Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saigon Export

Recently, I was at the Golden Flower Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Reno, enjoying some of their delicious phở. When I went to pay, I looked over in the cooler next to the counter, and something caught my eye. Next to the "33" Export (which I reviewed back in October 2008) was a bottle with a similarly-designed label: Saigon Export. I decided I needed to buy a bottle and try out another beer from Viet Nam.

Unlike the French-Australian-Vietnamese-whatever brewing situation of "33" Export, Saigon Export's label actually matches what it says in RateBeer's The Beer Guide; it is actually brewed by the Saigon Beer Co. (or "Saigon Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Corp." on the label, or its abbreviation of "Sabeco"), actually based in Saigon (a.k.a. Ho Chi Minh City), actually in Viet Nam. I was able to find that Sabeco brews both Saigon Export and "333" Beer (according to this Reuters report about Sabeco's IPO), which adds a new wrinkle to the "33"/"333" brewing situation; this means I may need to update the entry.

Furthermore, I found Sabeco's Vietnamese site and, thanks to Google Translate, I was able to cobble together a little more info about the beer and its history; apparently, Sabeco was formed in 1977 from a merger the Official Southern Beer-Wine Company (I think that's how it's translated) and the Cho Lon Beer Factory; I assume that it was around this time that Saigon Export was created. I could be wrong, so I may need to verify this info with the US importer. (Saigon Export page, Sabeco History, both pages in Vietnamese)

Here come the stats:

Saigon Export
BREWERY: Saigon Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Corp., Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam
STYLE: Rice beer, lager
ABV: 4.9%
MALTS: "Malt"
HOPS: "Hop"
FOODS TO PAIR WITH: Vietnamese food, I suppose

I got name, importer, ABV, malts, and hops off the bottle, and serving temperature from Sabeco's Saigon Export site. Is there more to come from the U.S. importer? Stay tuned!

This beer started off similarly to "33" and other Asian lagers I've had, mostly in keeping with the golden color and bright white bubbly head that dissipated rapidly (although I am trying to pour my beers better). However, the similarities between Saigon Export and the other Vietnamese beer end there. I caught a big whiff of a hoppy but overly metallic scent that turned me off; now it was starting to remind me of Central American lagers. The taste certainly exuded that same metal undertone along with more carbonation, like a pilsner. Finally, the aftertaste that lingered was more metal, as if I had been sucking on a penny.

Overall, Saigon Export was a very disappointing brew. I had high hopes for this beer ever since I had "33", but unfortunately it reminded me about the worst attributes of various beer styles I've had: The inconsistencies of some Asian beers, the poor water quality of some Central American beers, and the metallic taste of Eastern European pilsners. Maybe it goes better with Phở, I dunno. All I know is, I'm grabbing a "33" next time I'm at the Golden Flower. However, if you wish to try this beer for yourself, you can probably grab one at your local Vietnamese restaurant or Asian supermarket. Besides, it's not even nearly as bad as Korea's Hite Exfeel-S. But I still wouldn't spend $4 on this one.

Cạn ly!

(Today's foreign language lesson: Beer in Vietnamese is bia)


yearofthedrannon said...

I'm in Korea drinking a Saigon Export, enjoying its smooth though slightly sweet taste. As I got to the end of your fairly negative review I thought "It's not bad, at least it's better than Korean beer" then you beat me to it! Still, one must make allowances with beer reviews, the beer tastes best near where it's brewed. Guinness in Dublin and Stella Artois in Brussels are two examples I can personally vouch for. Having spent a year here I can confirm I've never tasted worse than Korea's Hite, Max and Cass.

hanh ngo said...

Hello guy,
The "33"beer that you had is "333" beer now.
Saigon Export is another beer of Sabeco,therefore it tastes different with the you had tried.
Wish you come to Vietnam, I'll let you try your memory beer again. :) Hanh