Pasteur Street Brewing

(Hanoi, Vietnam)

Not so far off of the beaten path, in the shadow of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral lies Pasteur Street Brewing Company.  Prior to our arrival The Editor and I stumbled on to some amazing pho and cam tam nearby and bought come communist propaganda posters.  Once settle we split some quick nachos, I started with a flight, and The Editor rocked a glass.
First up was Passion Fruit Wheat.  Much like the last one I had in Vietnam- this one was great.  I was unable to squeeze much info out of anyone or anything nearby, as to if the local passion fruit is just that top notch, but this brew captures the essence of passion fruit better than anything I’ve ever had in the States.  Tart, tangy, and really well done.
Brew two was really disappointing.  Jasmine IPA isn’t worth the glass space.  I always try not to be too harsh when I write, but I didn’t like anything about this beer.
Pomelo IPA, on the other hand, impressed.  I wasn’t over the moon about it, but The Editor thought it was so nice she ordered it twice.  Again, there’s a raw component to Pasteur’s beers. This IPA balanced hops with pomelo perfectly: sweet citrus without bitterness.
Next up was Spice Island Saison.  I think I’ve come into my own when it comes to saisons:  I like them big and bold and I also enjoy a mellow, tartness.  This one just didn’t have “it”. I didn’t hate the spicy start, but there wasn’t a lot going on in the finish.
Coffee Porter was a bit of a dud as well.  I wouldn’t call myself a “coffee drinker”, but it’s grown on me.  That being said, I’m ok with my stouts and porters tasting like coffee, not with them actually being coffee…
Finishing the flight was an Irish Stout.  This brew wasn’t your typical dry Irish and not all Irish stouts are created equal. This brew is semi-sweet on nitro and really I enjoyed it.
It should be worth noting that, although I’m aware the owner and/or brewer would never say something like this- the waitress did tell me that the porter, Irish stout, and Cyclo were “all the same” Finally, I had a gut feeling about Cyclo Imperial Stout, so instead of putting it on the flight, I doubled down and got the full snifter… worth it!  This WBC gold medal winner in the chocolate stout category was worth every sip. I know I’ve been starved for good stouts over here in Asia, that notwithstanding, there’s a short list of beers that match the quality of this brew. Locally sourced cocoa nibs and vanilla beans coupled with just a hint of cinnamon and velvety smooth texture and there’s no wonder why this beer had me head over heels.  I suppose if you were someone who liked to complain just for the sake of complaining you could say that Cyclo’s 10.something% came in tasting a bit boozy and almost made me wonder if this stout was barrel aged. I guess I just like a little more booze in my…booze. Sue me.
When rating breweries I try not to compare to others and let them stand on their own feet.  This time, however, I find myself comparing a little and thinking rather hard about it. I was truly impressed with Turtle Lake the day before and though, overall Turtle Lake’s line-up impressed me more as a whole I haven’t had a beer in a long time that impressed me as much as Cyclo stout did.  Truly world class. I give Pasteur Street Brewing Company a 9.1 out of 10.

Turtle Lake Brewing Company

(Hanoi, Vietnam)

