Winking Seal Taproom opens in the city centre.

Winking Seal taproom beer system
The beautiful delivery system; a great addition to the bar

With the opening of the new Winking Seal Taproom, it appears that the craft beer crusade that is taking Ho Chi Minh City by storm is showing absolutely no sign of slowing down. Happy hoppers have grown used to popping into Pasteur Street Brewery or Biacraft in recent years. Then LAC opened their doors to their taproom in District 7 and Heart of Darkness got their’s underway on Ly Tu Trong, a few weeks ago. Now, new kids on this particular block are the guys from Winking Seal Beer Co. This has been a long gestation period with the official brewery opening months ago. The Winking Seal taproom finally opened its doors to the general public in January 2017. I can report that it is fabulous and a terrific addition to the Saigon craft beer scene.

A terrific location at the heart of everything

No attention to detail has been spared in the preparation, design and execution of this terrific space in the heart of District 1, at 50 Dang Thi Nhu, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, District 1. The Winking Seal Taproom is just a five-minute walk from the Ben Thanh roundabout and will be an even shorter stride from the Metro’s central station that is currently being constructed next to the old Ben Thanh bus terminal. In addition, Bui Vien is only a short stroll away, making this a certain hit in my book. It’s a great location and a lovely building that covers four floors, with the Winking Seal’s unique branding evident throughout. Dang Thi Nhu is a busy little street; Scott & Jeremy’s is just a few doors away, and other coffee shops, spas and shops are springing up. Quiet by day, it buzzes into life in the early evening. The food in the Winking Seal Taproom is as flavoursome as it is original. It comes highly recommended.

Winking Seal Taproom
The Saigon Empanadas are a delicious, street food-inspired dish of wrapped quail, prawn and fresh herbs.

The ground floor is just what you would expect of a major bar in a major city. It’s smart sociable and eclectic. The Winking Seal Taproom is beautifully designed and well thought out. It is destined to be one of the city’s favourite watering holes. One floor up, and the space is given over to a state of the art kitchen and the Winking Seal Taproom offices. Carrying on up the staircase brings you to what will soon be additional eating and drinking space. Finally, the top floor has another bar, with a great communal space and an open-air balcony. They have a dumb waiter carrying the kegs from street level to the roof. This is a work of art in itself, a beautiful and functional addition to the pub.

Winking Seal Taproom: home to excellent beers

And what of the beers? Head brewer Brian Kekich has been busy getting the beers ready for weeks and his attention to detail and considerable experience have produced some absolute corkers. They opened up with 2 and will keep developing the drinks menu. The two starters are excellent. A really fresh Summer Ale called Mekong Mashup at 6.87% and a truly wonderful stout which considering it is only 3.87% is absolutely bursting with rich flavours. Two more beers were then immediately added to the menu: El Hefe is a Hefeweizen coming in at 5.7% This is the Winking Seal taproom take on Germany’s famous wheat beer. It has notes of banana and hints of clove coming from the yeast to give the beer a light and complex flavour. Fourth on the list is their Saisons in the Sun at 6.6%. Rye and spelt combine beautifully with barley to create a peppery taste; perfect for sunny days or as your workday finishes. Winking Seal’s Cream Ale should be on tap very soon.

This is a really great time to be in Saigon if you are a lover of fine craft beers. Winking Seal has added greatly to an already thriving scene.