How do they make Bia Hoi?
May 23, 2006 7:39 PM   Subscribe

I've recently become interested in brewing beer and stuff, and I have to wonder - How the hell do they make Bia Hoi? It's an incredibly cheap, evidently preservative-free beer that they make in Vietnam and is generally drank the day it's released. Is it just hastily made lager like anything else? I'm basically just intrigued by the concept of making cheap, easy beer that tastes okay to pretty good.
posted by borkingchikapa to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
um, it seems like regular beer (not hastily made) that is "released" from the brewery in buckets rather than presurized kegs. Beer won't keep long in a bucket.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 7:57 PM on May 23, 2006

I would hope that there is something more to it than that, but I would add that as far as I can tell almost all home brewed (and I assume micro-brewed beer) is not made with preservatives. At least I never saw anyone sneaking in any preservatives when I watched people making beer. It makes your house smell like Postum.

Here is a pretty refreshing looking picture on flikr of a glass of Bia Hoi.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:01 PM on May 23, 2006

A lot of beers don't age - as in, they won't change character when aged. We get beer made at the beer/wine making place down the road and it tastes the same the day we bottled it as it does a couple of weeks later. We got some wine made there and it was changing day by day, so we kept some and we'll open it in a year. Don't try that unless your wine is from grapes instead of juice or concentrate.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 8:04 PM on May 23, 2006

Making beer is so easy and fun; you should buy this book. The best beers I've ever had, I made myself using recipes from this book.

Did you know that beer is a convenient, preservative-free way to store the nutritive grain from a good harvest without danger of spoiling?
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:08 PM on May 23, 2006

The best info I could find is that Bia Hoi is a lager made with lots of rice. In that sense, it's probaly not unlike a lot of cheap american beer.

I guess it depends on what you consider to be cheap and easy beer, but a lager is generally going to be more complicated than an ale, because you need some way of keeping the temperature low during the fermentation.

Probably the easiest brew to do would be a relatively low-gravity ale from malt syrup. Sanitize a 5 galon bucket, boil the malt extract with 2.5 galons of water and some hop pellets, add to another 2.5 galons of water from the tap to cool it down, add the yeast, put on the lid and a fermentation lock, stick it in the basement for the week. Next weekend, either drink it or bottle it. 2L flip top "growlers" would probably be the easiest bottling option without sinking too much money in equipment. That would set you back a few hours on the brew day and another couple on the bottling day. If you bought the malt extract in bulk and used dry yeast, the materials would cost you under $10

The cheapest batch of beer would probably be to mash your own barley with a bunch of cheap brewers rice, but that's going to add considerably to the time and equipment you need.
posted by Good Brain at 8:14 PM on May 23, 2006

Cheap and easy beer you make at home:
Yorkshire Bitter. You buy a can of concentrated 'wort', which takes most of the fuss out of making beer. It's pleasant to drink, a bitter ale. Sure, serious beer makers wouldn't do it that way, but sometimes, you want easy. There are other sorts of concentrates available, this is the only one I've had. (haven't made it myself, you need a room with a steady temperature, and I never manage that).
posted by Goofyy at 8:52 PM on May 23, 2006

The easiest thing to home-brew is a "steam beer" using canned malt.

Steam beer is fermented at room temperature using a lager yeast. Lager yeast is more resistant to infection with acetate-producing bacteria than ale yeast, so there's less chance of your brew going bad.

You don't need a steady temperature. And despite it being a lager yeast, you don't have to ferment cold. Primary ferment takes maybe two days. The secondary ferment is maybe a week. You don't krausen; you add a controlled amount of dextrose just before you bottle to generate carbonation.

If you use all amber malt, the result is very much like Anchor Steam, which is also fermented warm using a lager yeast. Use two cans dark malt and one can amber malt and you get something like Anchor Porter.

The term "steam beer" comes from the perception that the beer has a thick and light colored head, almost like steam.

