Vietnam has no shortage of national heroes. As a nation that has successfully staved off occupation from three of the largest, most militarily advanced empires on the planet, there have always been those willing to stand up to hostile invaders. However, not many of them had elephants. Even fewer have beers named in their honour. Nor were many of them women, but when the Hai Ba Trung – a.k.a. the Trung sisters – staged their rebellion against the Chinese atop the back of elephants, they became legends.
This is back in 40 A.D. and while enduring the bitterness of their foreign overlords, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi had both been raised by a general in the Vietnamese army giving them access to every girl’s dream; martial arts training and decent literature. So when the Chinese executed Trung Trac’s husband, the sisters’ rebellion was born, and so began their ascension into the historical hall of fame.
The Trung sisters were lauded as home-grown heroes. They rapidly acquired a following on account of their charismatic nature, their unrivalled bravery and their military prowess. The Trung sisters enjoyed a three year rule of the country. But sadly, all of this glory was brought to a brutal end when the Chinese came back with even more soldiers and as the legend goes, the Trung sisters threw themselves into a river to evade capture as one last middle finger to the invading forces.
Fast forward to 2017 in Hanoi; the Trung Sisters are gone now, so are the Chinese. National dedications to the sisters existed in the form of multiple temples, innumerate shrines and some tragically short-lived statues, but in the October of last year, a beer was born to commemorate the valiant ladies of Vietnam.
“We wanted to pay our respects to the Trung sisters – they’re heroes of Vietnam, military leaders who ruled for three years in 40 A.D. and saved Vietnam from domination,” explained Van Nguyen Cuong, creator of the Hai Ba Trung beer and master brewer at C-Brewmaster Craft Beer Brewery.
“I wanted our beer to reflect the sisters – smooth but firm, easy to drink but strong in character – like our heroes.”
Hidden in a remote part of Hanoi, somewhere near the airport, C-Brewmaster Craft Beer have packed a lot of progress into the one year they’ve existed and with former Carlsberg master brewer, Van Nguyen Cuong, at the helm it’s easy to see where their success stems from. Van is a man who exudes passion. It is beer – not blood – that courses through his veins and has done since he earned his diploma from the Scandinavian School of Brewing in Copenhagen He positively radiates the sort of infectious energy that makes you want to drink a beer with him.
“I have a passion for brewing unique beers,” he says with a grin, “I feel so happy when people can get enjoyment and satisfaction from my beer. It’s my passion.”
Certainly there’s no shortage in creativity at work here as Van has tirelessly dedicated the year to crafting 40 unique and mind-altering beers, including the Hai Ba Trung beer. It’s hard not to share Van’s smile – he has, in essence, his own beer laboratory and it’s through his dedication and expertise that C-Brewmaster has been able to provide such a vast catalogue of beers in such a short space of time.
All of this has been made possible by Belgian beer enthusiast, Ludo Drijbooms, who approached Van over a year ago to help him build his dream brewery here in Hanoi. An enigmatic character whose hobby just so happens to be beer, Drijbooms is as affable as he is generous. During the course of our tour around his brewery, he treated us to more beers than I could keep count of. On a personal note the whiskey-infused beer, weighing in at 14% ABV, was an absolute game-changer, but this was just one of many lovingly crafted beers that met their end inside me.
We observed the journey that these beers undertook before they reached their end destination of my innards – the brewery, naturally enough has a fully furnished bar. As beer after beer flew from the fridge, Van gave an impassioned explanation of each one and what we could expect from the flavours. Meanwhile Drijbooms oversaw everything, beer in hand and a smile on his face. It is his hope for the future, he tells me, to open the brewery up to the general beer-loving public for tours and tasting sessions with his master brewer. Having had a sneak peak of what such a tour might look like and having savoured and sampled a sizeable quantity of the beer brewed there, I assured Drijbooms that it would be a good idea. Stay tuned for more beer-soaked news.