If you like history, check out my friend’s You Tube channel called Objectivity — it’s amazing. If you like beer, there’s a chance you were at Ho Chi Minh City’s first ever* Craft Beer Festival, where a little bit of history was made.
Held on Oct. 10 at Saigon Outcast in District 2, the Beer Fest drew many a hirsute gent — and quite a few un-hirsute ladies — who gathered to taste the labours of a growing cluster of local beer artisans.
The reason? In 2015, ‘craft beer’ found a legitimate market in Vietnam, not to mention a second dedicated venue (see Bar Stool on page 170). So the event had a definite ‘coming-out’ feel to it — for beer that doesn’t appreciate your mainstream lifestyle.
Right in the thick of the Saturday afternoon beergasm featuring blues, roots and stand up comedy was Colin O’Keefe, one of several men typifying the spirit of craft in this city.
He, along with his business partner Max Crawford, who he purports to have met “on a plastic chair on Bui Vien six years ago,” have brought Fuzzy Logic to the market — that’s the name of his beer — quite literally from their front room to your amber-loving lips.
Three hundred bucks
Previously a teacher and before that working for a company creating event spaces in New York, Colin’s burgeoning career in beer so easily might not have happened. “I had no idea, no plan to get into this, no background in it,” Colin tells me with a smile.
It was his friend Max, who had left and then returned from the US with some brewery experience under his belt, who had the ‘grand plan’ he says. Step 1; set up a brewery in District One, Step 2; take over the world, Step 3; retire to a tropical island, ‘beer-legend’ status assured.
It took Colin to bring him back down to earth slightly. Basically, tired of his daily soliloquizing, but believing in the idea, he offered him the princely sum of three hundred bucks and asked him if he could set up a brewing system with that. The answer? “Yes.”
Brewing a business
Since then it’s been a two-year journey tinkering with recipes, hiring and building equipment, expanding production and coming up with a name, all while resisting the temptation of outside investment by friends, to remain independent.
In the process, Fuzzy Logic’s problem has gone from trying to make the beer at all, to now worrying about being able to make enough of it. At the time of printing you could buy a ‘Dirty Blonde’ at Bia Craft, Outcast, Decibel, Game On, Soul Burger and Pacharan, with others in negotiation.
With their target of ten locations drawing quickly closer, Colin says that at that point they’ll take a deep breath, sit back and “work out how to do this”.
Trying to draw him on some numbers, he says that financially they’re “better than breaking even” now, but whatever they make is at this point reinvested straight back into their fledgling business.
Either way, whenever the millions start rolling in, or even if they never do, it’s already a long way from that first moment of realisation two years ago, when as newly enthused home-brewers, they invited a bunch of friends around to drink the first keg of their as yet unnamed beer, looked at each and thought “this could work”.