The Great U.S. Beer Region Experiment Part 1: Vietnam

We will be visiting 5 regions, 4 of which are in the US, to find out what exactly is going on outside the normal beer world. I’ll also try to give a little bit of background and history for each region and style in the back story.

The lineup for the week is as follows:

  • Today: Hue Beer (Hue City, Vietnam)
  • Tuesday: Kosher He’Brew Messiah Bold (Saratoga Springs, New York)
  • Wednesday: Great Divide IPA (Boulder, Colorado)
  • Thursday: Highland IPA (North Carolina)
  • Friday: Thomas Creek Deep Water Dopplebock Lager (South Carolina)

As for today, let’s check out Vietnam before we dive into the U.S. beer extravaganza…

Hue Beer BottleThe Back Story:

The beer industry in Vietnam is rather different from that of the U.S. While the vast majority of the beer consumed in the U.S. is from macrobrews in North America and Europe, leaving craft beer to a much smaller market share, Vietnam’s beer industry is centered around local microbrews. There are around 300 microbreweries crafting a local specialty called Bia Hoi, or “fresh beer,” sold by the barrel to cafés and restaurants without preservatives, intended to be consumed the same day they are packaged.

Aside from that, there are a few major producers of bottled beer, one of which is the Hue Brewery. Partially owned by Carlsberg, the Danish brewing company and the 4th largest in the world, the Hue Brewery is basically a large-scale, single-beer producer, though they’ll also occasionally indulge in seasonal fare. That single beer, creatively named Hue Beer, is a pale lager, a similar style to the Budweisers and Millers of the world.

The Results:

Hue Beer PourThe appearance of the beer is a light golden yellow, rather dull, with head retention of only a few seconds. The carbonation is coarse and aggressive, and the foam has a soapy, filmy quality.

The nose of the beer is rather plain, though a bit heftier than a standard lager, with notes of acrylic paint, grass, walnut and green apples.

The mouthfeel of the beer is sharp, though a bit thin, and it fails to reach the mouth in any way. Once it hits the tongue, it dissipates. Pretty much everywhere but the tongue, the feel is fleeting.

The flavor of the beer is not quite as plain or as weak as the nose would suggest, though it’s still a pale lager (read:: comparable to Pilsner). Green apples, straw, and a very light floral, perfumey note as it approaches the finish. The finish itself is mealy, grassy, and bitter, a bit longer than expected but not nearly satisfying enough for a craft-priced beer.

This would be a beer that you’d use to cool down your mouth after a spicy barbecue or hot-wing-style meal… the alcohol barely comes through and is more cooling than warming. I would also give it the okay to sip in warmer weather, so long as it stays ice cold. This beer doesn’t develop in the glass; rather, it begins diminishing immediately, and the flavor becomes unpleasant once it strays from refrigeration temperature.

For the Casual Drinker:

There’s really not much to say here… if you’re a fan of American-style lager, you’ll probably like this beer. Pair it with a barbecue-style meal, something spicy, or anything that you’ll be grilling or eating outside, really. The real question is are you willing to shell out around $2 per bottle for it (that’s about the same price as a Dogfish Head, Clipper City, or a Bell’s craft beer).

The Conclusion:

To be honest, I was expecting something a bit more exotic than the typical American lager experience, especially at that price. I suppose if you want to experience an Eastern beer, you could shell out for it, but I’d just as soon sip on 3 Budweisers at that price. 2/10

In Case You Missed It:

Beer: Hue Beer

Producer: Hue Brewery, LTD

Region: Vietnam

Vintage: n/a

Alcohol: 5.0%

pH: unknown

Price: $2 per 12 oz bottle

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