“I am a Japanese, and Japanese people drink a lot,” the CEO of the brewing company behind 7 Bridges Saori Ushimi’s eyes widen for emphasis, “so it was so natural for me to become a beer lover!” Saori has loved beer since she started drinking. And she jokes that she can’t even remember when that was. But as a young adult, Saori did not know this would become her life’s calling.
Đọc bài viết bằng tiếng Việt
But craft beer has become Saori’s calling since joining 7 Bridges. There, she mixes her love of her favourite alcoholic beverage with her passion for saving the environment and helping local communities.
Once upon a time, Saori worked with a Japanese governmental agency. When this phase of her life drew to a close, she sought a new business opportunity. In walked a friend, one of the investors of 7 Bridges brewing company, who connected her to Stanley Boots. And Stanley, 7 Bridges’ founder and CEO, introduced Saori to all different kinds of craft beer.
Inspired by her experience with him, she embarked on her own journey exploring the world of American craft beer at the start of 2017. “This was how I got into the business,” Saori puts her palms to the table resolutely.
Saori began in sales. But soon, she rose to COO. Fast forward one year, and Saori is now also the CEO of the Danang Craft Brewery which brews the beer for 7 Bridges. “Well, as a startup company, we did not have enough staff, and I was the only qualified one,” the CEO laughs humbly.
All her life, Saori has subscribed to an eco-conscious philosophy that aligns with the 7 Bridges mission. “What’s the mission? 7 Bridges’ mission is to be socially and environmentally responsible. It aims to establish a sustainable business model,” Saori explains before listing off some examples of how 7 Bridges aims to be friendly to our earth and its inhabitants.
“The company works with an orphanage called Giving Back to the Kids. It works with Agent Orange victims through The Da Nang Association for Victims of Agent Orange. And it also works with an environmental organization called Let’s Do It Vietnam. “We want to contribute meaningfully to local society,” Saori says, “We want to link beer-drinking people to local NGOs.”
The company’s members also regularly participate in clean up events. Plus the brewery has a zero-waste policy. It recycles wastewater, uses spent grain to make pizza dough at the taproom, and even finds a use for tail-end beer to make the malt vinegar, chili sauce and distilled liquor also served at the taproom.
“We even recycle used oil from the taproom kitchen to make soap…” Saori smiles proudly.
Yes, the company is green as can be, but they have so much more to be proud about. “Our beer’s quality is our real pride.” Saori beams. Even though 7 Bridges is still a young company, it is the most award-winning brewing company in Vietnam.
It’s garnered a total of 16 awards, including six gold medals in the last two and a half years. In addition, 7 Bridges was chosen as the champion of medium-sized breweries in the 2019 Asia Beer Championship.
Just this month, it won the award for Best of The Best Beer among 20 breweries from Vietnam and overseas through a blind tasting by BiaCraft customers. “This is just the beginning of our real journey!” Saori exclaims, “I want 7 Bridges to be an exemplar of sustainable business and keep impacting and influencing consumers and other players in the craft beer industry…”
How do you feel about your journey thus far?
It was a bumpy journey both in a good and bad way. Running a craft beer company is not an easy thing to do. Profit is never guaranteed. It requires passion, vision and deep love of the beer. That is why craft beer is a very emotional and personal experience for producers and drinkers.
What are you currently excited about?
I am currently leading the construction of a new taproom in Hanoi. I am hands-on for its design, food and decor. This family-friendly establishment will be open and bright. And it will offer a whopping 30 beers on tap. Naturally. I am over the moon about our new place.
What does “7 Bridges” refer to?
7 Bridges refers to Danang’s bridges. Danang is the city of bridges. So the name 7 Bridges represents our home city.
Which are your 7 favorite places to drink craft beef in Danang?
Hops and Crust
Why: A hidden gem for craft beer in Danang.
