Why keep drinking only what’s on offer when it’s all basically the same, when we could brew our own 100% natural beer using real hops? It’s a question that at one time crossed the mind of Michael Comerton, an Irishman with degrees both in law and brewing, who surveyed the beer market in Vietnam and saw only the traditional big boys.
|Michael Comerton is the Irish brew master behind Platinum Pale Ale|
It may seem strange now, given the sheer number of venues serving craft beer in the country, but it wasn’t until Comerton introduced Platinum Pale ale in HCMC on June 14 that the landscape truly changed. From a focus exclusively on pale lagers to the extensive range available today: Vietnam’s beer culture has developed and diversified enormously.
Platinum at the heart of the beer revolution, with Comerton as brewer. Having graduated in law from Trinity College Dublin, the Belfast native embarked upon a different route at the prestigious Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, where he married an inquisitive mind with a love for beer by undertaking a brewing degree, graduating nineteen years ago and brewing beer since!
Stints at Guinness, Dublin and Crown Buckley in Wales transitioned into a 10-year spell in Australia with brewing giants Fosters and Lion Nathan, where Comerton was a pivotal player at Matilda Bay & James Squire, the earliest craft brewers Down Under. There, he conceived the James Squire Brewhouse concept, a series of brew-pubs and themed venues.
A move to Vietnam beckoned, and with it, the quick realisation that there was serious room for improvement in the beer offerings within the country. Comerton believed the Vietnamese were ready for something different. There were two defining changes at the time. The newly introduced Beer club concept was at its peak, for the first time introducing Vietnamese to premium draft beer and secondly, and more importantly for the craft beer scene in general, the UtUt phenomenon was just beginning. Says Comerton: “The UtUt / BiaCraft guys have pretty much single-handedly created the craft beer scene by giving the brewers an avenue to the consumers.”
Aware that Vietnam’s beer drinkers weren’t quite prepared for heavily bitter and cloudy beers, Comerton resolved to implement something different and produced some very seasonable craft beers. Platinum Pale ale was born.
“Back in 2014, we created the Pale Ale as something we wanted to drink amid a sea of all the same,” he says. “We didn’t want to scare people, so we brewed a similar pale colour and bitterness that consumers were used to, but added a load of Australian and U.S. aroma hops to give it a completely different flavour profile.”
Since then, the market has developed a taste for change and Platinum has changed with it. In August last year, it launched its Golden Ale, to help cement Platinum as the largest-selling craft beer in Vietnam.
Next up, Platinum will be doing a collaboration brew with another craft brewer, Phat Rooster. In time for Halloween they’ll be releasing the “Thumpin’ Pumpkin” around the same time Platinum will also have a limited Autumn release, a dry hopped beer.
Whilst most of the craft brewers are focusing almost exclusively on the expat consumers, Platinum, although popular with expats, continues to focus on Vietnamese, who are just beginning to discover craft beer and need a little more time and information to adjust to a new approach to beer.
Platinum is doing its best to change conservative minds, to advance the craft beer revolution that’s sweeping the planet. Available in around 50 venues in HCMC and having expanded its market reach to Hanoi this summer, it is clearly a brand on the up.