A thirst for boutique beers
Matt Shea heads to Singapore to find a city falling in love with locally made beers.
Four Points by Sheraton Singapore, Riverview might seem like any other new hotel. The rooms are crisply modern, the views across Singapore spectacular, the staff speedy and professional, yet laid-back.
But this isn’t just another new hotel. Not quite. Wander into the lobby bar on any given night and you notice it immediately – flocks of guests and local interlopers communing over pints of a crisp, straw-coloured beer with a rich head.
This is Tall Tale pale ale. The ale is part of the Four Points Best Brews initiative, where the hotel brand’s properties team up with a brewery to showcase a local beer. But while most Four Points hotels opt for an off-the-shelf product, the staff at Riverview had a different idea.
“We wanted to actually create a beer,” says food and beverage manager Kelvin Seow.
The hotel collaborated with Asia Pacific Breweries, of Tiger beer fame, to develop Tall Tale, which is mildly flavoured with subtle lemongrass and citrus notes. It’s light on hops so Seow can match it to the bar’s food menu.
The hotel now pours 3500 pints of the beer a month. “It was an immediate hit,” Seow says. “It has broad appeal, which means nonbeer drinkers are enjoying it.”
It might sound like a glorious, glassy-eyed aberration, but Tall Tale reflects a wider trend in Singapore. The city has fallen in love with craft beer, turning away from the big brands to embrace a groundswell of local breweries and tap rooms.
It’s why you can wander into Chinatown Complex, a grungy, multi-storey hawker centre overlooking iconic Smith Street, and find a couple of tiny stalls helping reshape Singapore’s beer scene.
The first is On Tap Fresh Brew Craft Beer (#02-075, 335 Smith Street). The brainchild of retired CFO Steven Lim, it pours pilsners, wheat beers and red ales, among many others. “Craft beer is getting more popular,” Lim says, over a glass of his signature brew, a lovely, leafy English-style IPA. “Expats play a big part, but also a lot of young Singaporeans who come back from overseas looking for better quality.” Lim’s neighbour at Chinatown Complex is Daniel Goh of Smith Street Taps (#02-062, 335 Smith Street), who is something of an oracle in the local beer scene. Goh’s small operation was last year voted Singapore’s best beer bar in the influential Bar Awards. On any given night you can
find him slinging kegs imported from breweries around the world, including New Zealand’s 8 Wired Brewing Co and England’s Northern Monk. But Goh says the focus in the city-state is shifting towards local brews.
“In the past 18 months, three microbreweries have opened up,” he says. “Another is opening next month.”
The thirst for craft beer is spreading across the entire island. In the north in Haji Lane, Goodluck Beerhouse (9 Haji Lane; facebook. com/GoodLuckBeerhouse) has eight taps on the go, rotating through kegs imported from across the globe. Freehouse (21A Boon Tat St; facebook.com/freehousesg/) has a similar 16-tap operation right in the heart of downtown, just a couple of blocks away from popular Telok Ayer Market.
To the east, buzzy ‘heartland’ joints Druggists (119 Tyrwhitt Road; facebook.com/ DruggistsSG) and The 1925 (261 Joo Chiat Road; the1925.com.sg) pour exotic beers for locals and the ex-pats and tourists who drift through the area. Druggists is arguably the best looking little tap room in town, boasting a whopping 23 taps, while The 1925 brews its own imaginatively named beers such as a Yellow Van pale ale and Small Monster session IPA.
It goes even further out, with Lim opening a tap room at his brewery in Bukit Batok (31 Bukit Batok Crescent), 20 minutes northwest of downtown. At the eastern tip of the island is one of Goh’s favourite recommendations, Little Island Brewing Co (6 Changi Village Road; libc.co), a buzzing community spot on the waterfront in sleepy, bucolic Changi village.
This is a classic brewpub, a large warehouse accompanied by a kitchen pumping out food like ribs, brisket and pork belly.
The city is turning away from the big (beer) brands to embrace a groundswell of local breweries and tap rooms.
Tapping in ... (clockwise from opposite page) exotic beers are poured at The 1925; fish and chips go with an ale at Four Points by Sheraton; food and drink at Little Island Brewing Company; Tall Tale, mildly flavoured with hints of citrus.