It’s a bit off the beaten path if you’re hitting up the ‘must-see’ sights in Hanoi, it’s not technically on Hoan Kiem (Turtle Lake), and when you think of culture and authenticity in SE Asia a brewing company doesn’t exactly come to mind, but The Editor and I try to hit up at least one everywhere we go; if for no other reason than to add a pin in a new country.  Sometimes the beer is so bad that being able to say “we did it” almost isn’t worth it (Bangkok was terrible), but this time around wading through the sea of motorbikes and heading a bit out of the way was totally worth it. We had a flight, a few more pints, and perfect soft pretzel all while enjoying some pretty killer Ho Tay (West Lake) views.
First up was a pint of Cu Rua (or Tortoise)  Kolsch. Light and crispy, but more ‘meh’ than anything else.
Next up was a flight!  Starting with Helmet Boy Saison… yum!  Helmet Boy is the quintessential farmhouse style: big on spice, yet balanced with zesty orange peel and a tangy, sweet citrus finish.
Double-Edged Sword NEIPA waaaaasn’t really a NEIPA.  So, I pretended it was just a regular IPA. I still didn’t like it.
I’ve never been to Slovenia, but I imagine the Slovenian Christmas Porter hits it right on the head.  It was spicy and bold, with just enough coffee to keep you warm without a fire nearby, and though, it was a bit thin, the chocolaty finish was the perfect trifecta.
Big Boy Pants macadamia stout, was a 2nd place winner at the Asia Beer Cup, and a first place winner in my heart.  If stouts this good were more easily accessible in Korea it’d be a whole new ball game. I didn’t taste much of the milky/buttery macadamia flavor I was expecting, but I did get a ton of sweet cocoa and fresh vanilla.  It was big and strong with a creamy mouthfeel that stayed smooth beginning to end.
We obviously had to have another couple of pints (not pictured).  First was TLBC’s flagship: Mango smoothie IPA. Mango smoothie was a much better IPA alternative than the NEIPA mentioned above.  I don’t want to sound like a hater- maybe I just didn’t like it because it deceived me. Either way, mango smoothie didn’t mislead.  This one captures a great bitter hop to sweet mango balance.
Our last pint was Vietnam pale ale (VPA).  Although it didn’t overwhelm me with new and fresh flavors, it was an interesting diversion from the mundane pale ale.  Exclusively brewed with locally sourced ingredients VPA was one of TLBC’s first brews, along with Mango Smoothie, and I’m glad I gave it a shot.
I wish we had more time here, but we had a date with a killer bahn mi sandwich and an Uncle Ho viewing to get to.  I was really impressed with TLBC, particularly as they’ve only been around since 2017. There were a couple of duds, but overall their brews were on point, they’re making a big splash in Asia as the new kid on the block and all in all, I give Turtle Lake Brewing an 8.9 out of 10.

Magpie Brewing Company

(Itaewon, Seoul, SK)

You’ll find Magpie nestled in a basement, down some dimly lit stairs, through a hard-to-find doorway, in the aptly named “Craft beer alley” right around the part of town where Itaewon transitions into HBC.  Sadly, their beers aren’t brewed on location, or even in Seoul; they’re brewed a couple hundred miles away in Jeju. I’m not sure why breweries that do that bother me so much, but they do. Regardless, once we finally found the place we loved the ambiance, we split an order of their amazing, homemade hot cheeto-style rice puffs and, as they don’t offer tasting glasses or flights, a pair of pints.
We started with a mainstay:  The Magpie Kolsch. This kolsch was typical of the style with some warm fruity notes to start and finishing crisp and lager-clean.
The next brew was Southbound Train.  We were there a few weeks ago and I think it was about to be phased out or replaced by a fall seasonal, so I’m really glad I got to try it before it was gone.  Southbound Train is a Baltic rum porter that was the perfect amount of boozy, sweet, and bitter all while remaining smooth throughout. There were definite notes of vanilla, toffee and dark fruits with a slight hint of coffee and I was truly impressed!
I don’t think it’s fair to give them an official rating as we only tried two of their drafts.  I will say Magpie Brewing Company is a much try if you’re in the neighborhood. Try the other two microbreweries and half a dozen craft beer bars that are there while you’re at it!
Look for the tag (MpBC) to see where they fall in the rankings!

Redpoint Brewing Company

(Taipei City, Taiwan)

