Much has been written about Vietnam’s burgeoning craft beer scene since Platinum beer appeared around 2014. Now there are approximately 18 craft beer brewers originating from Vietnam, with more rumoured to be on the way, according to Craft Beer Vietnam’s Jason Kucherawy.
In another shot in the arm for the industry, Saigon has been chosen as the next host for SEA Brew, Southeast Asia’s only annual conference and trade fair for the brewing community.
The two-day event is expected to draw over 300 brewery owners, brewers, distributors and industry suppliers from across Asia on Aug. 17 and 18. There will be workshops, discussion groups and keynote speakers.
Not All Beer & Skittles
One of the keynote speakers will be Loc Truong, general manager of East West Brewing Company in Saigon.
“This will be my second time participating at SEA Brew,” says Loc at East West’s brewery in District 1. “I’m looking forward to meeting the brewers from all over Southeast Asia. When so many people who are passionate about craft beer get into a room together, there’s never a dull moment.”
According to Loc, doing well in business is about making the right connections and gaining as much information as possible. This is where SEA Brew will come into its own as a forum for like-minded people in the brewing game to learn from each other.
“There are a lot of things that other brewers are doing well at the moment that we can all learn from,” explains Loc. “I hope a takeaway from my keynote presentation will be that craft brewers will have a better understanding of market segmentation and how to plan out their strategies for their home markets.”
For brewery owners and managers like Loc, SEA Brew is extremely important for the young craft beer industry here in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Because the industry’s small, though fast-growing, the conference is a big deal. There’s never been one before in Vietnam, something that has contributed to the difficulty of brewers trying to keep ahead of the game.
This event will enable the brewing community to connect and network so that when the callout for support comes, there will be people throughout the region willing to answer.
“I hope we can hold something like this every year just for the brewers in Vietnam,” adds Loc. “It’s all very exciting, and with the market shifting like it is, I can envisage holding an annual event hosted in a different city each year.”
Images from East West Brewing Co. One of the keynote speakers will be their general manager, Loc Truong
Charles in Charge
Perhaps the person best qualified to help Loc fulfil his ambition of starting up a Vietnam brewers’ conference is Charles Guerrier, a food and beverage industry professional who’s been running bars and restaurants in Singapore and Hong Kong for close to 25 years.
Charles has worked with the Japanese Craft Beer Association on their international beer awards and in 2010 he opened his own craft beer bar along Singapore’s swanky Orchard Road.
The idea of establishing a convention like SEA Brew came as Charles recognised the growing need for a platform for brewers and distributors to explore the latest advances in brewing technology. Not only that, he saw the demand for education so people could develop their skills and learn how to troubleshoot whenever problems arise.
“We not only have brewers, brewery owners and beer distributors coming from Southeast Asia, but from the greater Asia region as well, including brewers from China, Japan and Taiwan, even Australia, Guam and Jordan,” says Charles from the Philippines where he’s been drumming up publicity for this year’s conference. “This year will be a more interactive programme than in previous years which will allow delegates to be more engaged in the various sessions they attend.”
Indeed, delegates will get the opportunity to powwow with others on topics such as ingredients, brew house operations, and sales and marketing. There will also be a Q&A panel, and in another boon for the host city, the first-ever Asian Craft Beer Association Forum — a discussion group led by a panel of representatives from the various regional craft beer associations.
Saigon has been chosen because its current craft beer culture reflects all that is good in the industry, says Charles.
“The craft brewers in Vietnam work very closely with each other to help energise the market and share knowledge on best practices,” he adds. “And this is leading to a very dynamic beer culture in Vietnam which is attracting worldwide attention towards this new generation of beers.”
SEA Brew 2017 takes place on Aug. 17 & 18 at the Saigon Prince Hotel (formerly the Duxton Hotel), 63 Nguyen Hue, Q1, HCMC. A standard two-day package is US$199. For more information, go to facebook.com/seabrew or sea-brew.com