East West Brewing Company – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The brewing process in Vietnamese.

Recently, I had to the chance to visit Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam with my father.  He has worked there on and off for decades.  One of the breweries he told me we had to check out was East West Brewing Company.  East West Brewing Company is Ho Chi Minh City’s first in-house craft brewery located in the heart of District 1. Delivering bold and authentic flavors using the freshest and finest quality ingredients from the East to the West.  Their mission is to artfully craft high quality beer that everyone can enjoy and foster integrity in everything they do. Authenticity and innovation are the core foundations for the flavors in every handcrafted beer that they brew.  It begins with the search for flavor of discovering the perfect balance of taste and aroma. They integrate both European and New American brewing traditions, along with the brewing styles of Eastern cultures.

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The cool thing about East West Brewing Company is that their Head Brewer, Sean Thommen, has Portland, Oregon, USA roots.  Sean has had over 15 years of combined experience with crafting, from homebrewing to professionally brewing. He studied in Chicago and Germany in brewing science, and began brewing professionally for over 10 years in the city of Portland, Oregon, USA.  Sean is extremely excited to share his extensive brewing knowledge and is dedicated to advancing the craft beer culture here in Vietnam.

With a population of over 10 million, Ho Chi Minh City is one of South East Asia’s fastest growing cities in conjunction with being Vietnam’s largest and most electrifying city. It brings life and vitality into foreign backpackers, travelers, expats, and all those who settle here.  A crowded, lively, bustling, and booming city barely scratches the surface of describing the city that is the heart of Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City.

Love their logo.

Here is what we tried:

  • Far East IPA – The Far East IPA takes an international route. This full-bodied India Pale Ale is loaded with malt, hops, and yeast from all over the world. From aromatic American centennial hops to New Zealand’s tropical Nelson Sauvin hops, this beer provides a beautiful inter-pacific aroma that is enjoyable all year round.
  • Saigon Rose – This crisp and light bodied wheat ale contains a refreshing acidity and luscious fruit forward profile of fresh raspberries. Pink rose hues and berry perfumes, the Saigon Rosé delivers a crisp, clean, and subtle sweetness that is perfect for any occasion.  Hands down my favorite beer that we tried.  I also heard a rumor that my sister-in-law also loved it.
  • Modern Belgian Blonde – Deceivingly strong, with aromas of bold bouquets from the Belgian yeast and unique blend of hops, Far East Brewing Company present to you their Modern Belgian Blonde. Malts provide a strong foundation, while balancing the medley of pilsner, pale, and wheat hops. An infusion of Vietnamese palm sugar provides a contemporary twist to this Belgian classic.
  • Coffee Vanilla Porter – Their Coffee Vanilla Porter uses a unique cold press coffee blend designed to compliment the robust character of the beer. The interplay of deep roasted malts and Vietnamese coffee are perfectly married, while the addition of vanilla contributes layers of decadence. It is truly smoothness in a glass.

Have you been to East West Brewing Company?  Or Ho Chi Minh City?

Turtle Lake Brewing Company – Hanoi, Vietnam

It’s been about three years since I’ve been to Hanoi, Vietnam.  This time, I was in Vietnam for a five day motorcycle ride with two amazing girlfriends.

Three girlfriends, five days in Vietnam, lifetime of memories.

In celebration of completing our ride, the minimal blood loss and the fact that we were all still going to be friends, we decided to check out a new brewery that opened up in 2017, Turtle Lake Brewing Company.  Billed as Vietnam’s newest Craft Brew Pub, offering a great range of premium craft beers all brewed on site.  It was a massive complex, with a great view of the water and some shade to rest post-ride.