Lucky for us Taipei is crawling with street food, so we had ample sustenance during the day, regardless of that, by the time Redpoint opened we were on brewery number four, intoxicated, and hungry.  I was so ready for what turned out to be the best wings and burger I’ve had in over a year that I only managed to get a picture of the wings and two pints; not the burger and other two pints we had.
The first person to greet us after setting up chairs by himself and training a new waitress wasn’t a random bar manager or server, but the co-owner and head brewer himself.  We were the first ones in the door, but were quickly followed by 3 groups of 3-5 people who seemed as though spending time there was as easy as spending time at momma’s table.  Everyone in Taipei seemed nice and hospitable, but this place has something just a step above the status quo.
The first pint was 台.P.A (Tai P.A.):  A nicely balanced, crisp and smooth IPA – I’m not sure what else was in there, but it had an obvious sorachi character.  As I said- I was already pretty hungry and this one went down real quick (so who really knows?!), but well done nonetheless.
Next up was Rock Monkey stout.  This one was a bit too hop forward, for a stout, and for my liking.  It was also a bit thin and finished with what was probably supposed to be coffee roast, but manifested like burnt toast.
Disco Macaw is tagged as a Juicy pale ale with simco, mosiac, and citra.  I loved the balance and the blending of character in this pale ale. I’ve had worse NEIPAs IN New England.  Nice refreshing brew!
Our last pint was the Cherry Stuffed Summer IPA.  I think this placement was a bit out of order as we were letting our stomachs do the thinking, so perhaps that’s why this one didn’t impress or perhaps it was due to it being in circulation too long (we were there during the beginning of Oct), but regardless- I didn’t love it.  There wasn’t much cherry past the aroma and the hops were a little stale. Silver lining: It was impressively light for 8.6%.
Beers went 2/4, but the food was amazing and the friendly staff put them over the edge in the win column.  Probably won’t be back to Taipei with so many other destinations on the list, but we’ll find ourselves at Redpoint if we do.  All in all, I give Redpoint Brewing Co an 8.2 out of 10.
Look for the tag (RPBC) to see where they fall in the style rankings!

Taipei Brewery/Baby Taipei Brewing Co

(Taipei City, Taiwan)

Under the major corporation; Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor is the Taipei Brewery that pumps out national beverages like Taiwan lager.  Within that major brewery is Baby Taipei Brewing pumping out some pretty awesome, small-batch brews. There was no food, but the beers were on point and the brewery itself had an awesome atmosphere with a chill outdoor sitting area.  This type of thing really doesn’t exist in the states (to my knowledge): It would be like Coors having an awesome microbrewery within their distribution plant in Denver.
ANYWAY- we had the mass-produced stuff in bars and restaurants throughout the week, which compared to other countries’ major brands isn’t bad, so we grabbed a few bottles and took a load off.
First up was Taipei Blonde Ale.  There wasn’t a ton of flavor packed in this bottle, but I could have sat and sipped all day if we didn’t have a few more places to see.  It’s always my dilemma when we’re on vacation: We have so many things to do that I’m left thinking- “Well, I wouldn’t mind living next door for a month or two.”  Baby Taipei really captures my idea of a ‘porch sittin’ brew.
Our second bottle was Osmanthus Herb Beer.  Oddly enough, my first sip of osmanthus was a mere few minutes before.  This one outdid Zhang Men slightly, but I still wasn’t in love with it. It draws you in with a sweet apricot and buttery nose, but follows with a dirty earthiness that leaves you feeling a little disappointed.
If this was the first stout I’d had in Taiwan and compared it to the bad ones I’ve had in Korea I might be inclined to rate it a little higher, but now that I know IT CAN BE DONE I wasn’t all that impressed with their Oatmeal Stout.  Chocolatey, but in a burnt nib way and malty, but in a little bit stay kind of way.
All in all, we loved our experience and the beer was pretty good, but not that upper echelon.  I 100% would do again and recommend. Baby Taipei gets an 8.1 out of 10.

Zhang Men Brewing Company

(Taipei City, Taiwan)

