Vietnamese Home Brew
Malai Kitchen in West Village brews its own Asian-style craft beer
With craft beer everywhere, Thai-Vietnamese restaurant Malai Kitchen adds a new twist. Owners Braden and Yasmin Wages have acquired a brewpub license and will now offer two beers they're brewing in-house. Bia Hoi is a light Vietnamese rice lager, and Thai-P-A is a medium-bodied IPA infused with refreshing Thai herbs.
The beers are designed to complement the flavors of Malai's Southeast Asian cuisine.
The Wages discovered Bia Hoi on a trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2012 and loved it. "It’s light, refreshing, ridiculously cheap and an integral part of the Vietnamese culture," Braden says.
When it came time to open Malai Kitchen, they looked across the country for a brewer doing a similar style but couldn't find one. That included local brewers, but it soon became obvious that their low volume would not make it worth a brewer's time. So they tackled it themselves.
"We had a home brewer on staff who got us started with the steps," Braden says. "We brew it in our kitchen and treat it like it's a normal recipe. We spent many months practicing the recipes and feel like it's excellent now. We're really proud of it."
Bia Hoi is made from a blend of barley and rice with light, Czech hops. It's a lager with a clean, balanced flavor and cloudy, golden color. Its reduced secondary fermentation process produces the cloudy finish and enhances aromatics for complexity.
The Thai-P-A has a chef-type persona, thanks to their addition of some of the same spices they use in their food. It's a golden, medium-bodied IPA with a strong hop bitterness and undertones of lemongrass, kaffir lime and galangal. These Thai flavors complement the bright hoppy flavor with its citrus aromas and a slight bite.
They keep their volume small and make it every day.
"We don't have a big room with tanks," Braden says. "We're doing it in 5-gallon batches the size of a soup kettle, and that lasts one to two days, so it's extra fresh. But there's no visible difference in the restaurant."
This is really just about having the passion for this kind of beer, he says.
The Thai-P-A is $6 and the Bia Hoi is $3. Both are on tap at the restaurant.