Bia Hoi!

by aengelson | May 2nd, 2010

The other day I got together with a correspondent who works for AFP here in Hanoi to chat. And where did two writers go to talk? A bia hoi joint, of course.

The people of Hanoi lift a glass of beer at a bia hoi joint.

For those who don’t know, Hanoi is filled with bia hoi–”fresh beer”–places. It’s where men (and some women, accompanied by male friends) go to drink beer on tap and eat an array of snacks. Some places are simply a cold keg, a few tiny plastic chairs and tables and bowls of peanuts. More elaborate places have indoor and outdoor seating and a huge menus of fried goodies, from tofu to chicken to greens and veggies. Dried, salty squid is a popular accompaniment.

Bia hoi is an integral part of Hanoi life. And while beer is served in other parts of Vietnam, the bia hoi phenomenon seems most concentrated in Hanoi. The beer itself is one of the local brands–Bia Hanoi or Halida, usually. It’s served icy cold in small plastic cups, and it’s crisp, hoppy and refreshing. It’s not Redhook ESB or Full Sail IPA, but on a hot day with a plate of fried tofu, some roasted peanuts and a dish of cucumber slices, it sure hits the spot. Beer in Vietnam tends to have less alcohol than the American and European brands, so you can lift a couple cups without getting too tipsy. Although, judging by the flushed faces and loud conversations all around us, folks were drinking than just a couple cups.

In total, the six beers, tofu, cucumber, and peanuts we had came to a whopping $3.50.

Did I mention I love this city?

You can read more about beer in Vietnam in this recent New York Times feature.

2 Responses to “Bia Hoi!”

  1. Patricia says:

    sounds so great, wish we’d done that when we were there. Next trip.

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About This Site

Andy Engelson is a writer and editor who lives in Hanoi, Vietnam. He's currently working on a historical novel set in the Northwest United States during World War II. He's also a freelance writer, essayist and member of the Hanoi Writer's Collective. In a former life, he edited Washington Trails magazine for six years and before that was freelance journalist. He likes to hike, travel, and play with his family.


There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.
To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue.
To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside. If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend the week end in town astride a radiator.
— Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac


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