Sliding my fingers between the cellophane pages of a worn menu, continental European names interspersed with Vietnamese and bad English translations, I opened to a picture of a Catholic monk, smile inked cross his face, with a glass in his hand filled with a mysterious amber substance.
I thought how nice it would be, to be like him — drunk and blissful, not bald and devout.
Beer Plaza’s surroundings are quite different from the bia hois or German and Czech beer halls scattered around Ho Chi Minh City. Beer Plaza is only big enough for a couple dozen people, with the brews adorning every square metre of wall space.
But the first thing you should notice at Beer Palace is the proof of the beer there. Trappist ales are not just strong, they can be really strong. Typically bottles are between six and eight percent. But for those who like to drink to forget, your choice of nine, 10 or 11 percent offerings will serve your purpose. These Trappist ales are extremely smooth and drinkable, adding to the merriment and, surely, to the intensity of a morning-after hangover.
Being a man of discerning tastes, my plan was to try several of these very nice beers over some conversation before setting off for a light dinner with friends. Unfortunately, Trappist ales are new on my radar — I severely underestimated their strength.
Down the Rabbit Hole
I began with La Trappe Quadrupel, a lightly carbonated amber ale that continues to ferment while in the bottle. Bitter with a clean aftertaste, this one is great to have with some soft cheese. I enjoyed this offering quite a bit, and my fellow companions agreed it was the best overall.
Lightening the mood, we moved to a highly drinkable Staropramen lager. Coming in 500ml cans, this was a clean yet heady lager, matching brilliantly with relatively inexpensive imported olives, washing their saltiness away with each swig.
At this point, we were all feeling bold, so naturally we decided to try two more bottles. We chose two tipples from Trappistes Rochefort, Rochefort 10 and Rochefort 8. 10 was smooth and had a pleasant malty taste that let you know it was in fact beer and not — as it seemed on first smell — red wine. 8 was my second favourite of the night, a reasonable 9.2%, its saffron-brown colour sparkling until glass and bottle were empty.
Standing up, it became all too apparent why that monk on the outside of the bottle had a smile on his face. It seems like being a monk in the Netherlands or Belgium isn’t so bad. — Seamus Butler
Beer Plaza is at 94-96 Le Lai, Q1