Peter Cornish learns about Ho Chi Minh City hosting the Southeast Asia Brew Conference and Trade Fair. Photos by Vinh Dao.

There has been a wealth of articles written about the booming craft beer scene in HCMC over the last year, and as more breweries enter the market, international interest becomes increasingly focussed on what’s happening in the city.

With industry projections forecasting continued growth for the independent and craft breweries over the coming decade, consumption of locally brewed beers is expected to rise significantly, as locals develop a taste for these new styles of beers.

Ho Chi Minh City has emerged as a leader in South East Asia’s craft beer revolution, overtaking other countries in the region to take poll position as the market to watch.  Companies such as Platinum, Pasteur Street Brewing Company have lead the way, with more recent entrants, including Heart of Darkness and East West Brewing Co., cementing the future of this fledgling industry.

Undeniably instrumental in the success of craft brewers in the city is an environment that has allowed comparatively small players to enter the market on relatively low budgets. Brewers such as LAC, Winking Seal, Phat Rooster and Fuzzy Logic have been able to produce quality products with minimum investments, attracting the interest of the international market and establishing themselves as players to watch.

To help reach the huge potential of this developing market, local brewers need to adopt the latest processes and international best practices. As the market in Vietnam develops rapidly, brewers are increasingly able to source the equipment and ingredients needed to brew at levels of international quality.

Adding to the momentum of HCMC’s craft brew scene is the decision to move South East Asia Brewers Conference, ‘SEA Brew’, from its previous location in Singapore, to HCMC for their annual 2017 conference.

Now in its third year, SEA Brew is the region’s only annual Conference and Trade Fair for the brewing community and the ‘must-attend’ event for those in the industry. The decision to host this year’s conference in HCMC is testament to the huge impact the city is having on the region’s craft brew industry.

SEA Brew 2016 saw delegates not only from Southeast Asia, but also from Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Australia, and an even greater regional attendance is expected in 2017. Participation in the accompanying Trade Fair at SEA Brew 2017 provides an ideal opportunity for industry suppliers to meet current clients, and introduce their products and services to prospective new partners. It also allows international attendees to develop valuable networks in the rapidly developing craft segment of the Asian brewing market.

2017’s conference, scheduled for the 17th & 18th of August, will once again attract brewery owners, brewers and distributors from across Asia, looking to understand the latest innovations in ingredients, processes and equipment. This year, the conference will see an exciting mix of experience and youthful exuberance reflecting the dynamic changes that are taking place in the regional beer industry, especially HCMC.

Interactivity is where the true value of attending SEA Brew 2017 lies, and that’s delivered across multiple sessions, including workshops, roundtables and panel discussions, all lead by industry experts. In addition, the attached Trade Fair provides attendees with the opportunity to meet current and prospective providers offering the latest production and distribution solutions.

Following the success of SEA Brew 2016 in Singapore, attendance in Ho Chi Minh City is expected to grow 40-50% to 300+ influential members of the brewing community, making this the must-attend event of the year. Representatives from the country’s craft beer industry will gather together for a long weekend of shared knowledge and expertise.

Keynote speakers Chris White (White Labs) and Devin Kimble (Hong Kong Beer Company) are both respected stalwarts of the brewing industry. Chris’ company White Labs has been supplying live yeast to the industry since 1995 and Devin Kimble (co-owner of Hong Kong Beer Company and founder of Singapore’s Brewerkz microbrewery) has been active in the Asian craft beer scene for over 20 years.

Other presenters include Vietnam new kids on the block Loc Truong of Ho Chi Minh City’s latest microbrewery & restaurant, East West Brewing, and Jordan Howard of established Pasteur Street Brewing Company. I caught up with Howard to ask him what the conference coming to HCMC meant for the beer making community.

“SEA Brew coming to HCMC is a symbol of how far we have come. Three years ago, there were a few home brewers trying to make better beer. We were all start-ups, lucky to live in a city where regulations are positive to innovation and entrepreneurship and have allowed brewers to experiment and apply their craft. Amazing things have happened quickly because of a great attitude of the people. The conference coming here is testament of their love and devotion, a tribute to them.” Howard explained.

During the conference, Howard will be speaking about the marketing of craft beer and how it’s time to rethink what it being said. Until now, marketing efforts from most of the city’s breweries have concentrated on educating the market to new styles of beer. Each brewery has their own, unique story to tell and Howard believes it’s time to start telling these stories.

“It’s time to evolve from education to identity. We’ve told people what craft beer is, now it’s time to start telling the story of our individual brands and our beers, and how they are very much inspired by this country. It’s time to move away from ‘this is craft beer’ to ‘this is OUR craft beer’.” Howard told me.

There will be a series of satellite events running around the city each evening throughout the conference which will culminate with a craft beer festival on the Saturday at the city’s famous “Saigon Outcast” in District 2.

Most brewers are expected to host events at their taprooms in what is anticipated to be beer soaked, yet thoroughly enjoyable weekend.