The Pasteur Street Brewery’s “home” is a tiny tap room at 144 Pasteur St, in the heart of Saigon’s District 1. Or more accurately, the brewery’s home is two tiny tap rooms at 144 Pasteur St. Because the brewery runs two such venues on either side of a narrow alley meaning that both they have the same address. For a tourist struggling with google maps it’s quite confusing.
Both have the kind of tasteful and low-key fit-out that assures a first-timer that no-one wants to distract you from the beer. There’s plenty of information available about the beer, a simple but effective food menu and beer is available by the pint or in tasting trays. Again, all very promising.
But the telling thing is that when the beer does eventually arrive, there is no disappointment. A tasting tray made up of the items on page one of the beer list brought six beers of quality ranging from excellent to exceptionally good. There was a Passionfruit Wheat, a spiced saison called Spice Island, Jasmine IPA, Coffee Porter, Double IPA and the show-stopping Cyclo Stout. This last beer may be the still young brewery’s greatest achievement. As well as being rich, boozy, complex and utterly delicious, it’s a World Beer Cup Gold Medal winner.
The quality is sustained through a follow-up tasting tray of the beers on page 2 of the menu. There’s a Pomelo IPA that is packed with citrus rind flavours and two fruited Berliner Weisses – one pineapple and one watermelon – as well as a kolsch, witbier and a surprisingly complex Belgian pale ale.
The brewery aims to incorporate local ingredients into every beer that they make. That policy has been relaxed a little, particularly with some of the intense Imperial IPAs, but it’s still very evident. And in an era when hops and malt, along with brewing expertise, are traded in a global market, the attitude makes a lot of sense. Plus those fruited pale beers are perfect for Vietnam’s tropical regions.
The next day I took an uber to Pasteur Street’s main production facility which is in a kind of industrial estate 19km south and outside the city. Apparently it’s illegal to brew in the middle of Saigon. My uber receipt tells me that the trip took 58 minutes, implying an average speed of 20kmph, which is probably about par on Saigon’s congested streets.
Until now, everything about Pasteur Street’s operations have seemed slick and well funded. So it was a surprise to find that the brewery have made do with a slightly cobbled set of brewing equipment, most or all of it sourced within Vietnam. It also turns out that with this brewery busy maintaining the brand’s diverse range, some of their most in-demand beers are produced at a separate contract facility.
There are more and larger tanks on the way, but with demand for Pasteur Street beer growing rapidly in Vietnam and in export markets, it’s clear that managing growth is going to be a challenge.
Back in Saigon’s District 1, there’s time for a quick pilgrimage to Maison Marou. Like Pasteur Street, Maison Marou is a young company. They’re “bean to bar” chocolatiers, with a combined café and factory that sells single origin chocolate bars while serving extravagant sweets and hot chocolates to tourists and affluent locals. Also on sale are bottles of Pasteur Street’s Cyclo Stout, which uses Maison Marou’s own chocolate, along with cinnamon and vanilla.
Maison Marou chocolate is imported into New Zealand. Find out more at www.marou.co.nz.