THE setting could have been any typical Central European beer garden. There were long rows of wooden tables stained in dark, rich hues; half- and full-liter beer mugs hanging from metal racks; and two beautifully crafted brass decoction tanks used for mashing traditionally brewed beer. But on this warm afternoon in November, I wasn’t in Plzen, or Munich, or Bruges. I was at the Hoa Vien Bräuhaus in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The humid air buzzed with conversations in melodiously tonal Vietnamese. This, too, surprised me. Considering that Hoa Vien’s founder is an honorary consul of the Czech Republic (that is, a noncareer diplomat), I had envisioned throngs of expatriates knocking their glasses together. But the crowd was made up of young Vietnamese men in slacks and button-down shirts — lanyards with key cards still dangling around their necks — and couples chatting under large, shady trees. All part of Vietnam’s growing generation of hip, young professionals.