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.


The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the world. Every tree sends its fibres forth in search of the Wild. The cities import it at any price. Men plow and sail for it. From the forest and wilderness come the tonics and barks which brace mankind. Our ancestors were savages. The story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf is not a meaningless fable. The founders of every state which has risen to eminence, have drawn their nourishment and vigor from a similar wild source. It is because the children of the empire were not suckled by the wolf that they were conquered and displaced by the children of the northern forests who were.
I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows. We require an infusion of hemlock spruce or arbor-vitae in our tea. There is a difference between eating and drinking for strength and from mere gluttony.
— Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”


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