Central European Beer Halls in Hanoi

The fol­low­ing post comes from Wei Sen, our man in Hanoi. Dur­ing his last vis­it to the UK he told us all about the beer scene in Viet­nam, and it sound­ed so inter­est­ing that we asked him to blog about it for us.

The walls are pan­elled in dark wood, the air is heavy with the smell of hops and cig­a­rette smoke, the tables are crowd­ed with dish­es of smoked sausage and fried cheese, and every­where there are tables of cus­tomers throw­ing back tankards of beer brewed in the on-site micro­brew­ery. It’s not a scene typ­i­cal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with Viet­nam, but Hoa Vien Brauhaus in Hanoi is part of a num­ber of Euro­pean style beer halls that have opened over the last cou­ple of years.

There is no doubt that beer is the drink of choice in Hanoi. The most pop­u­lar drink­ing places are bia hoi, which serve unpas­teurised beer and tra­di­tion­al snacks. Most bia hoi are quite mod­est, and con­sist of a few plas­tic tables and stools set out on the pave­ment. How­ev­er, as the econ­o­my has devel­oped, more upmar­ket venues have opened up to cater to the new mid­dle class­es. The most notable of these are the Czech beer halls –- bia tiep – that have opened up in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Drink­ing in Hoa Vien (or the half dozen oth­er such places in Hanoi) two things are imme­di­ate­ly obvi­ous. The first is that the décor, food, and beer are all heav­i­ly influ­enced by Euro­pean styles. The oth­er is that the clien­tele –- unlike the bars and pubs of Hanoi’s tourist dis­trict – are almost exclu­sive­ly Viet­namese.

Although mod­ern Viet­nam is a cap­i­tal­ist-friend­ly place, dur­ing the 1970s and 80s the main for­eign influ­ences were from oth­er com­mu­nist coun­tries. Thou­sands of Viet­namese worked or stud­ied abroad in the USSR or the East­ern Bloc (includ­ing Hoa Vien’s founder, who is now the hon­orary con­sul for the Czech Repub­lic in Ho Chi Minh City). One of the more pos­i­tive aspects of this coop­er­a­tion is the expo­sure to a Euro­pean beer cul­ture that com­ple­ments Viet­namese drink­ing habits with­out seem­ing uncom­fort­ably for­eign.

Hoa Vien main­ly serves a pil­sner style draft lager; the taste is light but hop­py, and well-suit­ed to pro­vide refresh­ment in Hanoi’s mug­gy and humid sum­mers. A bot­tled ver­sion is also avail­able, as well as a stout. There is a var­ied menu, with a broad range of hearty east Euro­pean dish­es, as well as more tra­di­tion­al Viet­namese food.

Bia hoi are like­ly to remain pop­u­lar –- 3,000 dong (10 pence) for a glass of street-cor­ner lager on a hot day is too good an offer for most peo­ple to turn down. How­ev­er, for those with a bit more cash to spare, bia tiep are the per­fect places to wit­ness the fusion of Viet­namese and Euro­pean cul­tures through a shared love of beer.

Wei Sen

Beer blogging as marketing tool

First, Stel­la start­ed their blog. I’m not link­ing to it as I don’t want to increase their Google rank­ings, but you can read Stonch about it here, A Good beer blog on it here, and Tan­dle­man dis­cussing it too. The blog itself is pret­ty dull, and aside from adding a few beer blogs to its blogroll to look authen­tic, it makes no attempt to go out and engage with the blo­gos­phere.

Now it looks like Becks are hav­ing a go, and adver­tis­ing for a beer blog­ger. The advert’s on the front page of their site if you fan­cy apply­ing, although I think lik­ing Becks might be an “essen­tial” rather than a “desir­able” part of the job spec. Also they spec­i­fy you have to be between 21 and 30 – age dis­crim­i­na­tion, sure­ly? The age require­ment now seems to have dis­ap­peared from the web­site – some­one’s realised they’re sub­ject to EU law.

At least mak­ing it a full time job means that they might be mak­ing more of a go of it – i.e. pre­sum­ably this blog­ger will be going around the blo­gos­phere, doing the rounds, tak­ing part in debates, per­haps even link­ing to oth­ers. It sounds like Becks “get” blog­ging a bit more than the Stel­la peo­ple do and realise that it’s not just a case of post­ing cor­po­rate pearls of wis­dom and expect­ing a buzz to cre­ate itself.

Even so, it’s dif­fi­cult to see what they’re try­ing to achieve from this. First­ly, it ain’t gonna work – the beer blog­ging com­mu­ni­ty isn’t going to sud­den­ly start plug­ging Stel­la or Becks just because some­one writes a blog. We’re a bit too savvy for that, sure­ly? Sec­ond­ly, even if it did work, who cares? Much as I love the beer blog­ging world, I’ve enough humil­i­ty to know that we’re not movers and shak­ers in the mass mar­ket. The aver­age Bud drinker is not going to switch to Becks because a beer blog­ger writes about it.

We’ve come to the con­clu­sion that it’s being done because it’s the lat­est “cool” thing in mar­ket­ing, even if there’s no evi­dence that it actu­al­ly works. The mar­ket­ing team / agency can explain to the board that their excit­ing cam­paign fea­tures Web 2.0 tech­nol­o­gy and get to look cre­ative and cut­ting-edge.

The oth­er poten­tial achieve­ment from this is to increase search-engine rank­ings, and per­haps hope to pick up a lazy jour­nal­ist (of which there are many) who will repro­duce sto­ries and press releas­es. How­ev­er, beer blog­gers can help sub­vert the effect of the this by writ­ing (and more impor­tant­ly, link­ing to) hon­est, crit­i­cal arti­cles on gen­uine beer blogs about Becks and Stel­la Artois.


Thanks to Appel­la­tion beer for the Becks sto­ry.

It’s our birthday!

We began this blog a year ago today.

We were home­ward bound from Bavaria, hav­ing just had a cou­ple of weeks trav­el­ling round and pick­ling our liv­ers. Bai­ley had the ini­tial idea, and we spent the long train jour­ney home think­ing of ideas. We had no idea there were already so many great beer blogs out there already, and we’re dead chuffed that we’ve found our own lit­tle place in the blo­gos­phere. I cer­tain­ly would­n’t have believed that we’d be aver­ag­ing more than a hun­dred unique vis­i­tors a day by this point.

We had a bit of a hia­tus with Google Ana­lyt­ics, so it’s only been work­ing again for the last month. How­ev­er, there’s enough info to reveal some bizarre search­es. Some we par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoyed were;

  • boak and bai­ley rail­ways” – 22 TIMES – do we look like trainspot­ters?
  • buy adelscott UK” – no, don’t! It’s rank!
  • des­per­a­dos stock­ists”- I’m sure both of these peo­ple would have loved our less than flat­ter­ing review of the stuff
  • how much was a pint of beer in 1958” – no idea, sor­ry, any­one want to answer in case they come back?
  • bai­ley gui­tar hero” – so they’ve met him…?
  • lim­it­ed edi­tion shire hors­es” – one of the many excit­ing gifts you can buy from our forth­com­ing sou­venir page
  • beer mod­el­ling jobs” – Stonch – fan­cy help­ing out any beer obsessed mod­els?
  • fun­ny shaped bread rolls” – these inter­net per­verts make us sick.
  • scream­ing mon­key” – at last, one we can help with.
  • coun­ter­feit corian­der seed” – shush – not in front of every­one. Meet us out­side lat­er and we’ll see if we can sort you out.

You get the pic­ture.