Fine Grain South Farthing Amber Ale 

Smell: Caramel, tangelo, herbal

Taste: Light, malty, sweet

ABV:3.7% 

Description- We brewed our Amber ale with a classic English bitter in mind. This beer is about rich caramel malts and is the perfect ale to relax with after a long journey. 

  
Oatbarton Brew Traditional English Ale

Colour: Black

Smell: Chocolate, coffee, vanilla

Taste: Roastieness, chocolate

ABV: 5%

Sackville Cider Apple Cider 

Colour: Golden delicious yellow

Smell: Vinous, Granny Smith apple

Taste: Tart, sweet, refreshing

ABV: 5.0% 

Description- This cider bursts onto the palate with a balance of fruity succulence and subtle tartness. The finish is crisp and will satisfyingly quench any thirst after a hard day in the field. 

Frogmorton Ginger Beer

Ginger Beer

Colour: light bronze, cloudy

Smell: spicy ginger, zesty, sweet

Taste: sweet, tart, crisp

  
As much as I enjoy a ginger beer (especially with some dark rum), I opted for an alcoholic beverage. 

The South Farthing Amber Ale did the trick. It was served perfectly chilled and was exactly what I needed after a turn around sunny Hobbiton. It was quite light and almost lager like. The thing I liked the most was that it was served in a ceramic mug. I’ve never drunk beer from a ceramic mug before but it works very well as a drinking vessel, mainly because I found it kept it cold for much longer then a glass. 
  
I also managed to sneak in a few chugs of Hep’s mug of Sackville cider. It was very scrummy and like all my favourite ciders, it tasted just like apple juice. 

 
I shall have to return so that I can try the Oatbarton Brew. Although at $75 a ticket (roughly £30) it’s not the cheapest pint in the world.  

  
Both the beers and the cider is brewed exclusively for Hobbiton by the Good George Brewery in Hamilton. I hear the brewery is definitely worth a visit if you ever find yourself there. I think I might have to add it to the itinerary. 

Hawaiin craft beer

There is a great selection of craft beer that has been brewed across the islands that make up Hawaii. I was pleasantly surprised by this. I picked up a couple on our first night and drank them in the glow of fire lamps on the warm beach. 

  
 I went for a light golden ale to wash down my sushi. As I’ve found so far, Americans do pale ale well. This specific beer was brewed in Hilo. It was a lot less hoppy then the Californian pale ales, which given the tropical climate fit perfectly. It was more comparable to the light lagers I tried in New York. Water-like but refreshing. 

    
For desert I chose a coconut porter. The dark maltiness combined well with the toasted coconut it was brewed with. The coconut flavour was not overpowering in the slightest, it merely added an interesting twist to the bitterness of the porter. I think this would have gone down swimmingly with a bit of dark chocolate or perhaps a dark bounty bar. Hmmmm. 

Why cans? 

Someone ask why I keep buying cans and why I’m not trying the draft beer. One reason for this is other then Bud and Sam Adams, there’s isn’t much else available from the tap. The coconut porter explained why they like to can their craft beers and the advantages of it. Here’s why… 

Cans eliminate light damage and reduce the risk of oxidisation, keeping the craft brew fresher than in bottles. 

Cans are lighter, chill quicker and can be enjoyed on beaches and in sensitive environments