Why We Love Made-In-Singapore Craft Beer
Peruse the beverage menu at some restaurants or bars these days and you may be surprised with the number of beers you’ve never heard of—despite their witty original names. The likes of Garage Project White Mischief, Rocky Ridge Rock Juice, Young Master Days of Being Wild, Daryl Urban Ales Social Lubrication, or To Øl Dangerous Close To Stupid Amount of Lychee are just some of the many fancier labels of artisanal craft beers to find their way into Singapore’s progressive F&B scene recently, evidence of a growing craft beer revolution here.
It mirrors what’s been seen in other parts of the world; countries such as the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom have seen explosive growth in the number of craft breweries opening up over the past decade, and even those closer to home like Hong Kong and Vietnam boast thriving craft beer scenes.
Indeed, industry observers agree that what’s happening in Singapore is buoyed by similar trends overseas. “Singapore’s beer scene has definitely gotten more dynamic over the past two years with many new brands from the region and beyond now available, as well as local brewers entering the craft beer market,” confirms Valencia Teo, manager of specialist alcohol retail outlet Temple Cellars.
If you look at more recent trends around the world, every developed city with an exciting gourmet scene also has a craft beer scene.— Teo Hong Han, Pink Blossoms Brewing
At last year’s Beerfest Asia alone, punters were exposed, many for the first time, to brands such as Western Australia’s Beerfarm and Rocky Ridge Brewing Company, South Africa’s Devil’s Peak and Darling Brew, Vietnam’s Heart of Darkness, and Hong Kong’s Gweilo. It was also at that festival that Singapore’s own Daryl’s Urban Ales and That Singapore Beer Project was officially unveiled. These are available at select specialist outlets such as Temple Cellars and Good Luck Beerhouse.
So, what’s fuelling this notable increase? Well, part of that growth in craft beer, some argue, can be pegged to Singapore’s vibrant food culture. “If you look at more recent trends around the world, every developed city with an exciting gourmet scene also has a craft beer scene,” shares Teo Hong Han, owner and head brewer at local microbrewery Pink Blossoms Brewing which opened in late 2018.
Just like how millennial consumers are increasingly interested in the origins of the coffee they drink or the chocolate they eat, they’re now more curious about how and where the beer they’re drinking is made.— Casey Choo, That Singapore Beer Project
Another reason could be the global shift from mass consumerism. “Just like how millennial consumers are increasingly interested in the origins of the coffee they drink or the chocolate they eat, they’re now more curious about how and where the beer they’re drinking is made,” adds Casey Choo, founder of gypsy brewery That Singapore Beer Project.
A TASTE FOR CHANGE
Some of those overseas trends have also shaped consumer tastes here. While the refreshing but ubiquitous lager will always be popular in our tropical heat, drinkers are experimenting with the varied beer styles that craft beer offers. A few years ago, extremely hoppy American West Coast style India Pale Ales (IPAs) and barrel-aged imperial stouts were on the lips of every craft beer drinker. More recently, tastes have begun leaning towards juicier East Coast or New England-style IPAs, as well as more piquant beers such as the gose (a top-fermented beer that originated in Goslar, Germany) or the Berliner Weisse.
“We’re beginning to see more consumers who are open to trying new tastes,” Temple Cellar’s Valencia expresses. “And it’s even more heartening to see many customers willing to support local brewers who’ve put heart, soul and skill into their beers. Some of these craft breweries actually have a following and we do get customers asking for their beers.”
Encouraged by the success of many small-scale craft breweries overseas, avid homebrewer Daryl Yeap founded Daryl’s Urban Ales in the middle of 2018. “Experiencing first-hand the beer culture of other countries when travelling, there is a certain desire for us to bring a slice of that home,” explains Yeap.
Pink Blossoms Brewing’s origins boast a similar story. A previous work stint in the US exposed Hong Han to the exuberant diversity of craft beers there, and he was determined to bring those flavours back. Not by importing their beers but by starting his own brewery in Singapore. “In many cases, Singaporeans prefer other forms of alcoholic beverages over beer partly because they have not tasted how amazing a great craft beer can be,” he surmises. Today his brewery taproom in an industrial park in Ubi attracts curious drinkers—locals and foreigners alike—looking for a taste of the New England-style beer he makes.
Change is also evident on the commercial front. Where once locally-made craft beer would normally be shunned, these days consumers can find the likes of Archipelago and Brewlander offered alongside international craft beer brands on supermarket shelves, and even at global travel retail chain DFS. Even hotels are seeing the potential; Yotel Singapore boasts a craft beer made specially for them by RedDot Brewhouse, while Four Points by Sheraton has its own produced by Archipelago Brewery.
As brewer and founder of Brewlander, John Wei thinks change in perception and new broad embrace of craft beer is unprecedented. “I’d like to think that we helped create enough noise that more bars and F&B establishments are more receptive in taking on local craft beer,” he says with a laugh, before adding how previously, many F&B outlets would not have bothered to carry locally-made beer, whether in bottles or on tap. Today, he says, the range of styles and brands available is wider than ever and that’s very encouraging.
To boot, the variety includes many envelope-pushing examples from local craft breweries. Pink Blossoms’ Juicy Pale Ale is its take on the hazy New England style of beers that is sweeping the beer-drinking world. Wei’s own Brewlander Love uses a wild yeast strain—a technique first popularised by Belgian monks—to add a fruity funk and bring balance to the complex flavour profile. That Singapore Beer Project has its “Kiam Sng Di”, a slightly sour gose with a local twist, specifically the addition of preserved sour plums. Similarly, Urban Ales has the Kereru Birbstout, a chocolate-infused foreign extra stout made in collaboration with local craft chocolatier Demochoco.
It is a fun time to be a brewer, but it’s an even better time to be a craft beer drinker.
WHERE TO GRAB A CHEEKY PINT OR TWO
261 Waterloo Street #01-23 Waterloo Centre
Burger Joint Singapore
115 Amoy Street #01-03
119 Tyrwhitt Road
21A Boon Tat Street
Good Luck Beerhouse
9 Haji Lane
55 Keong Saik Road #01-1
#01-12, 81 Clemenceau Avenue, UE Square