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The Bia Hoi Buzz and Bia Hoi Corner

If you are looking for probably the most authentic drinking experience in Hanoi then you should head to Bia Hoi Corner. Here you will find a few well known establishments serving street food alongside the most iconic beer within the city.

So, what is Bia Hoi? Well it would probably not exactly take linguist to clock that ‘bia” means beer. You will therefore see this throughout the country, with Bia Saigon and Bia Hanoi denoting the bottled beer from that city.

Bia Hoi quite literally means “fresh beer”, or as we might understand it “draft beer”. But there is much more to this stuff than merely being from a tap.

What is Bia Hoi?

In the simplest terms bia hoi is the draft beer that is made daily in Hanoi and drank by the masses at an extremely extremely reduced cost. And keep in mind that beer in Vietnam is already extremely cheap as it is. Back in the day it was family just 5000 won per glass, or 20 cents, although this has gone up a little bit.

Why is it so cheap? Well part of the reason is that it is unpasteurized meaning that goes off quickly. Therefore it is made in bulk and also drank very much in bulk. Famously you will see mostly Vietnamese guys eating food and knocking back glass after glass of the stuff. And obviously they drink enough of it, so that profit is made and there is not too much waste. In fact it is fairly common and indeed favorable for the beer to run out at restaurants.

Bia Hoi Corner

As the beer is now somewhat iconic tourists as well as Vietnamese have very much got on the beer hoi train. This has led to a little corner off the Old Quarter gaining the name “Bia Hoi Corner”. This is now the most iconic place to drink the beer, with tourists flocking to the few restaurants here to knock them back.

Said bars/restaurants self both their food, which consists of a decent range of both local of western dishes, as well as the beer at an extremely fast pace.

When it comes to Bia Hoi that they are in such small glasses and that it is so cheap make this almost an act of endurance. I have had 20+ in a night, which while impressive is childs play compared to your hardcore Hanoi drinker.

This is truly a great place to start drinking Bia Hoi, but Bia Hoi Corner is also just about as touristy as it gets, so if you want to go real hardcore then you gotta get down and dirty with the locals.

Can you get it around Hanoi?

After visiting the Old Quarter in Hanoi you would be forgiven for thinking that this was the be all and end all for the Hanoi nightlife scene, but this could not be further from the truth. Yes the Old Quarter is where the tourists go, but it is not your average Vietnamese night out.

And it is by going a bit further afield that you will find out just how much of an institution that Bia Hoi is. I will not give exact places, as they are quite literally everywhere, but head a bit out from the centre and find a bbq, or street food restaurant that has “bia hoi” on the sign. You then grab some food and start drinking.

I have done this many times and it quite literally always ends up with you making newfound Vietnamese friends. And this so much a part off the culture that you can literally do it every night.

Alongside Railway Street this is a night out that has to be done when you are in Hanoi.

Is it any good?

So, I have recommended getting lashed on 20+ Bia Hoi, but is it actually any good? The simply answer to this is that yes it very much is. If you are used to bland generic brands like Tiger beer and the like then what surprised you about Bia Hoi is just fresh and natural that it tastes. It is also not too strong, with these two points also making it quite dangerous as you dredge far more than you might of other beers.

I saw and felt this first hand as I had Bia Hoi, before moving onto draft Saigon Beer, Tiger and then finishing on Bia Hoi, with the two outliers weighing heavy on my stomach.

The beer though much like Taedonggang is not pasteurized which means that while rare, a few times the beer can be a little off. I for one am OK with this lottery, because it means every glass if that bit different and when it is good, it is really good.

And this is why Bia Hoi is so damned good, this was craft beer before the hipsters got involved and if that were not enough then I will let you into one more secret. Drink Bia Hoi and only Bia Hoi and even if you do get drunk then the hangover will be almost non-existent. There really is something to be said for natural, pure booze.