Beer in Saigon now has its Graceland. While most bars serve the same range of regional beers, the Kool Beer Bar is stocked with over 100 beers from 13 countries.
Located just off the Ben Thanh Market traffic circle, this joint is the best a beer-drinker could hope for in hop-starved Saigon. Glass-doored coolers make it easy to peruse the goods. The menu lists the alcohol content and bottle size of each beer. There’s even a canal packed with ice that runs the length of the bar — just slip your bottle in to keep your brew cool.
And the beer. While the selection is certainly not exhaustive, it’s nonetheless impressive. Prices are a bit steep, but if you stop in between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. you’ll pay 5 – 10k VND less per bottle (a good incentive to start drinking before noon if ever I heard one). The priciest item on the menu is a 750 ml bottle of Duvel with an alcohol content of 8.5%. It’ll set you back 190K VND. A 330 ml bottle of Chimay Blue (120K) tops the tanked chart with an alcohol content of 9.0%.
I stopped in and had a 375 ml bottle of Coopers Pale Ale (70K VND). If it tastes any fresher in Australia, I’d be surprised. I also shared 500 ml bottle of Vietnamese-made Cuong Duong with my girlfriend out of sheer curiosity. That endeavor didn’t go so well.
“It’s not a great beer,” she said, “but it’s a pretty delicious cough syrup.”
Kool Beer Bar, 177 Ham Nghi, District 1