Our final stop finds us dodging motor bikes and trying evade the incessant honking, all while taking in the charms and better beers in Hanoi. A world apart from the rest of Vietnam, and not always in a positive way, Hanoi does offer beer enthusiasts some of the best offerings to be found in the country. With nearly a dozen brewpubs and beer bars, as well as the ubiquitous and highly questionable Bia Hoi corner joints, you always have a place to drink if you don’t feel like squatting on a tiny plastic step-stool on the street.
Our first spot was one of my favorites as the atmosphere and environment were very different from anywhere else we went. We continue with our disembodied drinking videos at the unpronounceable Coi Xay Gio brewpub.
Next up is the Lac Vien brewhouse, where my brother attempts to ruin my video by belching. The locals appreciate his “charms.” We also manage a Ho Chi Minh beer drinking reference.
And then we head to the far west side of Hanoi to visit Van Tue, another massive and empty beer hall. Myk is noticeably edgy because when we walked in, at 4:30 pm mind you, the place was dead empty of customers and all the lights were off. We almost turned on our heels but a dozing hostess flagged us to a table way in the back of the restaurant, where she promptly turned on the lights and woke up a sleeping co-worker passed out at a nearby table on some chairs. A bit creepy was the experience…
Another trip to the Hoa Vien chain finds us in a quaint little courtyard, somewhat reminiscent of European beer gardens. They were roasting some delicious headless animal of unknown provenance behind us so you might see some ash raining around us. Myk leaves us after this video.
My final stop in Vietnam before heading off to Germany for a week, Legends Beer is located square in the middle of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, as you will see from the crazy moto driving video we drop in here.
A short plane ride from our beloved Saigon finds us racing along a little road from the Da Nang airport towards the tiny town of Hoi An. Mainly a shopper’s paradise, Hoi An is a much quieter experience, especially from the major cities. We spent a lot of time just relaxing in Hoi An, and that meant we basically drank the local beer, Biere Larue, like it was our jobs. And in the evening heat and humidity, we basically decamped to the amiable Sleepy Gecko pub on nearby Can Nam Island. Run by an Australian expat, the place has a very low key vibe with an incredibly extensive and eclectic music selection.
During my recent round-the-world trip, I made a series of short videos of the various beer establishments my brother Myk and I visited. I took the videos on my digital camera mainly because I wanted to document our travels but also to capture a little bit of the local spirit. Having gone through them, I’m not sure how much they really convey but as there is a serious dearth of information about beer in some developing countries, and I don’t really know when I’ll get to write about Cambodia and Vietnam, I thought I’d post a few, town by town.
Our first stop in Saigon, having been blown away by the city’s character and how different it was from our shell-shocked week plus in Cambodia, was the Hoa Vien Brewery. A chain operation, Hoa Vien takes its beer very seriously. You can even catch the locals clinking their glasses, as they all do before every sip.
The next day we visited the cavernous Lion Brewery, thankfully indoors. A big Disney-esque beer hall with the oddest beer quote on the wall that I’ve ever seen…
Our final stop is Big Man Beer, another chain operation and a bit out of the tourist areas. You’ll catch Myk laughing in this one because several members of the staff just directly next to out our table waiting for us to order more of something and they were completely confused by my video.
We offer no videos for the Adlerbrau brewery because the beer was absolutely wretched and seeing me spit it back into the glass just isn’t appetizing. I did, however, score an absolutely sick video of a half-dozen local Vietnamese with a guitar singing a killer if garbled rendition of More Than Words from Extreme. Rock!
…still not known. About two months ago, a few days after the initial raids conducted by Pennsylvania law enforcement officers on a small number of beer bars due to concerns over unregistered brands, I quickly put together a public records request designed to answer many of the questions raised by people both in and outside of the beer business regarding the whole affair. I frequently write FOIA and other information requests in my legal practice, so this didn’t require much additional effort. In its entirety, the request read as follows:
March 16, 2010
Open Records Law Officer
Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement
3655 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Dear Sir or Madam,
This is a request pursuant to the Pennsylvania Open Records Law. I am writing to request a copy of the complaint(s) or report(s) that lead to the investigation of the sale of unregistered beer brands that the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Code Enforcement undertook on March 4, 2010, at the Memphis Taproom, 2331 East Cumberland Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125, the Resurrection Ale House, 2425 Grays Ferry Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19146, and Local 44, 4333 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. I would like to receive copies of the above requested records, do not request to inspect the records, and do not request certified copies of the records.
I have also enclosed a copy of the Open Records Law request Form. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.
As the initial one week deadline for the government’s response drew near, I received a standard response saying that the department required an additional period of time in which to respond. The second deadline occurred while I was away on a recent trip to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Germany, so I didn’t have the opportunity to post the government’s response until now. So here for your review, as an example of how government works, is the response I received from the Pennsylvania State Police regarding my inquiry.