Turtle Lake Helmet Boy Saison

Here is what we tried:

  • Turtle Lake Helmet Boy Saison – Citrus and spice with orange peel, coriander and ginger.  Locally sourced ingredients with notes of banana, cloves with a crispy finish.  8% ABV and 11 IBU.  This was hands down my favorite beer that we tried.  I loved that it has local ingredients!
  • Turtle Lake Head Up Red Ale w/ Kumquat – Citrus and malty with kumquat, notes of dark fruits and raisins.  8% ABV and 23 IBU.
  • Turtle Lake Hanoi Garden – American wheat ale beer style, fruity and wheat flavor, Cascade hops.  4% ABV and 6 IBU.  This was my second favorite beer of the night.  I had a full pint of this because it was so good.
  • Turtle Lake Ho Tay VPA – Pine forward full bodied with Amarillo, Citra, and Saarz hops.  Aromatic at 5.6% ABV and 22 IBU.
  • Turtle Lake Mango Smoothie – Perfect combination of real mango juice and vanilla flavor, lacoste sugar also makes the beer have a sweet aftertaste.  7.2% ABV and 23 IBU.  This is actually a beer – not a smoothie, which confused some people in our group…

Turtle Lake Brewing Sample

Have you ever been to Turtle Lake Brewing in Hanoi?  Or any other breweries in Vietnam?

Pac 12 Football

Ashley and I at a UO Basketball Game.

Another thing I love about the fall is college football season (Go Ducks)!  Being from Portland (and having a younger brother that is a UO graduate) I’m a big fan of Pac 12 Football fan (Go Ducks!) and the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!)  In this spirit, I’ve decided to highlight the top brews for each of the Pac 12 schools.  These would make two awesome six-pack gifts if anyone is going to a tailgate party anytime soon.

Arizona State University, Tempe: Four Peaks Brewing: Hop Knot “American malt and American hops crafted with a bold pioneering American spirit.  Hop Knot gets its name from weaving five different hops introduced at seven separate intervals during the brewing process including our cavernous hop-back which gets so stuffed with the whole leaf hops that we feel genuine guilt for its’ excess.  Hop Knot is the color of a golden ale but the bitterness of a fine pale ale and the hop aroma of a IPA.”

Oregon State University, Corvallis: Block 15: Aborigninale “The first original big beer brewed at Block 15, Aboriginale has quickly become a house favorite. Brewed with an artistic blend of seven malts and three hops. Deep chestnut in color with an interesting complex malt body. A dry hop dose of Fuggles provides a fresh earthy nose.”

Stanford University, Stanford: Birkenhead Brewery: Black Snake “This Birkenhead creation consist of brandy, Stout and Honey Blond ale. Black snake is just like Africas most dangerous Black mamba, it will give you a bite you will not forget in a hurry. If you thrive on FEAR be afraid, be very afraid. 10 % alc vol.”

University of Arizona, Tucson: Thunder Canyon Brewing: Warhead Stout “Russian Imperial Stouts were originally brewed for export to the Royal Court of Russia where they were enjoyed by Catherine the Great.  Ours has a rich intense maltiness with black currant, toffee and dark roasted malt flavors.  The higher alcohol content is sure to warm you up from the inside out.”

University of California, Berkeley: Triple Rock Brewing: Titanium Pale Ale “Smooth and Malty with a medium body. Well balanced by a blend of Pacific Northwest hops. Finish is long and satisfying.”

University of California, LA: Eagle Rock Brewery: Revolution Extra Pale Ale ‘Extra Pale Ale (XPA) is a variation on American pale ale–bright and refreshing with a substantial hop presence. Light-gold in color, Revolution XPA’s subtle malt backbone and medium body balance it’s hop bitterness. Dryhopping delivers big hop aromas with the essence of nectar fruit, citrus, and freshly cut grass. As these assertive flavors recede a hint of bready malt rounds out the finish.  Bitter never tasted so sweet!”

University of Colorado, Boulder: Asher Brewing Company, Greenade Organic Double IPA “Our hops obsession has paid off.  Not for the faint of heart, or the faint of palette, the fantastic Greenade Double IPA should come with a warning label: “prepare for taste bud attack.”  The hop dominant yet smooth and creamy taste will surely blow you away.  With a 9.0% ABY, the alcohol intensity of this brew is undeniable, however this only adds to the complex flavor and is balanced perfectly with citrus and floral hop aroma.  Handle with care!”

