5 minutes with Tê Tê Craft BeerWritten by Lisa S
A team with a diverse background in marketing, web development, design and biochemistry are on a mission to change the perception of craft beer in Saigon with Tê Tê Craft Beer.
Just years before, craft beer in Saigon, Vietnam seemed like a farfetched idea. Recently, the craft beer scene has taken Saigon by storm with new bars opening all over the city and more people willing to give it a try. Michael Rowland aims to change the perception of craft beer in Saigon alongside his creative team of 4. As of group of friends, Tobias, Michael, and the Martinez brothers banded together despite their different backgrounds to create Tê Tê Craft in the city of Saigon.
By nurturing this growth, Michael and his team are supporting the local scene by introducing craft beer naturally and organically. It all started in 2014 when Fuzzy Logic began at Saigon Outcast, a creative space in the heart of D2 before Tê Tê Brewery. With the aim to promote Vietnam, Tê Tê Brewery uses local ingredients to craft their signature White Ale.
Together, Tobias, Michael, Luis, and Ruben have combined their expertise and strengths towards Tê Tê Brewery. We had a chance to gain insight on their different stories, explore their minds on starting a business in Vietnam, and discover why craft beer is gaining popularity in Saigon.
Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and what you did before Tê Tê craft beer.
We are a very diverse team. We have Tobias from Malta, Mike from the US, and the Martinez brothers Luis and Ruben from Spain. We started Tê Tê as a project that combined our young and tiny marketing company, AstroPig. Tobias is a marketing strategist, Mike is a designer and web developer, Luis is a biochemist, and Ruben is a designer and 3D modeler. As I said, we have quite a diverse team.
What is the backstory behind Tê Tê Craft Beer?
Mike and Ruben met back in California while working for a digital marketing agency. After leaving their jobs and moving to Vietnam, we met Tobias while working for another ad agency. We started working together as freelancers first and soon after we founded our small agency called AstroPig. After almost a year of client feedback, deadlines, and a lot of work, we decided to focus our efforts on making our products. After graduating in Biochemistry and dabbing in the perfume business, we brought Luis in to be our brewer and launched our beer brand: Tê Tê Brewing Co.
What does Tê Tê mean?
Tê Tê is a Vietnamese with 2 meanings. In the literal side, it means “pangolin”. The pangolin is a mammal that lives or used to live in South East Asia and Africa. It’s endangered around the globe because it’s the most trafficked animal in the world. Tê Tê also means being high or being zapped. Like that moment when you feel happier than before after a couple of drinks.
What was your inspiration?
It came from several sources, mostly the great lack of quality beer in the country. We were full of energy and it didn’t take long until we saw that there was a massive opportunity for us in the Craft Beer industry. At that time, it didn’t exist. We wanted to create something fresh and disruptive but at the same time, something suitable for the Vietnamese audience.
How do you think Vietnam’s craft beer scene has changed since Tobias has moved to Vietnam since 2012?
In 2012, there was no craft beer scene. It started in 2014 when Fuzzy Logic started pouring, quite intermittently at Saigon Outcast. It was mostly a hobby by then. Soon after other breweries like Platinum or Pasteur Street began to bringing other beer options and after that, Tê Tê Brewing Co. joined the game along with Phat Rooster, Lac and more.
Craft beer has become increasingly popular in Saigon- why do you believe this is?
Vietnam is a huge beer consumer city, being the fifth in the world. Can you believe tha3 three years ago there was no craft beer? It’s growing in the world, but in a country with a beer culture already and no options, you can imagine that when those appear, it’s embraced by everyone.
What were the most challenging parts of starting company in Vietnam?
It’s incredibly challenging to start a company in any country, let alone a country that is rapidly developing where you don’t speak the local language. Making the beer is not the most complicated part at all.
What makes a good beer?
To us a good beer is flavourful and drinkable. It can be enjoyed alone or with food, it feels refreshing, and it should be a beer that you want to drink another one.
Who are your customers?
I would say about 70% Vietnamese and 30% expats. Maybe even 80/20. They are mostly young Vietnamese who want to explore beyond the mass-produced beer. Young people are curious about new food, new influences and of course, about new beers.
Why have you chosen to use local ingredients?
We want to bring in a bit of the personality of the country but mostly because it tastes great. We came up with the recipe by looking for a very drinkable and refreshing beer so it would appeal to the Vietnamese culture and hot climate.
Where are your favorite bars to hang out?
Biacraft in District 2 because of its relevance in the craft beer scene in Saigon. They also have the best beers available poured impeccably.
Rogue in District 1 because of its diverse crowd, live music, and choice of location It is so unexpected, and the vibe is laid back.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?
Being where we are has been incredibly rewarding. It’s fantastic to go around craft beer bars around Saigon and seeing strangers enjoying Tê Tê. People tell us all the time how much they love Tê Tê and how it made a difference for them living in Vietnam. We cannot ask for much more.