Beer in Situ: Birra Pejo

A long-overdue review of this great little beer place in the Italian Alps. It was so welcoming and became our home brewery for six weeks when we lived in Cogolo this summer.

The Pertinents

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The Family

This is truly a family owned and operated brewery. Often when we visited, Marco and Angela would be manning the brewery or the taproom (and most of the time, both!) while their children played. The grandparents also help out and the family even brings their new baby to work. It’s such a welcoming atmosphere.

The Water

“It would be a shame not to make beer with this water.” – Translated from the Birra Pejo website.

Cogolo is home to Acqua Pejo, a famous mineral water distribution centre which bottles from the source at 1400m altitude. We spent more than a month exploring the valley which is home to Birra Pejo and found more waterfalls than almost anywhere we’ve ever travelled. It’s second only to Iceland in this regard.

I love to imagine the waterfalls filling the water with great energy and sending it bubbling downstream to the towns, and being made into excellent beers.

The Beer

IMG_6953The styles that they produce at Birra Pejo are classic, but often with a twist. For example, their Alpina (named for the Stella Alpina, AKA Edelweiss flowers that are on the high alpine tracks nearby) features pink pepper in the brewing process. The Aquila belgian ale is our favourite of their brews, with a balanced malt profile and clean taste. They brew regularly and often make seasonal ales that are in very limited quantity. All the prices are quite the steal if one takes into account the handmade quality of the beer.

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This brewery is one of our favourites that we’ve found in all our beery travels. We hope to come back to visit some day soon.

 

 

Bia Hoi Pub Crawl: Authentic Hanoi for Under a Fiver

Is this the cheapest pub crawl in the world? Maybe. Is it a great way to see ‘real’ Hanoi and be ‘authentic’ in the city? Definitely.

We woke up on Saturday, our first weekend day back from the Colorado holiday we took over Tet. Russ said, “Do you think the Bia Hois are all on Google?”

We decided that they are, and then we decided to try a Bia Hoi Pub crawl.

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First, some history. Bia Hoi is a very light, fresh lager-style beer that is made in Vietnam. The name of the drink is synonymous with the name of the place that one can drink it. A “Bia Hoi” is a small or large place that serves the fresh beer and some type of food to have with it. Most places are indoor/outdoor, local, and have tiny plastic chairs to sit on.

Bia Hois are the local pubs of Hanoi. It’s a great place to hang out and watch the world go by, and the beer is around 3% ABV. Keep this in mind as you count up how many glasses we had (!). Don’t worry, you can walk between them and sample the local beer all over Hanoi without stumbling around.

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Believe it or not, this was before all the beer!

We detailed our tour, with directions so that you can go for yourself! All the photography is black and white because, well, Hanoi in February is very Noir.

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Please note that the brown part is our route on the UBER home! Redacted for our privacy.

If you want to do this on your own, first walk down to the bottom of Thong Nhat Park (Lenin Park) below Hoan Kiem Lake (assuming that you are a foreign tourist who is staying in the Old Quarter). This is a 4.5 km walking tour. 

The first local pub you’ll want to find is Bia Hơi Hiền Bảo Khánh near that park. This is our local Bia Hoi and where we started.

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If you are two people, you’ll want to master saying, “Hai bia hoi!” so that you can order two glasses of the stuff. Handy Guide:

Three bia hoi = ba bia hoi
Four bia hoi = bốn bia hoi
One million bia hoi = triệu bia hoi

It’s frothy, light, and cold. The traditional glasses are the standard.

This Bia Hoi is a great place to watch the traffic on the big road, Dai Co Viet. At rush hour it can be pretty insane. Once you’ve had your fill, you can either follow the road to the next place or walk through Lenin Park (you’ll need to pay a ticket price for the park, 4.000 VND per foreign person).

Price: 36.000 VND for 4 glasses of beer ($1.58)

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Next up, we’ve got the beautiful views of a lake and train tracks from Bia Hoi 302.

This is a nice lake to walk around, in a neighbourhood without many tourists. It’s a great place to see people walking their dogs and to use their nice bathroom. It’s nice by Bia Hoi standards, with toilet paper and a dedicated female toilet!

If you stay for a bit, you’ll be able to see a train going on the tracks near the lake. This is a great Bia Hoi for watching the trains and traffic.

Price: 41.000 VND for 4 glasses of beer and two packets of nuts ($1.80)

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Now you’ll turn north and walk toward the Old Quarter, but stay on the side of the tracks where Bia Hoi 302 is found. You can walk straight up the tracks, through a local neighbourhood. This is a district where there are many furniture artisans, and you can lose yourself in the alleyways. It looks a little dodgy to the untrained eye, but it’s safe.

If you follow the tracks, you’ll eventually start running into more and more people who are posing for Instagram selfies on the tracks. This is how you know you’re near Ga Hanoi (the Railway Station).

Find your way to a major intersection just south of the station and you’ll be at the third stop, Quán Bia Hơi Cường Nga.

This is a really busy Bia Hoi. We arrived right around rush hour, and sitting right near the traffic made me physically dizzy! They speak English and are very used to tourists.

Price: 60.000 VND for 6 glasses of beer ($2.63) 

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Once you cross the traffic safely, you can walk across to the next Bia Hoi we stopped at, Thien Nga Restaurant. It’s at the top of Lenin Park. This is the only Bia Hoi in our pub crawl that doesn’t serve Bia Hoi Hanoi (they serve Viet Ha).

Don’t miss the beautiful old tree out front. They offer fruits and incense to it daily.

