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Insiders Guide to Vietnamese Drinking Culture: Bia Hoi & Rice Wine

There is no shame in the drinking game, and it’s particularly true in Vietnam. ‘Drinking’ culture in Vietnam is about enjoying several iconic drinks. In this article, we will show you how to drink beer, rice wine, and more, like a true local.

Drinking Bia Hoi (Draft beer)

Bia Hoi is a draft beer product that goes through a short fermentation time (about 7-10 days), then gets pasteurised fast at a high temperature. As a result, Bia Hoi is only good for a few days.

Summer days in Vietnam can get as hot as 35 degrees C. For concrete jungles like Hanoi, it can be as high as 40-45 degrees C or higher. To escape the hot, humid, uncomfortable heat, people seek Bia Hoi. And just like that, the Bia Hoi culture formed. If you’re a beer lover, you’ve got to try this local brew while visiting Vietnam!

chinese tea

The Bia Hoi Etiquette

Bia Hoi only comes in large kegs, never in bottles. And freshly poured beer in a big glass is the way to go at any Bia Hoi shop! People love to have the tip of their tongues to taste the sweet bitterness and gentle scent of the beer hops. 

The key is to wipe clean and keep the beer glass grease-free. According to many, the grease will quickly swallow the beer foam and reduce its taste.

Additionally, many people like to chug down Bia Hoi because they believe a glass of beer can’t stay fresh for long if left unattended. Scientifically speaking, the beer will lose fizzy carbon dioxide bubbles, which is the source of that uber-fresh taste. After a while, the beer gets ‘warm’ and can no longer quench the thirst of the drinker.

Asking for ice is rather traditional in Vietnam. A cube of ice can hold the beer’s freshness for a little while, just make sure to not water down your beer too much. In fact, many beer shops will provide you with some ice by default.

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Pick the Right Beer Glass

You are only seen as a ‘local expert’ when choosing the iconic blue-tinted Bia Hoi glass. Despite its wide popularity, the Bia Hoi glass is a product from recycled class. Made with low technology, it contains visible air bubbles and a rough-looking body. Yet, these imperfect characteristics are what make generations of Vietnamese beer lovers adore it.

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Choose the Right Side Dishes

Snacking off some food while sipping cool beer is a universal pleasure! To Vietnamese, peanuts and beer are match-made in heaven. Boiled or roasted with basil, beer drinkers adore this simple and cheap snack. 

Other traditional beer foods are grilled rice sheets, shredded dried squid, and fermented pork rolls (nem chua).

In general, the rule of thumb for choosing Bia Hoi food is a combination of sweet, sour, and spicy taste.

Drinking (Rice) Wine

Rice wine is present in all kinds of events in Vietnam. Parties, weddings, meetings, gatherings, and more. From a mountain tribe to a fishing village and everywhere in between. Rice wine is there to make people blush.

The Rice Wine Etiquette

Like Shochu or Sake, rice wine can be enjoyed during dinner. You should not drink in the morning, as it may cloud your clarity the whole day. But you’re welcome to get tipsy having a nice evening time with family or friends.

Good rice wine is made from the best Vietnamese whole-grained rice and yeast. You may choose to filter it out to achieve a clear color or keep the milky shade. Nonetheless, rice wine is sweet, a touch spicy, and super smooth. That’s why you must remember to drink with modest to avoid getting drunk!

To enjoy rice wine the traditional way, you will need pottery cups or bowls. Option one is a small cup called chén hạt mít. Option two is not for the faint heart – a flared-mouth bowl!

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Best Side Dishes to Pair with Rice Wine

Quite similar to that of Bia Hoi, the rice wine snack should be a mix of sweet, sour, spicy. Fermented pork rolls are one of many favorite items. 

Vietnamese are also no stranger to being experimental with their cuisine, and being able to enjoy the intestine is one strong proof. Certainly, the ingredients must be cleaned thoroughly before cooking. Thanks to the use of spices, the gamine smell and taste are greatly subdued. The liver, tripe, small intestines are some of the most popular ingredients, cooking up many delicious dishes: sauteed liver with pineapples, crunchy tripe with parsley…etc. 

Photo credit: Bep Nha Bee

‘Cheers!’ When Drinking Beer and Rice Wine

Despite countless regional differences, the cheering is the same everywhere in Vietnam. Just one word, often shouted out loud: “Dzôô!”. This vowel word may lack complex linguistics but carry many meanings. Instead of flowery sentences, this cheer means best wishes, encouragement, sharing joy, honoring friendship. When having a beer or rice wine together, Vietnamese people seek to let down their hair. All casual and nothing rigid or formal. And this one-word cheer captures that spirit wholesomely.

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Other Drinking Customs: Tea and Coffee

Vietnamese people’s love for Bia Hoi and rice wine is obvious. But they also adore other drinks like tea and coffee. Vietnam is at number five on the global tea export and number four for global coffee export.

To better understand Vietnamese tea culture, click here.

Curious to learn more about the coffee drink customs of Vietnamese? Click here

About Author

Hi there, I'm a passionate writer about all things culture, travel, culinary, and more! When not deep in writing, I enjoy a long walk by the beach and contemplating what to write next :D

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