Focus on flavour over style for Vietnam

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Khai Vo from Saigon’s Hoprizon Brewing

Australian brewers looking to service Asian markets should note that beer flavour rather than style adherence is driving the growth of craft beer in Vietnam according to a local brewer.

At the recent Brew Asia conference in Saigon, the co-founder of Saigon’s Hoprizon Brewing, Khai Vo, told Brews News that Vietnamese consumers recall a beer mostly by the flavour or the ingredient used.

“They recall ‘this is the beer made with Pomelo (a Vietnamese grapefruit) flavour’, or ‘that’s the beer with the mango flavor or the herbal flavour’, such as the Jasmine amber ale from Pasteur Street [Brewing],” he explained.

“That’s what they easily recall. They cannot differentiate between which hop is from which country, for example.”

Vo said that European beer styles, especially Belgian beers such as Hoegaarden, were popular because they were sweeter than the assertively hopped American and Australian styles. Many of the Vietnamese beer styles tend to be sweeter than their western counterparts.

Vo said hops that impacted beer with flavour and aroma more than bitterness were preferred. Galaxy hops are a favourite at Hoprizon for that reason.

“We make beers for Vietnamese customers, and they love beers that are easy-to-drink,” he said.

“What we observe is different to western consumers, Vietnamese drinkers like a higher citrus-flavour, or herbal flavour and aroma over bitterness and high alcohol, which is what Galaxy offers.”

“They don’t necessarily know that it’s from Australia, but if they drink beers with it, there’s a higher chance they will like it.”

Vo said that craft beer in Vietnam was still a small segment but had been growing strongly before COVID.

“Before COVID the market was very dynamic, it was booming with lots of investment,” he said.

“We calculate there are nearly 70 small breweries in Vietnam as well.

“The beer market was Heineken and Tiger and mainstream beer, but with the new introduction of the craft beer, it totally changed the market.

He said that before COVID he estimated the market was around 0.5 percent of the total market share.

“However, after COVID and due to the downturn of the economy in Vietnam we see that the category hasn’t been expanding too much but there is still potential, as bigger brewery chains and taprooms drive further for the market to expand.”

Vo said that aside from tourists, Vietnamese craft beer consumers tending to fit into one of two groups.

“One is someone who has tried it [craft beer] overseas, people who have studied abroad or were living abroad and want to continue being able to drink the beers they had,” he explained.

“The other is people who have been inspired by the people already drinking craft beer.

“Most of them are white collar, more than 25 years old.

“When you have started developing good taste, you are more selective in what you consume, and they also have more spending power as well.

“Once they try [craft] beer, they don’t go back to the previous beer and they treat it like a lifestyle.”

Learn more about the Vietnamese beer scene in this episode of the Beer is a Conversation podcast featuring John Pemberton and Chris Roberts from Heart of Darkness Brewing.

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