A thirst for bou­tique beers

Matt Shea heads to Sin­ga­pore to find a city fall­ing in love with lo­cally made beers.

Paradise - - Contents - Air Ni­ug­ini flies from Port Moresby to Sin­ga­pore five times weekly. See airni­ug­ini. com.pg.

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.

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