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Vietnam's Most Underrated Beer - Biere Larue Original


Beer is ubiquitous in Vietnamese life. A quick walk around the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Hue or Hoi An, will tell you its true. You'll see locals seated on stumpy plastic stools by the roadside with a bowl of noodles and a basket of leafy greens chowing down while sitting pretty in an icy glass cup next to them is a refreshing pint of beer, or bia and biere as it is locally known.

Vietnam is in fact one of the top 10 consumers of beer globally!

You can expect to find no shortage of wide arrays of beer labels most anywhere - you're almost spoilt for choice.


When in Ho Chi Minh, do as the locals do and grab yourself a refreshing pint as you chow down. (Image Source: Esquire)


While the staple Bia Saigon is most common, another historic beer remains perhaps one of Vietnam's most underrated beers - that is Biere Larue.

Back in the late 1800s, the French presence in Vietnam meant that its influence had begun to permeate and blend into the local culture. One of which is the export of beer to Vietnam. This eventually kickstarted a century long fascination by the local population with the beverage.

A Frenchman by the name of Victor Larue was one such spark to this beer revolution.


The Indochina Brewery. (Image Source: Doanh Nhan VN)


In 1875, Larue, a former marine, would start a small brewery by the name of Brasseries et Placieres de L’Indochine Brewery, which later grew to become the Glacieres Brasseries d'Indochine, also known as the BGI Brewery or Indochina Brewery.

His first label was the "33" Export Label beer, which was named after the 33-centilitre glass bottle that it was served in. This became a big hit with the foreigners in Vietnam. After Vietnam's reunification, this was later renamed "333" beer, as a means to distance itself from its colonial ties, and would even spur the first national homegrown local beer - Bia Saigon.

However, less is known about a second label created by Larue in 1909 that still exists today in Vietnam - the Biere Larue, which takes its name of course, from Victor Larue.


Vietnam soldiers were particularly fond of Biere Larue. (Image Source: RVNHS) 


A bottle of Biere Larue when it was the best-selling beer in Vietnam in the 1960s. (Image Source: RVNHS)


Biere Larue was the original special small batch craft beer. (Image Source: Virtual-Saigon.net)


The beer was at the time a rice beer made using a European brewing recipe that made it popular amongst the locals, often affectionately nicknamed "the tiger beer". In fact, for the better part of the mid 1900s, Biere Larue had largely overtaken the inaugural "33" beer. Unlike "33", Biere Larue was crafted in special batches and was often made specifically for the Vietnam Armed Forces. These bottles would even have the tiger logo replaced with the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces crest, with the national colors on the back of the bottle.

Post-reunification, the local government took a bigger hand in the local beer brands. "33" (and later "333") came to be owned by state-run Saigon Beer Company (or SABECO), and later Thai beer company, ThaiBev, being sold side by side with the popular Bia Saigon. The Biere Larue label, today a malt barley beer, on the other hand came to be owned by the Dutch beer giant Heineken Vietnam.


Biere Larue remains the most underrated beer label in Vietnam.


Biere Larue currently comes in three labels - the Biere Larue Original, Special and Export.

Today, Bia Saigon, which was created in 1992 in response to the local government's desire for a homegrown national beer, is by far the most commonly sighted and comes in a wide range of labels.

Yet, Biere Larue, which got its start as Victor Larue's original special small batch label in 1909, continues to be retailed across Vietnam and remains Vietnam's most underrated beer. 

Let's find out what it tastes like!

The Biere Larue Original - Review

Tasting Notes   

Color: Dark Gold

Aroma: Sweet honey, wheat and oats - rich cereal notes. It gives sunflowers - gentle yet slightly honeyed and floral.

Taste: Lively on the palate, this is medium-bodied with an almost spritzy texture and bits of honey oats. It offers up chocolate-coated sunflower seeds, with just a very light bitterness and bright citric acidity in the form of tangerines. 

Finish: Clean and incredibly fresh. It is almost breezy with spritely notes of pine. It fades out lightly sweet and honeyed, think Honey Stars cereal, with an aftertaste of cookie dough milk. 


Our Thoughts

Having tried the several major local beers, this was the best beer by far - it was incredibly aromatic, creamy and malty with a complementary brightness and richness in its flavours that made it well-rounded and elegant.

The burst of flavour on the palate was surprisingly delightful, of chocolate and tangerines, that gave the beer tons of character and nuance. All the while, the its taste remained accessible and very easy to drink and absolutely fragrant, without the typical sourness that most beers have.

The finish was fresh with a lingering aftertaste of sweet malty milk - almost nostalgic.

This is not a particularly heavy beer and is great for all levels of drinkers, and even non-drinkers! If you're in Ho Chi Minh, do yourself a favour and try Vietnam's most underrated beer.