In the backyard of a local Hoi An family’s home, something very special is brewing. Forget the factory; home distilleries produce the rice wine in Vietnam. And with an ABV of more than 25%, they’re not messing around.
At the home we’re visiting, a few large plastic tubs hold white rice which has been cooked and mashed, with water and yeast added for fermentation. Across the small courtyard, the newly created alcoholic broth is being distilled to create the final product. The leftovers are then fed to the six pigs living in a small pen a few feet away. A traditional combination of food and drink found throughout Vietnam, but we’ll pass on the pork (small confines for these really lovely animals is not awesome).
A long held tradition in Vietnam, home distilleries sell their product within the community and to villages nearby. However, about two years ago, a governmental decree banned unregistered home rice wine distilleries. Most agreed the ban would be virtually impossible to enforce, and the “Vietnamese moonshine” production continued. The government cites the reason for the decree as the danger in homemade alcohol consumption, reporting that it has been the cause of 3.5 percent of food poisoning cases nationally. Not a huge number, but something to consider if you plan on a taste test.
But as we found in our Hoi An neighbor’s backyard, this originally craft Vietnamese libation ain’t going nowhere. Later in the evening, we enjoy a chilled glass on the rooftop deck of a local restaurant. Assuredly made by another local distiller, it has a taste that lies somewhere in the middle of sake and vodka. A true kick in the pants. There’s no soft touch here. No hint of oak, no fruity overtones. Just boozy goodness.
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