DETOUR: Hanoi, VN – Barett Craft Beer
"DETOURS" is a travel series by The Hop Review. Being a weary traveler almost always calls for a reward in the form of a pint at the end of the day. Here, we will document those beer breaks–as we travel the U.S. and beyond–with quips, photographs and Q&As. Cheers, to the adventurous beer trekker.
BARETT CRAFT BEER at HANG VUI CRAFT BEER RESTAURANT
Nơ 2 Bán đảo Linh Đàm, Hoàng Liệt, Hoàng Mai, HANOI, VIETNAM
As the capital of Vietnam, it’s only fitting that Hanoi is an international melting pot of continually evolving ideas and traditions. Entwined with feudal-era and modern-day Chinese influences as well as stretches of conflict with French, Japanese and American forces each leaving their own mark. Yet, Hanoi is a proud Vietnamese city amidst the ever-changing cultural and political landscape.
With continuous development due to a growing economy and an increasingly educated populace, Hanoi attracts international visitors and workers from the world over. The streets are filled with Viet Kinh (the majority ethnic group) along with many of the 54 recognized minority ethnic groups such as the Tay, Tai, Muong, Hoa, Hmong, Cham, Khmer, Dao, etc., each with their own unique languages and traditions. Sprinkled amongst the local make-up are the international expats living and working in the city such as the Belgians, Dutch, Germans, French, Argentinians, Brazilians, Americans, Australians, Austrians, South Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Czechs, Slovaks, Russians, so on and so forth, also with their own unique languages and traditions.
With so many varied expats living in Hanoi, it’s only reasonable that they would yearn for comforts that they’re accustomed to. Grocery stores stocked with international goods. Western toilets and hot showers. High-end shopping centers. Plenty of modern cafes and eateries as well as the ubiquitous Starbucks, KFC and McDonalds. And then, there’s craft beer. For many travelers and expats looking to drink craft beer made in Southeast Asia, there’s currently 18 craft breweries (and growing) operating in Vietnam, satisfying international and local thirsts. The number of craft breweries in Vietnam is dramatically higher in comparison to its proximate Southeast Asian neighbors of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos combined.
Just outside the city center of Hanoi, Barett Craft Beer’s nimble facility is brewing up refreshing beers perfect for the climate. Next door to Hang Vui Craft Beer Restaurant, a separate business and entity, Barett is operating out of their floorspace and distributing their beers at the restaurant as well as a handful of bars and restaurants in Hanoi’s city center. At the helm of Barett Brewing is Brewer/Founder, Quang Van (pronounced Kwang), a young Hanoian who grew up in the Vietnamese commercial brewing industry. For over 20 years, Quang’s family has been in the business of distributing malts, hops and yeast to the major commercial breweries in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and currently, emerging microbreweries throughout the country. It’s only fitting that as expats moved into Vietnam and were looking to homebrew as well as entrepreneurs looking to establish breweries, Quang’s family business provided the necessary ingredients.
After a stint in the UK to acquire an Economic & Finance Degree at Queen Mary University of London, Quang returned to Hanoi and worked for his family’s distribution business. But, after being exposed to the craft beer scene in the UK as well as catching wind of the burgeoning homebrew scene in Hanoi, Quang opened a craft brewery (Barett Craft Beer) to channel his passion for craft beer as well as a home-brew shop (ABV Beer Shop) to provide goods to the local home-brew community. It’s only fitting for Quang to be in the brewing industry, seeing how the smell of grain and wort is second nature to him.
But, opening a brewery and a home-brew shop wasn’t satisfying enough for Quang. To expand his beer knowledge as well as elevate Barett’s standards, Quang enrolled at the Siebel Institute in Chicago in 2016. And, after numerous beer tests and tastings, he was certified as a Doemens Beer Sommelier. Armed with new insights, Quang’s been on a quest to brew beer that combines his affinity for Western-style beers with a Vietnamese outlook.
Currently, there are 3 flagship beers offered from Barett Craft Beer; an herbed Weizen, a Smoky Lager and a Pilsner. As noted by Quang, Vietnam is a weather-sensitive drinking culture. With a dry and wet season, one thing is always guaranteed in both seasons; heat and humidity. Keeping that in mind, it’s fitting that lighter style beers are preferred by locals. But, that doesn’t limit Barett’s offerings and Quang’s creativity. With their Weizen, he brews their flagship beer but also rotates in a seasonal variation brewed with lemongrass. And, surprisingly, the Smoky Lager isn’t heavy and hearty like a traditional German Rauchbier but the small additions of smoked malts adds some complexity that still makes the beer thirst quenching for the hot weather.
Quang’s enthusiasm for creating beers unique to the region has also yielded to some missteps. For instance, a heartily brewed coconut porter, which he certainly found palatable and brewed to exacting standards but the locals found it a tad too dark and rich for the tropical weather. But, not easily discouraged, Quang’s receptivity to his customers palate as well as his own discerning tastes is why locals and expats keep coming back to Barett Craft Beer. Hoppy and bitter isn’t fully appreciated yet but tropical and fruity is definitely part of the local palate, which’ll eventually work its way into Barett’s lineup in due time.
As Hanoi acclimates to new living standards and global trade brings in more international workers from the world over, the city is on the cusp of immense change and development. In return, Quang will be brewing beer to match Hanoi’s ever changing-landscape.
What We Drank
Red Smoky Lager: A smoked beer wouldn’t be on the top of my list when sweating buckets in a hot and tropical climate, but Barett’s Red Smoky Lager was quite refreshing. An addition of smoked malts to a clean, biscuity and red-hued lager base made this beer flavorful, complex yet sessionable.