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Irish Pubs, Cider and Beer…in Vietnam!

Irish Pubs, Cider and Beer…in Vietnam!

You are probably thinking, "Right, how much has this person had to drink?"

To be honest, all too little as of now, but as the night wears on, rest assured I will correct that problem, and then some.

I have a keen interest in Irish Pubs and in Vietnam. I have been an Irish traditional music performer (on the bodhran and tin whistle) since 1983. I speak a small bit of Vietnamese, thanks to several friends I met in high school, college and at work.

You can imagine my surprise and delight when I found out that Vietnam is home to several successful Irish Pubs, and that they were warmly keen to have traditional Irish musicians come over and sit in on an impromptu ceili, a dance session featuring Irish jigs, reels and hornpipes, and the occasional tearful ballad and humorous limerick.

Here is the current short list of Irish Public Houses in Vietnam:

Hanoi is the nation's capital. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) used to be the capital of South Vietnam before the national reconciliation of 1975.  They each share a heritage and a beauty that is unequalled.

Shamrock Irish Pub – Nha Trang

Nha Trang is a capital of a different sort. This is truly the proverbial point where east meets west. Nha Trang is like Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Disneyworld all rolled into one. Everything in Nha Trang is lavish and elegant.

The Shamrock Irish Pub in Nha Trang features Guinness and other imported beers, Irish ciders like Strongbow and Johnny Jump-Up, and a world of traditional Irish music. This is quite a change from the typical electronic dance, trance and dubstep music found in most Nha Trang watering holes.

In addition to Irish music and drink, the management will gladly hook you up with a fishing tour on an authentic Vietnamese fishing junk, an urban bicycle tour, or an exciting Cai River rafting expedition. Booking through a legitimate business saves you the agony and embarrassment of dealing with less than scrupulous tour peddlers you will meet in the streets of the city.

The cool thing about the Irish Pub scene in Vietnam is that often, the employees learn to play traditional Irish instruments. I have heard some of these pseudo-Irish bands, and they are quite good really.

Glass of Cider, Comrade Tran?

Let's talk drinks. What is Strongbow? It is an English-made dry cider brewed by H.P. Bullmer, Ltd. in Hereford, England. It contains fermented apple juice and/or apple juice from concentrate, glucose syrup, water, sugar, carbon dioxide, lactic acid, citric acid, and sulfites. It is 5.3% alcohol.

Each 16.9 oz. (500 ml) can of this clear, golden Hard Apple Cider packs around 200 calories. I find this to be a very dry cider, something akin to a very dry Chardonnay or Riesling wine. The apple flavor is noticeable, but not overbearing.

Heavy marketing of cider in Vietnam does not occur and therefore the general population remains somewhat unaware of its existence. Most readily found in upscale grocers, restaurants and the specialty pubs and bars that serve high-dollar clients and tourists, cider products are not for the average drinker in Vietnam.

I would like to see more access to cider across the general population. The market is clearly wide open for expansion. In my opinion, a food and drink public relations firm, such as Wild Card (London) in the UK, would be best able to lend their expertise to helping expand the cider market and other export items across the full spectrum of Vietnamese alcoholic beverages.

Beer Brewing Vietnam-Style

The biggest beer and alcoholic drink manufacturer in Vietnam is undoubtedly Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corporation (SABECO), with a market penetration of about 51.5%. 

Nearly 5,000 employees work at the plant in Ho Chi Minh City to make such popular alcoholic beverage products as Saigon Export.  This is a very "clean" product as the label suggests it contains only water, malt, rice and hops.

Saigon Export is available in both bottles and cans. Officially classified as an American Adjunct Lager, Saigon Export offers a thin, quickly vanishing head and very little carbonation.

Weighing in at 4.9% alcohol, this "lite" beer is a transparent golden color with a subtle white wine flavor, and a powerfully pungent odor of cooked rice and corn.

If you are thinking the rice will make this more like Japanese Sake, sorry to disappoint. It doesn't come close to even the lamest Sake brew. 

To the north, Hanoi Beer Alcohol and Beverage Joint Stock Corp. (HABECO) has a market penetration of about 14%. As the third largest beer producer in Vietnam, HABECO is famous for such brands as Hanoi Beer and Truc Bach Beer.

Hanoi Beer, classified as a Euro Pale Lager, sports an alcohol content of 5.1%. Available in bottles, it pours out with a healthy head that quickly disappears. It has a sweeter aroma than Saigon Export, although you will likely find this does not translate to taste. I found it to have an excessively high malt taste and an acrid aftertaste, to the point of extremely bitter. Unlike the sweet aroma, the taste was amazingly dry.

So, if you are planning a trip to Asia and you love Irish music and a good blast of cider, lager, ale, or stout, stop by one of the surprisingly ubiquitous local Irish Pubs.

Location (Map)

19 Thái Văn Lung, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
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