The following day after stumbling upon Jolly Brewery we planned the evening as a self-guided brewery tour; starting with Zhang Men Brewing.  Zhang Men has a few locations now as they were the first craft brewery opened in Taipei. Their Da’an location, in particular, has a tiny, yet very inviting taproom.  There “tap water” also has a great allure.
Shortly after our arrival, they were packed to the gills.  The Editor and I had some killer garlic fries, a flight, and a pint before heading out.
The first sip on the flight was their Fruit Sour.  It was definitely in the sour category and tasted like a berry blend, but I couldn’t get past the copper/tin, vomit finish.  Not a great start.
The second brew was an immediate turnaround.  Mulberry Ale was a bit more like a sour than a fruity ale.  I love mulberries and this one really captured the essence with its tartness balanced by a delicate sweetness.  This was a nice way to forget about what I just had.
Third up was Honey Ale.  I will say this went down more like a mead than an ale, which was a nice surprise.  Many times, to me, honey ales have a bit of a burnt honey flavor and not enough of a sweet, candied honey quality.
Next up was Passion Fruit Ale.  Based on experience drinking as many as I can- it must be very difficult to get passion fruit to come forward in a beer.  Not everyone does, but I love the tartness of passion fruit. It’s very aromatic and in beer form I imagine it to come out almost like another sour.  This one, like many others, was just a ‘meh’ wheat beer that smelled good.
Osmanthus Ale is an ale brewed with osmanthus flowers that grow mainly in Taiwan, but can be found in a few other spots in southeast Asia.  This brew smelled earthy like fresh cut grass and finished on my tongue with peaches and apricots. I always do my best to drink something completely unique like this or a mainstay that I’m really hoping I’ll enjoy like a BBA stout.  This brew was definitely the former and, though it wasn’t my favorite, it was a nice change of pace. If you’re getting bored of the ole standard this one’s worth a look.
The last brew on the flight was a Cream Ale.  This cream ale was smooth, creamy, and slightly sweet and was the perfect way to end our beer-sploration for the day.
Unfortunately, we didn’t end with the cream ale; we had a pint of the West Coast-style IPA.  Hoppy enough, but overly bitter with no other substance.
Overall, we had a great experience at Zhang Men and I am going to block the last beer out of my mind to not sully the flight.  All in all, I give them an 8.8 out of 10.

Jolly Brewery

(Taipei City, Taiwan)

I didn’t even plan for it to work out like this, but we’re really excited about our 100th review article!  1st: It’s amazing that 100 of these even exist and 2nd: To have this one be of a great brewery that adds our 5th country to the list is not something I ever thought we’d be doing 5 years ago.
The first of many stops in Taipei’s emerging brew scene was Jolly Brewing.  Just a stone’s throw from 2/22 Peace Park and the presidential office building- the brewery is in a cool part of town and boasts an industrial/rustic and very inviting atmosphere.  Some soft bread with a peanut, curry dipping sauce and a spicy beef dish with a flight of six really tipped the scales in their favor.
First up was the Weizen.  To start this one is a filtered Weizen that I feel like bucks the trends a little bit and the cloves were strong and a bit overpowering.  Secondly, it has some champagne effervescence behind it like the new string of brett IPAs. Nice work on this one.
You know I don’t like pilsners.  I still drink them because I’m still in search of the best of every beer I’ve ever had, also, duh, why would I waste it?  This pilsner came pretty close.
The Pale Ale was insipid.  Or, shall we say, not very Jolly?
Jolly’s stout had me hoping that a Korean brewer would take the 3-hour flight and take a couple of lessons.  In recent months we’ve had stouts that had decent flavor and absolutely no mouthfeel (I’m talking water) and we’ve had some thick creamy stouts with NO flavor behind them.  This stout wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but after 14 months a poor stout performance, if we lived locally and this wasn’t the first stop on a vacation-activity packed night I would have stayed for 10 and gotten carried out.  This guy was my favorite of the bunch.
The Scotch Ale was sweeter than I’m used to and probably than any Scotsman would be.  The Asian nations we’ve visited thus far seem to have a strong proclivity towards the sweet or savory while bitter falls by the wayside.  That being said its richness kept me hanging on for the last drop.
Lastly, their special release, 2016 Belgian IPA I found very intriguing.  There were characteristics of both, with a light fruitiness at the beginning balanced by a delicate hop finish and a spice backbone throughout, but this was different than others of the style I’ve had.  It wasn’t my favorite on the flight, but it was The Editor’s which makes it worth the trip.
They rounded out the reasons why we loved this brewery with an advertisement urging their patrons that if they buy American beer to make sure the can or bottle has a label supporting independent craft brewers.  All in all, I give Jolly an 8.9 out of 10.
It was also refreshing to see support for #independencematters #independentbeer with Inbev gobbling up every brewer they can this is a great reminder for all of us back home in the US and abroad.
‘Til next time- Ganbei!