Brewing in Singapore

One man's adventure of brewing beer in Asia.

Friday, November 04, 2005

On the Move


Things have been quite hectic for me in the past two weeks. What with my shifting from the apartment in Chinatown to my new place in Bukit Gombak, my field trip to Indonesia, the civil work on the new brewery building and the final negotiations for the brewing equipment.

Of all these things the shift to new housing and the acquisition of amenities took up the largest block of time. Housing in Singapore comes in one of three basic types; landed houses (for the wealthy), private condominiums (for the upper middle class and expats), and HDB flats (government built housing for the middle and working class). About 65% of Singaporeans own their own housing, so renting, although not unusual, is not the norm. My new residence, “The Madeira”, is a private condo (mostly because condos are what is available to expats). It is significantly closer to the brewery in Tuas, and a little more out of the way and less crowded than being downtown. My new neighborhood, Bukit Gomabk, is a small group of HDBs and condos clustered around a hilly area. There is lots of greenery and several nice parks very near by. And like all the areas in Singapore there are dozens of places to get really good inexpensive food very close by. My apartment is on the 17th floor above most of the bugs and other critters that roam freely here, and on a good day (like today) I can see the mountains of Malaysia some for 20 miles distant. The Madeira complex consists of three towers surrounding a central swimming pool area. Each floor (in each of the towers) has six apartments, each facing out off a central elevator/stairway shaft. I think my unit is one of the better ones as it faces out and has views on three sides. I cannot really see any of my neighboring apartments and equally as important they can't see me (some units are not so fortunate). On the side without any view (the side that attaches to the central tower) is my front door and the back wall of my bomb shelter (yes that’s right folks a bomb shelter – don’t ask, I don’t know). By law every apartment has one, although I don’t think anyone keeps it ready as a bomb shelter, many people use it as the live in maid’s quarters – it even has it’s own little bathroom. Yes, it's kind of odd. Since I won’t be having a live in maid, and I have no bombs to shelter I use it as a storage area.

In the surrounding grounds there are 4 pools (one XL for laps and the like, two for kids, and a Jacuzzi type pool thing), a BBQ area (with about 12 BBQ pits and tables and chairs), a gym, a banquet room, a putting green, tennis courts, gardens, several fountains and three play areas for the kids. All together the property is about 15 acres. It all feels rather decadent to me but, it is by no means the fanciest place I looked at - I guess that’s condo living in Singapore. On my first night here there was a tremendous thunder and lightning storm and I went down to the pool for a swim and had a pretty good light show, floating about on my back looking up between the three towers. I think I am gonna like it here.

The other thing of note that I did was travel to near by Indonesia for the weekend. Some of the guys from the Singapore homebrew club were heading over to Batam island, they told me that there was a small brewery there called the Length Brewery and I thought that it would be kind of cool to go over and check it out. Batam is only about an hour ferry ride away but it could not be much farther from Singapore. Singapore is (literally) the model of efficiency in Asia; excellent roads, fantastic mass transit, great housing, wonderful parks, the list goes on and on. Indonesia on the other hand has had political instability for many years that has hampered the development of a solid infrastructure. Batam in particular has suffered from growing pains. Declared a free trade zone in 1989 it grew without many controls, then came the Asian economic crisis in the late 1990s, and not much has happened there since then. Batam is the definition of a boom town gone bust. Many buildings stand half completed, the roads are in bad shape, the sidewalk worse. The rupiah is so devalued that when I changed $200.00 Singapore dollars they gave me 1.21 million rupiah. I was an instant millionaire. Okay, the down side ithat a beer cost 13 - 18,000 (really only about $1.75 USD) and a steak sandwich 58,000. The largest available banknote in Indonesia is equivalent to about USD - $10.30! It was kind of hard to get use to shelling out thousands for a single item. But the people were nice and they were patient with my fumbling about for the right bills.

What with one bar and another it took us some time to actually get to the brewery. Which, as it turns out, did not matter because they were closed for Ramadan. We did manage to find an outlet that served the Dragon beers (made at the Length Brewery) and they even had all three styles available; light, dark and green. Yep, green. The light is a pilsner style beer, the dark beer is a dark lager and the green well, it’s green. I later found out through discussion with the owner and his wife that they add nutritional seaweed to the beer and that is what's responsible for the green color. The beers overall were good and the green beer turned out to be my favorite. The seaweed added a slight bitterness that I enjoyed and I have to admit I was enamored with the color.

Later the following week I was able to meet up with the owners in Singapore and with the help of Earnest (one of my new found brewing friends) as a translator we agree that I should go out to the brewery and have a look to see if maybe we could brew some test batches there. So next weekend I will again travel to Indonesia again to have a look at the 3 hectoliter Dragon/Length Brewery. I admit I am looking forward to another pint of that tasty Green Dragon beer.

1 Comments:

At 7:24 PM, Blogger bloggrez said...

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