Business, Economics and Jobs

Vietnam's thirst for beer is hard to quench

People are getting wasted all over Vietnam.

Or so one must assume based on the latest numbers pertaining to beer consumption and imports in the country.

People in Vietnam are drinking billions of liters of beer every year. New breweries are being set up, existing ones are being upgraded and more foreign beers than ever before are being imported.

Though most of the market is still domestic brands or foreign brands producing beer in Vietnam rather than importing it — like Tiger and Carlsberg — more imports are pushing their way in. 

Customs officials in Ho Chi Minh City told that imports rose by half over 2009 to more than 1.66 million bottles and cans of liquor, beer and wine.

Dutch beer company Heineken told the same publication that it sold 200 million liters in Vietnam last year, making the country the third largest out of the 170 markets worldwide — behind the U.S. and France.

By 2012, it may be Heineken's second biggest market and by 2015, it's likely to be in the top spot.

Miller is making a push with its slogan: "It's America Time." And regional brands, like Beer Laos, are also elbowing in on the action.

It's not exactly the classic image one might hold of Vietnam, but it is nonetheless an accurate portrayal of today. 

In a travel piece from last year for the New York Times, "In Vietnam, traveling an unlikely beer trail," Russ Juskalian wrote that, "For the first-time visitor to Vietnam, the variety of local and regional beers can be surprising. It seems each city has a beer named after it (Bia Can Tho, Bia Thai Binh, Bia Saigon, Bia Hanoi, Bia Hue, and so on), and the best of the bunch depends on whom you ask and where you’re asking."

But no matter what imports are flooding the market, let us not forget bia hoi, the ultimate people's beer. 

Preservative-free, this local brew is usually made the same day of consumption — which is every day. It costs about 16 cents (3000 dong), which is less than a bottle of water. Now just picture what a beer that costs less than water tastes like ...