University of Oregon, Eugene: Ninkasi: Total Domination IPA “Total Domination has a citrusy, floral hop aroma, and big hop flavor balanced with a richness imparted by Carahell and Munich malts. This beer is a big flavorful Northwest IPA that maintains its drinkability, and as such has garnered great admiration from the novice craft drinker and the seasoned hop head alike.”

University of Southern California, LA: Golden Road Brewing: Wolf Among Weeds IPA “This beer is a balanced showcase of the majestic hop specie, in Latin, Humulus Lupulus, which translates “Wolf Among Weeds”.  It is the first beer to be canned in our Custom IPA series, which celebrates California’s enthusiasm for hop-forward IPAs.  At 8%, Wolf will sneak up on you from behind the fresh pine sap and tropical fruit notes mirrored in its aroma and flavor profile.”

University of Utah, SLC: Uinta Brewing: Cutthroat Pale Ale “Malts and hops mingle harmoniously. Toasty caramel and molasses notes. Slightly fruity. Finishes dry and is highly refreshing. Because Cutthroat is a versatile beer, you can enjoy it with a variety of flavor profiles: spicy, bbq, burgers, wings, Mexican.”

University of Washington, Seattle: Elysian Brewing Company: Manic IPA – Valhalla “Fill your horn with this hoppy red IPA of pale, Special B and just a pinch of roasted barley, bittered with Sorachi Ace and finished with rare Citra hops.”

Washington State University, Pullman: Paradise Creek Brewery: Hopocalypse Imperial Black IPA “As black as dark matter and hopped to a volatile level with a backing of scorched-earth roastiness, the Hopocalypse will intensify your appreciation for the cascadian black indian pale ale.  We didn’t just jump on the Black IPA bandwagon, we created a special brew so intense it tears at the fabric of the universe.”

Did you catch that I selected “tough” sounding beer names? What about you, like college football?  Who are you rooting for?  What would “their” beer be?

Oregon Brewer’s Festival 2018

Adam, Dan, Joy, Trey, Beckie and I at Oregon Brewer’s Festival

This year, I was super blessed to be back home in Portland, Oregon for the Oregon Brewer’s Festival 2018.  Joining me on our annual beer adventure was beer professional and bestie, Beckie, cookie expert, Joy, her boyfriend, Adam, Adam’s brother, Dan and his pup, and Beckie and my newest friend, Trey.  We spent a lovely Portland summer evening trying amazing beers, people watching and joining in a few cheers throughout the night.

Here is what we tried:

  • Buoy Beer’s Beaver State Pilsner
  • Ecliptic‘s Flamingo Planet Gauva Blonde Ale
  • Bayern’s Citra DumpTruck Summer Bock
  • Caldera’s Coco-Nutty Blonde – This one tasted like almonds.  Definitely a note worthy beer.
  • Monkless’s Peppercorn Imperial Wit – I was really excited about this beer, it was recommended to me by a friend and Cambodia is known for it’s pepper.  However, I couldn’t taste anything peppery at all.  I was pretty bummed.
  • Von Ebert’s Hibiscus Wit
  • Kells’ Mezcal-a-Gose
  • Old Town’s Green Tea Lemonade
  • Pelican’s To Peach Their Own!
  • Agua Mala’s Sirena – I’ll be honest, I picked this beer because the name means “mermaid” in Spanish, but it ended up being one of my favorite beers of the festival.  I really want to check out this brewery in the future.
  • Freebridge’s Summertime Radness
  • Wendlandt’s Perro del Mar
  • Coin Toss’ Caught in a Pickle Lager – We tried this and expected to have a little bit of a pickle-back or dill vibe.  However, it was hard to pick up any pickle flavors.  I hope they revamp this beer and sell it at Portland Pickle’s games in the future.
  • Heretic’s Goo – This was definitely a crowd favorite in our group, might have been the 9% AVB or the fact that it tasted like Christmas in a glass.
  • MadTree’s Entropic Theory
  • Sasquatch’s American Aquarium Drinker – This beer was made with squid ink, however, it wasn’t as salty as I thought it would be.
  • Terminal Gravity’s Summer Honey
  • Wolf Tree’s Spruce Tip Gruit – Another crowd pleaser.  I met these brewer’s at an Oregon Garden’s Brewfest and have loved their beers ever since.
  • Thunder Island’s Fuzzy Wit – A very fizzy beer, delightful from a great brewery.
  • Wild Ride’s Cold Chillin’ Vanilla Cream Ale
  • Fremont’s Limeshine – This tasted like a fancy Corona with lime.
  • Migration’s Summertime in the 503
  • New Holland’s I like Pretzel Day
  • Rogue’s Pinch
  • Silver Moon’s Water on the Moon – this coffee beer was pretty delicious.
  • Vertigo’s South of the Border Blonde