This place is a hidden gem where you can enjoy many different kinds of craft beer produced in Vietnam. “I don’t know any other places in Danang that offer this many options,” Saori says complementarily.
Saori usually orders the newest beer on tap. It’s a comfortable and simple place built right behind 7 Bridges. And, as per its name, Hops and Crust also offers delicious pizza made in-house, which of course pairs great with any of their beers.
Location: 84 Cao Ba Quat, An Hai Trung, Danang
Why: An Italian restaurant with great craft beer in Danang.
Luna Pub is actually an Italian restaurant. Although Saori typically pairs her food with wine when dining here, she recommends it for a craft beer enthusiast as well.
But this restaurant boasts a great selection of craft beers. With its high ceilings and exposed brick walls, the space is casual but still trendy. Also, there is no bar here. It’s just one open room with wooden folding chairs and round tables, perfect for relaxing informally with your friends and family over a meal.
Location: 9A Tran Phu, Danang
Why: A well-loved Danang institution serving craft beer.
Waterfront is well-loved in the Danang community. Saori first found it five years ago when traveling as a tourist in Danang.
The ambience is cozy but feels stylishly high end. The first floor is a bar and sofa area. The second floor is a spacious dining space. “When I sit down in the bar to take in the amazing river view,” Saori gestures, “I feel the true vibe of the city.” On the weekends, Waterfront organizes live music that Saori loves enjoying with friends.
Location: 150 Bach Dang Street, Danang
Why: Ditch the glamour for this dive-bar with craft beer experience.
This barebones establishment is great for when you want a dive-y experience. They offer a happy hour from six to nine every evening where drinks are buy-one-get-one-free and are known to frequently have different discount offers on food and drink.
The Kneipe brings in guest DJs and amateur singers to perform every so often. “It’s not the most glamorous,” Saori says, “but it does offer a good selection of Vietnamese craft beers that you can enjoy with the live entertainment and games.”
Location: 181 Le Quang Dao, Danang
Crazy Cat’s Pub
Why: Open late and dimly lit.
“It’s a late night spot,” Saori concedes. But Crazy Cat’s beachtown vibe is just right for a nightcap. Saori likes to sit at a table, craft beer in hand, letting her eyes relax in the dim space lit only by a bunch of multi-colored decorative lights and lanterns.
The pub is well-worn and homey. “It feels like you’re immersed in nature a bit,” Saori explains. Plants are strewn generously about and walls are covered top to bottom with greenery. And, of course, they serve craft beer.
Location: 12 An Thuong 6, Danang
Wanderlust Coffee & Cocktail Bar
Why: Opened by a 7 Bridges fan also serves great cocktails.
“This bar was opened by one of 7 Bridges’ customers!” This is how Saori found out about it. In addition to the craft beer, this place has some of the best cocktails in town. “I always come here when I want to drink cocktails!” Saori claps her hands excitedly, “They are original. They are high quality. They are delicious.” And so Saori prefers a seat at the counter so she can watch the cocktails being created.
Location: An Thuong 30
7 Bridges Taproom
Why: It’s home, of course!
Naturally, Saori chooses 7 bridges as the best place to drink craft beer in Danang. The building has four stories. Each floor has a different vibe. The first floor is a bar. “A craft beer lover loves to sit down in front of taps and just enjoy the moment with the craft beer,” Saori tells us.
The second floor is the game room. People can enjoy billiards and darts. It’s a perfect group hangout spot. The third floor is called Brooklyn Lounge. There are lower tables and chairs and a sofa. It’s a family space that would suit children.
More chill than the taproom. The rooftop is the taproom’s signature floor. It overlooks four main bridges of Danang (which are also names of four of 7 Bridges’ beers). The view is so spectacular that this taproom became a tourist destination of Danang. Saori sighs contently, “It feels so good to drink a cold one while looking at the beautiful bridges over the Han river.”
Location: 493 Tran Huong Dao, Danang
Photos by Khooa Nguyen