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Pasteur Street's Jasmine IPA: The Beer that Built the Brand

“This doesn’t taste like regular beer, but I love it!”

This response is one of Pasteur Street Pasteur Street's CEO and experienced brewer Alex Violette’s favorite things to hear from a customer who tries the brewery’s flagship Jasmine IPA for the first time. When Saigoneer sat down to discuss the brewery’s five-year history several months ago, he explained how for many Vietnamese, that particular beer was their very first sip of craft beer. Now, with International IPA Day nearing, we thought it was the perfect time to take a deeper dive into their iconic India pale ale.

 

The Origins of Jasmine IPA

After starting as a homebrewer, Alex worked at several popular craft breweries in the USA, including Upslope in Colorado. In addition to the core beers they produced for regular distribution, special clients could order unique small-batch brews. And because Colorado has long been one of the country’s beer meccas, the customers were always in search of something new and exciting to satisfy their experienced palates. Tropical fruits and spices were some of the most common requests, but North America is hardly the ideal place to find those, as importing them can be prohibitively expensive, unreliable or just plain impossible. Alex laughs when remembering watching chefs zesting blood oranges for hours at the brewery on one occasion.

While Alex was working at Upslope, John Reid, the co-founder of Pasteur Street, was traveling across the country in search of a head brewer for the brewery he was starting in Saigon. Random chance led him to a small taproom at the very end of his week of exhaustive sampling. After taking a sip of a juicy Thai IPA, he immediately requested to meet the brewer, noting it was the exact type of tropical flavor he envisioned for the new brewery. 

Originally, Alex planned to just serve as a consulting brewer for Pasteur Street, but soon found himself envious of whoever would actually be living and working in Saigon, with access to so many exciting ingredients he’d dreamed of brewing with. Before he even left the USA to take the position, he knew he wanted to brew a Jasmine IPA, and had already started making recipe notes.

As soon as he arrived in the city, he began experimenting. When trips to nearby Bến Thành Market for 10 grams of jasmine flowers gave way to requests for 10kg, he was told to go directly to the distributor. It wasn’t long before his orders were large enough that he was put in direct contact with the farmers outside of Sa Pa. Now, Pasteur Street orders 500kg of fresh jasmine flowers every year to satiate the country’s thirst for Jasmine IPA.

 

Introducing Jasmine IPA to Saigon

Alex wasn’t sure how Vietnamese were going to respond to the Jasmine IPA. Craft beer was almost completely unknown in the country at the time, and IPAs are considerably more bitter than the light lagers locals were used to drinking. The Pasteur Street team prepared to bring their unique beers that combine American brewing techniques with fresh and local Vietnamese ingredients to the local public. They hoped that customers’ familiarity with Jasmine via tea would be a helpful means to introduce them to the world of craft beer.

On the day the brewery opened, the Jasmine IPA was the top-seller, and since then it has been number one every single month. One bartender we spoke with said he thinks it’s so popular because of how easy it is to drink. It’s always the first beer he offers to any customer who has never had Pasteur Street before, telling them “this is our famous, most popular beer.”

The success of Jasmine IPA has been a key factor in Pasteur Street’s expansion. It can be found as far north as Sa Pa, as far south as Phu Quoc, and nearly everywhere in between thanks to a diligent distribution network and the introduction of cans and bottles. And each time a new taphouse opens, including a new one just launched in District 3, the Jasmine IPA is always the best-seller.

 

Exciting Developments Underway

The Jasmine IPA proved that drinkers in Vietnam do indeed love IPAs, which gave Pasteur Street confidence to try more varieties. They’ve produced the style with all sorts of tropical ingredients, including tangerines, pineapples, pandan leaves, mangos and grapefruits. People loved the pomelo version so much that the rotating beverage is now being added to their core lineup and will soon be arriving in convenience stores around the city in cans.

When celebrating their five-year anniversary, Pasteur Street wanted to make something truly special and pay homage to the flagship beer that has helped them get where they are today. Thus, using five times the normal hops, they brewed a Double Jasmine IPA. The first sip is a sucker-punch of pungent hops that somehow don’t overpower the graceful jasmine notes. Those lucky enough to have had it during the celebration were undoubtedly disappointed when the kegs ran empty and it was removed from the tap list. Thankfully, Pasteur Street is now planning to make it available year-round at all their taphouses. 

Designing the amped-up version of Jasmine IPA led Alex to wonder what would happen if they took the beer in the opposite direction. Session IPAs are a relatively new style that retains an IPAs bold, bitter hop notes but dials down the alcohol by volume (ABV), making them perfect for midday drinking or BBQs that may stretch on for hours. Their newly launched Jasmine Session IPA, therefore, has a similar flavor to its stronger older brother but packs less of a booze wallop. 

In addition to the new Jasmine IPAs available, lovers of the ale can now try making it themselves thanks to homebrew kits offered in the taphouses. The kits contain all the ingredients needed, as well as the recipe. Asked why he would give away the secret to the iconic beer, Alex notes that the recipe is only half the equation of making the beer. After years of brewing thousands of Jasmine IPA batches in five different brewhouses, he knows how to make it so it tastes the same each time, but other people’s versions will always come out a little different, which is part of the fun.

Craft beer drinkers are notorious for constantly wanting to try something new and different. The surprise of sipping the unknown certainly has its appeal, yet regularly searching out novel flavors robs one of the comforts of nostalgia. And that’s a perfect reason to return to Jasmine IPA, whether it’s the first craft beer you ever had, the first in Saigon, or simply a delicious, balanced favorite that you know never disappoints. 

Pasteur Street Brewing's website 

Pasteur Street Brewing's Facebook Page

+84 28 3823 9562

144 Pasteur Street, D1, Ho Chi Minh City

26A Lê Thánh Tôn D1, Ho Chi Minh City

23A Ngô Thời Nhiệm, D3, Ho Chi Minh City

120 Xuân Thủy D2, Ho Chi Minh City

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