Bia hoi, literally translated as ‘’fresh beer’’ has become increasingly popular in Hanoi in recent years. Whether it is because of the huge increase in tourism is difficult to prove because as you take a Hanoi tour in the Old Quarter, you will see plenty of locals enjoying a drink of bai hoi. In the West, this ‘’fresh beer’’ would be described as draught. It is no younger than bottled beer after all. There are more and more pubs and bars opening throughout the City though the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem is the place to head for if your Hanoi travel guide does not point you in any particular direction.
Bia Hoi is a fairly light beer, not too strong, and in some places it is watered down even further to around 2.5% alcohol. It is sold in many places that are fairly basic; plastic chairs and tables, often right on the roadside. It has taken 30% of the national beer market; quite a lot of beer because 50% of Vietnam’s 90 million population are in the age group between 20 and 40, and this is a drinking generation. You will be able to buy a couple of glasses for under US$1 so you do not have to worry about your budget.
It is most refreshing, especially on really hot days, and there is a bia hoi establishment on almost every corner in the Old Quarter. Locals will eat nuts, crackers and seeds as they drink so the pubs are not the tidiest of places, shells and debris everywhere but no one seems to care.
It is possible to get away from the street. Ngoc Ha Bia Hoi is in a large beer garden frequented by locals on their way home after work. Many such places serve food which is slightly expensive perhaps, but remember the cost of the beer? One good place to go to isBia Hoi Ha Noi — Cua Hang Ngoc Linh at 2 Duong Thanh where you can buy a warming stew to go with your beer; a great idea in winter.
Ha Noi or Lan Chin Breweries produce this beer and often places will not have an individual name; they are known by their address and a sign naming the Brewery. Cage Bia Hoi is at 1A Trang Tien near the Revolutionary Museum and Boat Bia Hoi by West Lake. There are some places that make their own beer incidentally.
Other than the places already mentioned why not try?
• Hanoi’s First Bia Hoi, 86 Tran Hung Dao Street, French Quarter
• Bia Hoi Central, Cnr Ta Hien & Luong Ngoc Quyen Streets, Old Quarter
• Local Atmosphere, 22 Tang Bat Ho Street, Hai Ba Trung
• Water Views, Beside Nha Khach Truc Bach restaurant, 1 Tran Vu Street, Truc Bach Lake
• People Watching, Near the InterContinental Hotel, West Lake
• Party Vibe, 264 Thuy Khue Street, West Lake
• Off The Beaten Track, Ngo Huong Alley, between Ly Nam De & Phung Hung Streets, Old Quarter
You will certainly have fun.