My biggest take away from the evening is that you need to download the app that everyone was using.  Maybe it’s the year I’ve spent in a third world country or the fact that I just really love writing down my beer tasting notes in a journal but with no information handed out, having the app was definitely super helpful.

Did you go to the Oregon Brewer’s Festival?  What was your favorite beer?

The Beer’s Best at Fred Fest 2014

It’s a fundraiser, a tasting of highly unusual beers—not to mention a chance to drink with a founding father of Northwest craft brewing.  It was the 9th running of Fred Fest 2014, on May 4 at Hair of the Dog Brewing in inner SE Portland. The Fred Fest 2014 edition celebrated the 88th birthday of Fred Eckhardt, one of the first widely known American Beer Writers who helped grow the Portland brewing culture.

Why did I pony up the not insignificant sum to show up? It wasn’t Fred’s favorite beer pairings, namely cereal and chocolate bars. And I could have donated directly to the charities Fred Fest supports: Guide Dogs for the Blind, International Medical Corps and the Oregon Brew Crew’s OSU Bob McCracken Scholarship for Fermentation Sciences.

No, the star attraction (after the man Fred himself) was the selection of beers donated by select west coast breweries. They rolled in with their latest standout experiments in honor of Fred and the charities. I can’t give them all a proper review here. After an entire afternoon with these big brews, I was glad I took notes to recapture the highlights:

Sour Power: Our craft breweries continue to perfect belgium-inspired styles, especially sours. The crowd favorite was the Super Cherry Vlad from Cascade Brewing in Bend, a wild yeast-sour blend that popped in your mouth like a sour candy, warmed your soul like wine due to its barrel aging, and kept all those flavors in balance. There were other power sours from 10 Barrel Brewing and Craftsman Brewing, and more subtle tongue puckerers like Stone Brewing’s Cali-Belgique and Breakside Brewing’s Apollo and Dionysus Saison (which was aged in gin barrels). And let me throw special “cheers!” to Logsdon Farmhouse Ales for its spicy, complex Trippel Straffe Drieling.

Barreling Along: When brewers are asked to donate a special beer, we are thankful when they roll out the barrel-aged beauties. A big surprise was the Bourbon Abominable from Fremont Brewing, with a huge bourbon nose balanced by just the right amount of sweetness. We spent some time comparing its depth to Full Sail 2009 Black Gold Bourbon Stout and Deschutes Black Butte XXIV. McMenimans had a sleeper hit with its Vityaz Russian Imperial Stout, which we found sweet enough for dessert.

Don’t Stop the Hop: It wouldn’t be a Northwest beer celebration without hop bombs. Fort George North VII led the way, with a sophisticated bourbon-barrel-aged Belgian IPA called North VII that showed off every side of the hop—from first floral sniff to the pleasing citrus linger. Hair of the Dog rolled out Beer Week, a big lager with all the bitter satisfaction of an IPA and a surprising little sweetness at the end. There were others but my notes get a bit fuzzy by this point. You understand.

I think of Fred Fest as a kind of TED talk for the brewing cognoscenti. You get to taste new ideas that will inform the brewing and enjoyment of beer lovers for the next few years. Who knows, maybe we’ll find the answer to that annual question: What would Fred drink?

David is a Portland-based creative director and writer who brews occasionally and writes about beer now and then and drinks beer for research nearly all the time. Find me at about.me/DavidSmithPDX.