It's easy to do, and in fact it was so much fun that we started producing it faster than we were drinking it and it started to pile up. (We experimented with different mixes of malts.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:18 PM on May 23, 2006

I think the most surprising thing was to taste the wort just after brewing before fermentation. It's astounding that something as good tasting as beer will be produced out of something as utterly vile as wort. It is foul stuff. Yeast is a miracle!
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:20 PM on May 23, 2006

Cheap, easy, and good is what homebrewing's all about. After equipment costs (less than $100), you can make pretty excellent ales at home for about $30 per batch, each batch producing 5 gallons. Whole process takes maybe a couple hours of work total. Of course, the fermenting process takes a few weeks.

Lagers are slightly more tricky, since they ferment at lower temperatures (so you'll need a fridge). Ales ferment at room temperature (about 70 degrees).
posted by neckro23 at 9:21 PM on May 23, 2006

(and yes, wort is gross. ew!)
posted by neckro23 at 9:22 PM on May 23, 2006

The reason steam beers are nice is that you can use lager yeast but you don't need a fridge for fermentation. Lager yeast works perfectly fine at room temperature.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:37 PM on May 23, 2006

I'm basically just intrigued by the concept of making cheap, easy beer that tastes okay to pretty good.

Buy yourself the Coopers' MicroBrewery Kit. It's pretty much a "for dummies", and I should know.

The beer tastes great, is very cheap, and drinkable within a few weeks. The only thing you could really do wrong is fail to sterilise your equipment properly.

I don't think there's anything particularly special about Bia Hoi except the delivery system.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:09 PM on May 23, 2006

haven't made it myself, you need a room with a steady temperature, and I never manage that

There are a couple of hacks to help you get round that, although you probably won't be able to brew in the deep winter or summer.

Basically, it's easier to cool your wort down than it is to heat it up, so keep the container that's it's fermenting in wrapped in insulating material, during a reasonably temperate time of year, and check the temperature relatively frequently. If you need to cool it, then you can rig up a length of hose spliced with a length of (sterilized) pipe made of a conducting material. If the brew is too warm, connect the pipe to the tap, with the outflow running into a sink (or into another large container I guess), and run cold water through it until the temperature is back down in the range you want it.

I've also made beer (from grain, not malt concentrate) without really stressing about temperature too much at all. Although it was in the British early summer, so it probably wasn't as much of a problem.

The other tip for home-brewing - particularly from kits - DON'T use the yeast that is included: it's baker's yeast and tastes like ass when used in beer. Instead, get a bottle of live, bottle-conditioned ale, drink everything but the last inch, and culture a yeast starter by pouring it into a sterilized milk bottle with some sugar, and stuffing the top with cotton wool (to let gases escape as it starts to work). When it's good and fizzy (after a couple of days), use it instead of the yeast in your brew. Alternatively - and if there is a local micro-brewery - you might be able to beg some yeast from them, if you turn up with a sterilized container to put it in.
posted by bifter at 2:28 AM on May 24, 2006

(Hops is a preservative. It discourages other, less friendly microbes from growing in the beer once the yeast's died off. Might Bia Hoi be unhopped beer?)
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:59 AM on May 24, 2006

Ah, great question! I've had the pleasure of indulging in Bia Hoi (and the platter of dog mentioned in the article).

It's cheap and good, and a great way to cool down on a hot day of sightseeing and dodging certain death on the roadways.

Bifter - the yeast I've always been supplied with in brewing kits is quite specifically brewer's yeast.
posted by tomble at 5:25 PM on May 24, 2006

Plenty of people can go from grain to brain in 7 days if you keg and force carbonate. Brew a light-bodied wort, go easy with noble hops, use a clean ale yeast (like 1056). You can make a decent American style 'lager' in a week using dried light malt extract syrup and dried rice solids (or rice syrup), Tettnanger or Hallertauer to give an IBU in the low 20s, maybe even steeping some flaked maize for flavour, and using a high-temp liquid lager strain like San Francisco lager. See this article at BYO on speed brewing for more.

Finnish Christmas beer is another drop that's ready in a couple of days.

I strongly recommend that if you do use a Coopers kit, you throw the yeast and the instructions away. Make it up with dried extract instead of sugar, use a decent ale yeast, ferment at 18-20oC, and add some hop tea or dry hop for additional aroma and flavour. If you add a kilogram of sugar, use the yeast under the lid and ferment in the mid-20s like they suggest, you'll end up with cidery, fizzy crap.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:38 PM on May 24, 2006

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