Since it was still Tet, many resort towns like Dalat and Nha Trang had ridiculously high hotel prices. We were able to find a cheap flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City, so we jumped all the way south knowing we’d probably backtrack a bit after the holiday. Despite being the largest city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City was basically a ghost town with everyone gone for the holiday. It was weird to experience such a big city being so empty. We still managed to see a few historical sights and Tet celebrations, but the real highlight of Saigon? Craft beer!
First, let’s talk about the (boring) non-beer related things. Although Saigon was renamed to Ho Chi Minh City in 1976 for the revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, both names are commonly used. Like many other cities in Vietnam, you can see evidence of the French colonial era in buildings like the Central Post Office and Notre Dame Basilica. Since Tet was still going on, we were also able to see many decorations and flower displays lining the main squares. We also visited the War Remnants Museum which contained incredibly powerful and gruesome images and stories from the American/Vietnam War as well as the Indochina War.
Now the fun stuff: beer! We hit the jackpot in HCMC. We knew that Pasteur Street Brewing Company was based here as we had previously sampled a few of its brews in Hanoi and Hoi An, so that was our first stop in town. Located up a narrow flight of stairs off a small alley, the taproom was filled with patrons all happily grinning at having finally found good beer in Southeast Asia - or at least, those were our thoughts! It was the closest we’ve been to the beer scene back home in a long time. One highlight was Pasteur Street’s amazing Cyclo Imperial Chocolate Stout, which is one of the best beers we’ve had this trip. Our second stop was Heart of Darkness Brewery, another fantastic find for our hop-deprived palates with its delicious Kurtz’s Insane IPA. On top of that, the manager gave us a list of six other places to check out for craft beer, pretty much planning our Saigon itinerary for us!
Our next stops were visiting East West Brewing Co. during its soft opening, the week-old Winking Seal Brewing Co. to sample its two brews, and then BiaCraft which had several of its own plus a few other local beers on tap. To round out our beer circuit, we visited Rouge Saigon, a fun rooftop bar full of local beers we hadn’t yet been able to try.