Great beer is always a treat, though great beer in a cool and colorful setting, alongside mini pulled pork sliders is something to write home about. So that’s exactly what I’m doing. Welcome to the Winking Seal Beer Co.

Living in Vietnam, I found myself exploring the booming craft beer scene of Ho Chi Minh City on many occasions. One of the top entries into the market in 2017 is Winking Seal Beer Co. It’s the brainchild of Americans Brian Kekich, a TV broadcast producer turned professional brewer, and Mark Nerney, who comes from an agency and design background and is now Winking Seal’s Director of Operations. The pair are passionate about beer and are great hosts for travelers who drop in for a pint. Given Mark’s creative background, it’s no wonder that design and color play such strong roles in the guest experience.

The brewery, and its loveable mascot Sealy, is named after Mark’s childhood stuffed animal. Sealy still exists in an admittedly tattered form today. His likeness appears throughout the venue and on packaging. Like all good creative sessions, after a few beers the friends got to talking and reminiscing and Sealy’s name just stuck. Winking Seal Beer Co. is a labor of love, with family and friends as stakeholders, coming together through beer. While many have made financial contributions, others share services in kind including some pretty impressive design work. In a region with a rapidly growing roster of quality craft breweries, it certainly helps Winking Seal Beer Co. to stand out. If only I could cover my bar tabs with the same arrangement, though I would need to actually have some design skills.

“A craft brewery in Saigon for people who define craft not by age old traditions and techniques, but by the ability for a swig of luscious golden liquid to send you on vacation.”

While brewing operations are on the outskirts of Saigon, a modern three-story space in the city’s downtown is home to a full blown restaurant (tapas style menu), laid back bar and airy rooftop patio. After a few months of operation they are now serving no less than eight “Indochine craft adventures” on tap. Over the course of a few visits I’ve been able to “investigate” the entire roster on behalf of Prostly readers. You’re welcome. Favorites include:

Mekong Mashup Summer Ale, 6.7% ABV, 22 IBU. What it lacks in hop bitterness it certainly makes up for in smooth body and punch of alcohol. The sweet malt profile and Belgian yeast bring refreshment and a sweet finish. This is a deceptively sessionable beer. You’ve been warned.

The One Eye Imperial Pale Ale tops the brewery’s charts coming in at 10.1% ABV, and a whopping 101 IBU. Moreover, during brewing process the wort is boiled for precisely 101 minutes. I was floored (literally) at how easy drinking and smooth this brew was. The malty profile isn’t at all overwhelming.

Kaptain Kenny Irish Red, named after the brewer’s father, this 5.3% ABV, 22 IBU beer has forward caramel malt flavours, is lightly hopped and nitrogen carbonated. It’s got an extra creamy mouthfeel and subtle finish.

Food is sometimes a bit of an afterthought for many new brewers. However, launching with a strong tapas menu was definitely a priority for the Winking Seal Beer Co. team. I’m more than okay with their strategy of catering to an expat crowd with favorites like Bacon Mac & Cheese Pucks or flights of slow cooked Pork Sliders. Craving brunch and bit of southern comfort? Try the Chicken, Bacon & Waffle Bites which sees chicken wrapped in crispy bacon and then sandwiched between fresh bite-sized waffles served with a side of honey. On a diet? It’s likely best to schedule your visit here on a “cheat day”. Once more, you cannot visit Winking Seal Co. without indulging in the Biramisu dessert. Made with a generous amount of their Baby Fatso Dry Stout, mascarpone cheese, espresso and even some rum, this massive desert is almost too perfect looking to dig into. Those that actually take a bite (or ten) won’t regret it.

With competitive prices and weekly specials such as Teacher Mondays (educators receive half-off pints from 6pm onward) or Craft Trivia Wednesdays, they are steadily growing their presence. Winking Seal Beer Co. is a great option if you’re doing a bit of a craft beer crawl in Saigon as it’s in close proximity to other great brewers such as East West Brewing Co., bar and cultural store combo Whiskey & Wares, as well as Chill Skybar if you’re in the mood for cocktails 26 stories up.

Winking Seal Beer Co.’s address in downtown Ho Chi Minh City is 50 Dang Thi Nhu Street, District 1.