Hommel Beer Factory
From colonial era interloper to iconic local drink: The industrial origins of Ha Noi’s bia hơi
Before the French colonization, Vietnam had a long history of rice alcohol production. The beer industry was created in 1892 by Alfred Hommel, founder of Hommel Brewery (Brasserie Hommel) in Hanoi. Along with the Larue Brewery (Brasserie Larue) in Saigon, the Hommel Brewery was one of the two biggest breweries in Indochina.
Beer was the drink that seemed most suitable in the Indochina climate. At first, beer was mainly consumed by the French, then it became more and more popular with local Vietnamese people.
Besides water, the ingredients used by the Hommel Brewery were malted barley and hops imported from Europe and a proportion of rice (preferably denitrogenated). The difficulty was not in the purchase of ingredients of first quality, but in purifying water used, acquiring expensive brewing equipment, and adapting it to the hot and humid climate of Hanoi. Another challenge for the production of bottled beer was transportation. The brewery came up with the idea of producing a draft beer called bia hoi sold in kegs instead of bottles. Over time, bia hoi became a staple of Vietnamese culture and it remains so to this day.