If there were such a thing as the “Beer King of Richmond,” that position would be rightly reserved for An Bui, 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist in the Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional category. Bui and his family opened Mekong as a fairly traditional Vietnamese restaurant in 1995, long before craft beer reign over the city. Over the past 20 years, Bui built the strip-mall space into one of the best craft beer bars in the country. Besides the inherent novelty of pairing a Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes Abbaye de Saint Bon Chien with pho tai and spring rolls, Mekong sets itself apart from other craft beer bars with 52 taps and zero pretension.
In 2014, Bui expanded his empire by opening the Answer Brewpub right next door to Mekong. While it hosts dozens of impressive rotating guest taps—from the likes of Prairie, Maine Brewing and The Bruery—don’t skip The Answer’s own killer juicy IPAs, boozy stouts and refreshing sours. The Answer also collaborates frequently with breweries including Other Half, J. Wakefield and Perennial. In addition to its 50 taps, the Answer pours a handful of adjunct infusions through an “Andall” system, a play on the Randall system developed by Dogfish Head
Any beer fanatic would be remiss to skip Mekong and the Answer while in Richmond. Go to Mekong first for a bowl of pho, pork dumplings and a Belgian brew, then head next door to the Answer for one of their signature IPAs (I’m partial to the Hard in The Paint DIPA), play some Skee-Ball, and revel in one of the strangest, loveliest craft beer experiences in Virginia.