Price: 42.000 VND for 4 glasses and two packets of nuts ($1.84)

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Now you’re up in the centre of town. You’ll see a lot more tourists and it’s going to be a lot busier.

Walk along and find the massive, sprawling Bia Hoi called Thu Hang beer on the corner. This is my favourite of the day, because it is so clean and lively. One of the great things about the Bia Hoi in Hanoi is that when you walk in, it can feel like a German Drinking Hall during Oktoberfest or even an ancient tavern. I love the energy of the places.

Since you will definitely need to wee at this point, know that they have a great toilet. It’s Asian-style (thank god) and they keep it clean. It’s a tiny bit more fancy than the other ones that we visited, and had a beautiful peach blossom tree for Tet.

Price: 45.000 VND for 4 glasses of beer and two packets of nuts ($1.98) 

We were HUNGRY at this point. We walked into a new place, which turned out to be awwwwwwwsome. Bít Tết Ngọc Hiếu is a Hue-style sizzling Banh My restaurant. Just go. It’s amazing.

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Re-fueled, we finally walked to the last destination on our pub crawl. There are several beer places in the same neighbourhood, including one of our favourites the Hoa Vien Czech beer hall. This time, though, we went to the Bia Hoi. The best part of the night was the guy who works there, who was supremely friendly.

Price: 40.000 VND for 4 glasses ($1.76)

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Watching someone pull out of a parking spot directly toward us like…

From here, you can easily walk back to the Old Quarter. You could also hail an Uber.

IMG_2003-EditTotal Price: 264.000 VND

$12 for two people, $6 for one including 13 glasses of Bia Hoi (£9 total, £4.50) 

There are guided Hanoi pub crawls that you could pay for, but they are around $9-12 per person and don’t include drinks! Why pay for that if you have the chance to go to the Bia Hoi? We spent about six hours on our pub crawl, but we are definitely on Hanoi Time. You could walk this in 2.5 hours if you pushed the pace and only had one beer at each place.

This is a great walking tour of some areas that you won’t necessarily see in Hanoi if you just keep to the guidebooks. Grab some friends or find them at the Bia Hoi. People will be friendly and you’ll be living like the locals.

If you want a real Hanoi experience, try a Bia Hoi pubcrawl.

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A Bladerunner-Inspired Pop of Colour for you!

 

Beer in Situ: Pasteur Street Brewing (Hanoi Brewpub)

The Pertinents

  • 1 Au Trieu, Hanoi (behind the cathedral)
  • Offshoot brewpub from their main location in HCMC
  • Founded 2015 (approximate)
  • Interesting tidbit: The folks who founded this company first worked for Upslope Brewing in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado, USA!

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The Beer

They put a huge emphasis on local ingredients and American craft beer techniques, and the results are great! I especially enjoy their Cyclo Stout, which won multiple awards and has made a name for itself internationally. If you’re interested in local ingredients then you need to try the Dragonfruit beer, which has the punchy pink of the rinds in it and a nice sour wash. Equally tasty are the Spice Island Saison (which really tastes Vietnamese somehow) and the Jasmine IPA.

The beers are the best value for money that I have found so far in Hanoi, because they really are craft beer in style. The price is quite high for this country, but it’s worth it as a special treat.

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The Atmosphere

The brewpub is modern and has exactly the kind of feel you want in a craft beer place. The upper-floor patio is tucked right in behind the stained glass of St. Joseph’s cathedral, and you can hear the bells for Mass during a visit on any evening. Watch out for mosquitoes, though!

The crowd tends to be mostly tourists at the moment, and especially Korean ones. That way it always has a little bit of home-ness for me, since I’ve spent so much time in Korea. It’s as if three of my international homes come together in this spot.

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Beer in Situ: Tightlines Pub and Brewery (Morehead City, NC, USA)

The Pertinents

  • 709 Arendell St, Morehead City, NC 28557, USA
  • Founded in 2016

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The Space

It’s an older building that has a very long, saloon-style bar. The walls are brick and probably have a ton of stories to tell in this port town. They have an outdoor porch, too.

We went during the day, and it was super dark inside (as a bar should be, I suppose). The service was Southern Hospitality-filled and they had a large menu of delicious food. Try the boneless chicken wings with buffalo sauce.

They are building community in Morehead City with live music, events, and Pints for Purpose. This is their monthly beer garden concert series with proceeds from certain pints going to charities like the Wounded Warrior Project and Cartaret County Humane Society.

The Beer

They had started brewing just the Saturday before we stopped by, and so the beer was not yet ready. They had a homebrew kit in the corner, but none of their own beers on tap. That’s ok, because they had a selection of a lot of North Carolina and East Coast brews that I rarely get to try! Carolina’s beer scene is really coming along, and hopefully Tightlines will add a great cream ale to the mix in the next week or so.

Beer in Situ: Great Divide (Denver, CO, USA)

The Pertinents

  • 2201 Arapahoe St, Denver, CO 80205, USA
  • Founded in 1993

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The Space

It’s like a craft beer dream. Open, airy, with a nice outside area on the sidewalks of Denver. Well within walking distance to Union Station, Coors Field, and other downtown attractions. The taproom itself is smallish and gets absolutely jammed full at times.

20170530_154958Outside, lots of brewkit and a rotating parade of excellent food trucks. THIS is what all new breweries long to be. They just bought and opened a big new space in the RiNo District, too.

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The Beer

I don’t need to add to the myriad awards and raving reviews that Great Divide has garnered over the years. Suffice to say: I Believe.

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Not at the same time, one was Russell’s (Titan IPA and Yeti)