Bia Hoi

IMG_20180405_160112by Neil

So, Hanoi has this great  tradition, custom, ritual, whatever you wish to call it called Bia Hoi. This translates as “New Beer” and it’s pretty straight forward. Beer is brewed at the brewery in Hanoi with no preservatives added, so the beer has a shelf life of less than 24 hours. Vendors collect the beer before noon or in the early afternoon and try to sell their beer the next twelve hours or so, before it goes off. It is a bit of a risk, because the vendor only wants to buy as much as he or she thinks they can sell, otherwise they don’t make money. You can get Bia Hoi all over Hanoi, but one of the best places to find it is in the old quarter on Bia Hoi corner. We sussed it out yesterday and sat down to have a glass or two. Here’s the interesting thing, vendors set up little tables and stools on the sidewalk for customers, but it is illegal to consume beer outside of a bar or restaurant, so the police patrol the quarter and will take away the vendors tables if they catch them. We witnessed this first hand when our vendor was raided and our table was taken away. It was a bit disconcerting as we weren’t sure what kind of nefarious enterprise we had gotten ourselves caught up in. IMG_20180405_160254I had visions of trying to explain our way out of jail, but luckily nothing happened, which was a little odd; no fine, no warning, just away with the table and off go the police. Weird. Fortunately, there was still the stoop to sit on, so we stayed put and enjoyed another round of refreshing Bia Hoi. You can do that, of course, because it’s lack of extended fermentation leaves it decidedly light on the alcohol content. Given that you have to drink a keg full to get really unsteady, it gave us a perfect opportunity to sip and enjoy the sights.

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