The rise of lo­cally made craft beers and spir­its


The rise of lo­cally made craft beers and spir­its

Sin­ga­pore’s craft beer cul­ture has been brew­ing for quite a few years now. Says John Wei, brewer and yeast whisperer of Brew­lan­der & Co., “In Sin­ga­pore we had mi­cro­brew­eries which op­er­ated more like F&B es­tab­lish­ments for many years. How­ever, the big change hap­pened from 2010 with im­porters bring­ing in world class craft beer. Like­wise, home­brew­ing started to grow as well. Drinkers’ palates be­came more ex­posed and de­vel­oped over time, re­sult­ing in a small, grow­ing com­mu­nity of craft beer en­thu­si­asts.” Along with it came a co­terie of lo­cal brewers— home­brew­ers or oth­er­wise—keen on in­ject­ing a lo­cal touch to the drinks they made.

And it’s not just for craft beer. The grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of pre­vi­ously ob­scure drinks like mead— made by fer­ment­ing honey with wa­ter—and the re­vival of spir­its such as gin world­wide has had trick­ling ef­fects here as well, kin­dling in­ter­est not only in drink­ing them but in mak­ing them. Says Andy Hodg­son, op­er­a­tions man­ager of Tan­glin Gin, a new gin dis­tillery based in Sin­ga­pore, “When you look to places like the UK, the home of the modern re­nais­sance of gin, even just a decade ago a pub would have had one gin on of­fer. Now there’s about 315 dis­til­leries, and pubs have gin menus. Aus­tralia is not that dif­fer­ent with at least 100 gin dis­til­leries there now. For Sin­ga­pore, it just took a lit­tle imag­i­na­tion to re­alise a city with a rich gin her­itage that in­cludes the gin-based Sin­ga­pore Sling needed its own gin to put into it.”

With a wave of en­thu­si­as­tic crafts­men tin­ker­ing away on our shores to the point where there are plans to start a Dis­tillers and Brewers As­so­ci­a­tion of Sin­ga­pore, we can only say cheers to good drink, and bot­toms up.

Brewed with pas­sion

John Wei, brewer and yeast whisperer of Brew­lan­der & Co, started home­brew­ing about a decade ago, af­ter a “beer awak­en­ing” in Corn­wall, UK. Two years ago, in part­ner­ship with for­mer ra­dio DJ Daniel Ong and tele­vi­sion host Al­lan Wu, he started Brew­lan­der & Co, hit­ting the mar­ket with sig­na­tures like Pride, his take on a sai­son beer. “We go big on flavour, and are very ex­per­i­men­tal in our brew­ing ap­proach.” Erst­while brew­ing out of Cam­bo­dia, Brew­lan­der re­cently also started brew­ing out of a mi­cro­brew­ery in Jurong Food Hub owned by The Gen­eral Brew­ing Co. The Jurong setup fo­cuses on pro­duc­ing The Fringe Project (TFP), a se­ries of beers that aim to up the ante on lo­cally-made craft beers. New beers will be pro­duced al­most monthly, and made avail­able at bars such as Free­house, Good Luck Beer­house, Smith Street Taps and 3rd Cul­ture Brew­ing Co.

Says Wei of two TFP beers to be launched in Septem­ber, “Given the suc­cess and feed­back on TFP 004 Be­ware the Seag­ulls, I’ve de­cided to brew an­other English beer that will be served with a clas­sic Bri­tish hand pump. You won’t get a bet­ter com­pli­ment than when an English per­son says the beer re­minds them of home. The sec­ond will be a Mu­nich Helles. This beer may just well be tech­ni­cally the most dif­fi­cult we’ve done. It should be ready near Ok­to­ber­fest pe­riod, and the idea is to re­mind peo­ple how tasty a well-made sim­ple lager is.”


Na­tional Flower-in­spired

Started by two Aus­tralians, a Bri­tish and a Dutch, Tan­glin Gin is a pas­sion project that grew out of a love for gin and be­ing to­gether in the right place— Sin­ga­pore—at the right time. All hold day jobs, in­clud­ing the brewer Tim White­field him­self, who’s an ar­chi­tect but grew up mak­ing sloe gin with his dad. From their mi­cro dis­tillery in Mandai Food Link, comes First Batch Orchid Gin ($108), just 2,000 bot­tles in its first run, made with botan­i­cals such as ju­niper, co­rian­der seed, liquorice root, an­gel­ica root, am­choor or In­dian dried green man­goes in pow­dered form, and two or­chids—den­dro­bium orchid, added in the pow­dered form of its dried stalk, and the fruit of the vanilla orchid.

On why they didn’t go with the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid that is Sin­ga­pore’s na­tional flower, they say it didn’t work with what they were try­ing to do. Ex­plains op­er­a­tions man­ager Andy Hodg­son, “If we had per­se­vered it, it may have been pos­si­ble, but the his­tory of den­dro­bium be­ing used in Chi­nese herbal medicine meant that it just worked. More im­por­tantly, vanilla and den­dro­bium re­ally play their roles in the flavour of Tan­glin.” The re­sult is a gin that, at least to Hodg­son, is slightly citrus on the nose fol­lowed with a mouth­ful of herba­ceous flavour which is fin­ished with a creamy mouth­feel.


Mead in Sin­ga­pore

A bev­er­age that has a long his­tory, mead has been grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity in the past few years, with some call­ing it the next craft beer. Some at­tribute this to hit shows such as Game of Thrones that make the me­dieval and an­cient hip again. Ac­cord­ing to founder Si­mon Zhao, un­like in the case of mi­cro­brew­eries where there were at least some ref­er­ence points, there was none for his mead­ery at Westview Food Fac­tory. There was a lot of trial and er­ror, and sup­port from fam­ily and friends in­volved when he first started. “I named the brand af­ter my daugh­ter, Rachelle. Just like how I wish for Rachelle to grow up with a strong char­ac­ter, I de­signed the flavours to be some­thing unique. Each flavour is like a part of Rachelle; some are sweet, some are spicy, some are flo­ral, some are com­plex.”

And some come with a de­cid­edly lo­cal char­ac­ter, such as Rachelle’s Ban­dung ($45), a rose-in­fused mead rem­i­nis­cent of the South­east Asian ros­esyrup-and-milk drink called ban­dung. Next up, they are look­ing into launch­ing an os­man­thus mead, and prob­a­bly a sparkling mead in the later part of 2018. The meads are cur­rently avail­able at es­tab­lish­ments such as Drug­gists, Mikkeller Bar, Great Beer Ex­per­i­ment and Na­tive, as well as at bot­tle shops like Tem­ple Cel­lars and Straits Wine. Restau­rants such as Nouri, After­glow by An­glow and Como Cui­sine at Dempsey have also shown in­ter­est in their prod­uct.


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