In early August the Little Beer Room featured four beers from Ho Chi Minh City's Pasteur Street Brewing. Reportedly the head brewer at Pasteur Street came from the well-known Cigar City Brewing Co. in Tampa, Florida and let's just say he brought his experience with him on these brews. Patrons were undoubtedly thrilled to get a chance to try a sample from a promising brewery in Southeast Asia that's putting a local twist on classic styles.
You may be able to read the provided description and tasting notes for the Jasmine IPA, but if not then I'll summarise by saying that this beer was probably my favourite of the four that I tried. The aroma was indeed "fruity and floral" and while you would definitely describe it as "hop forward" it wasn't as aggressive as the typical "West Coast IPA" and I found it very drinkable. At 6.5%, perhaps it was a little too drinkable...
Next I went for the Spice Island Saison which featured local Vietnamese ingredients such as lemongrass, ginger and black pepper. It was heavy at 7% in terms of ABV but all of the flavours came together and finished dry as expected for the style. They did a nice job with this one, but it landed a close 3rd out of the four I tried due to tough competition.
Next I tried the Passion Fruit Wheat Ale. I should admit that I didn't exactly follow the recommended order of sampling with beers of less "impact" (in terms of flavour) at the beginning and working up in intensity. Part of that is also not knowing how good the beers are going to be. As I kept sampling my curiosity kept growing and I wanted to know if Pasteur Street actually made a beer that I didn't like. Wheat beers intrigue me because I find them difficult to pull off very well on a home brew scale and I'm interested in wheat beers where additional ingredients are added. Sweetwater Brewing Co. (Atlanta, GA) for example, makes a blueberry wheat ale called "Blue" that they do an amazing job on and I feel similarly about Harpoon's UFO with raspberry (Boston, MA).
This was a lightly tropical flavoured wheat beer that was refreshing with a bit of tartness and the light body made it quite sessional - think American wheat rather than Hefeweizen. I could imagine enjoying one of these on a junk boat. This beer landed at #2 out of the four.
Lastly there's the Toasted Coconut Porter. Recently there has been a wave of dark beers with toasted coconut and the pairing can really work. One example that comes to mind is a collaboration between Terrapin Beer Co. (Athens, GA) and Shmaltz Brewing Co. (Clifton Park, NY) that I picked up from Americraft Imports here in Hong Kong. For me, this was my least favourite of Pasteur Street's brews which was almost a relief to see that they are capable of flaws. Not to claim that it was flawed, but I found the coconut to be overdone which added an astringent (mouth puckering) dryness that wasn't pleasant.
Overall I think Pasteur Street must be doing some amazing things for beer in Vietnam and I appreciate their creative use of local ingredients which likely pairs well with local food in Saigon. Next time I'm in Ho Chi Minh City I plan on paying a visit to the brewery, which is one of few that you don't need to ask where to find!