Mark Gustafson might be the most popular man in town right now. Everywhere he goes he keeps getting thanked. Thanked for helping bring craft beer to Ho Chi Minh City, thanked for opening up a location in Thao Dien, and thanked for giving an opportunity to new brewers. It’d be sickening if he didn’t deserve it.
Having already been through it once, it could have easily gone to his head by now. (Mark is also one of the guys behind ‘Ut Ut’, for which he nearly received a knighthood last year — such was the positive response).
However Mark has remained humble (the damn fool), and is keen to share the credit with his business partners and their partners in this venture — distributors of fine ales, Zebrafish.
A Perfect Storm
I ask him if he’s been surprised by the success of Bia Craft. “Not really,” he starts, but he’s far from cocky. “We knew the demand was there, it was just a matter of finding a location.”
Turns out the current, and what is no doubt soon to be referred to as ‘the original’ Bia Craft, came about by a confluence of circumstance. “I was already brewing for my restaurant, Zebrafish were planning to expand their tasting room, Pasteur Street had arrived, and a bunch of other people were already making their own brews.”
And so about three months ago, Bia Craft opened up and Thao Dien has got its very own dedicated craft beer hangout.
The people have spoken
Serving ten small-batch ‘crafties’ on tap, and a growing number of imported ales, it’s fair to say that this ‘review’ is pretty much redundant, because the people have already spoken. The only complaint they’ve had is that the place isn’t big enough.
Drive past it on Xuan Thuy on just about any night of the week, and you’ll see a hive of activity, now including a range of bar snacks that you’ll be happy to take home. It even has a home in its fridge for some bottles of Coopers Pale Ale, which is tantamount to bribery to someone from Adelaide — me being a serious journalist and all that.
If you pop in, what you’ll find is a warm place and a warm atmosphere smattered with regulars, but plenty of newbies as well. Here it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, though the focus is squarely on the product and the people who drink it. There are no TVs and no issues finding friends not to watch it with, because chances are you’ll be sitting next to one in a matter of minutes!
This month Mark recommends a new addition to the roster, The Stone Hill Cocoa Cider. It’s aged over 12 months by its Vietnamese makers to produce what his website calls “a sweet, mead-like cider, with hints of stone fruit and a note of chocolate on the finish”. Hey Mark, thanks! — Jon Aspin
Bia Craft is at 90 Xuan Thuy, Q2, HCMC or online at biacraft.com