“I have no idea why I was in IT, I think I wanted to get rich or famous or something.”
That’s Thanh, owner of Homie Brewhouse, as he sat opposite me in the Beer Temple in Hoan Kiem, of which he is also the owner. In the last three years, Thanh has taken Homie Brewhouse from a mad-hat, long-shot of a pipe-dream into a microbrewery that’s intoxicating the discerning drinkers of Hanoi.
But for the sake of the chronologically sane, let’s start at the beginning. Back in the halcyon days of 2010, when everyone was still gurning their faces into pink mulch to the sounds of Dubstep, Thanh was grappling with the notion of abandoning his hard earned career as a software architect in favour of brewing his own beer. Initially cautious, he settled for something between the two – he opened Beer Temple, a sanctuary for the beer enthusiasts of Hanoi that boasts an eclectic range of beers imported from across the world.
“Beer’s in my blood, no seriously!” insists Thanh, his enthusiasm for beer is highly contagious and after just one sip of the Homie Brewhouse Hanoi IPA. It was almost three years ago that Thanh first started brewing.
Thanh said: “It started out of love. I really wasn’t business-minded with the brewing, it was just something I enjoyed doing.”
After spending two years perfecting his recipe and honing his craft, Thanh decided it was time to join the big leagues of the Hanoi beer scene. Years of destroying a small part of his house in order to fully equip it with the microbrewery kit, countless hours spent toiling away and innumerable training sessions with friends across Europe and Asia were all nightmarish efforts necessary for Thanh to live out his dream.
“I’m happy when I do my job, but it’s dirty, it’s hard – sometimes I start brewing at 4am and I don’t stop until maybe 5pm, sometimes 6pm.” On average it takes Thanh about 12 hours to brew one batch of 250 litres of beer, but that’s overlooking the entire previous day that’s invariably spent preparing the water, the apparatus and bracing himself for the gruelling day that lies ahead.
“My equipment now, it’s very professional, but in the beginning it was trial and error.” Thanh claimed it took about 30 batches, several years and the patience of a lesser-known saint for him to get the right taste into his beloved beer.
Beer Temple currently has two of Thanh’s own creations on tap; firstly the Hanoi IPA – an American IPA at 7.6%, secondly the Belgian Tripel – T’n’T Triple which, despite being an 8.3% beer, is dangerously drinkable.
“I found my life in brewing,” he reflects which garners a radiant smile from his wife. She’s encouraged him throughout his pursuit of happiness and clearly for Thanh – a beer fiend on the loose – it’s a labour of love.
Despite Thanh’s blood, sweat and beers, the demand for craft beer, real ale and the like is still rising slowly in Vietnam. The nation’s taste for real beer has been slower to develop.
“We will change their minds,” Thanh nods solemnly as he speaks, “Yes, we will change the Vietnamese market, it’s happening now – slowly – but it’s happening.”
He went on to lament the reasoning offered up by Vietnamese customers for their reluctance. He claims that they often complain that it’s too strong, it tastes strange or it’s too expensive compared to Vietnam’s standard beers. It’s true that the Bia Hoi culture of Vietnam is likely to stick around, but Thanh is right – the market is changing. Vietnamese people have more disposable income than ever before.
“The younger generations are so excited to travel abroad or to study abroad and I think they bring back an international sense of culture when they return.” It’s these incremental changes that Thanh hopes will precede a shift in public tastes when it comes to beer.
He concludes: “Demand pushes down the prices, exposure to imported beers has improved the tastes of the country – time is all you need to change things.”