Maybe so. But I haven't checked that fact just yet. What I am sure of however, is that at 4,000 Vietnamese Dong (about $0.20) apiece, I could afford to have two. And so, on a chilly January night in Hanoi, I exchanged a pair of crumpled bills for my first taste of bia hơi.
It was after 10 p.m. when I found a vendor on Luong Ngoc Quyen, a short distance from the intersection known internationally as bia hoi corner. Curbside seating consisted of about a dozen knee-high, blue plastic stools, so I grabbed one and sat down to take my first swig of Hanoi lager. Light-bodied, low in alcohol, and extremely drinkable, I could see the appeal of whiling away a warmer afternoon at one of the many "gas beer" outlets around the city. In the winter though, fewer people seemed eager to sit outside sipping oat soda until last call.
My beer didn't offer much in the way of aroma, but it was pleasantly carbonated, and produced a thick white head of foam. Complexity of flavor, on the other hand, is not something bia hơi aspires to. With a straw-like character and the faintest suggestion of hops in the finish, my glass of beer certainly wouldn't impress fans of the more inspired American craft brewers. It might be able to hold its own alongside some of the lighter Latin American lagers though. Personally, I had nothing to complain about—my stomach was full of the bánh mỳ I'd eaten for dinner, a comfortable hotel room awaited me nearby, and when it came to Vietnamese currency, I was still a millionaire.