Brewing in Singapore

One man's adventure of brewing beer in Asia.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Year of the Dog

Gong Xi Fa Cai - Happy lunar new year ! The Chinese (or lunar) New Year (CNY for short) is a really really Big deal here. It is like 4th of July, new years and Christmas all rolled into one. And it last for 2 weeks and involves big family meals, private parties, gift giving, Ang Pow disbursements, crates of Mandarin oranges, and hundreds of public event. Even now as I write (6 day into it) I can hear one of the many mobile drum groups playing outside. They decorate a lorry up with flags and banners, load the drums and about 8 drummers into the back and then they drive around drumming away. The drumming starts about 8:00 in the morning and seems to continue all day. I am not sure if the drumming groups are part of clubs or organizations or if they are put together specifically for CNY. Sometimes there are more stationary drumming events that include Lion dancers. The Lion dance (and the drumming), when they are done properly, will bring good luck and scare off the evil spirits. Lion dances can be very complex and involve rather dangerous looking feats and a lot of physical strength. On the Friday before new years the CEO of Asia Pacific Breweries threw a CEO dinner for the executives (sah’aah, of course I was invited). Everyone was requested to dress in Chinese attire. I was fairly certain that this was some kind of practical joke they played on the new employees, you know, I show up in my Chinese attire and everyone else (dressed normally) laughs at me for being such a gullible shnook. But I wanted to dress up anyway so I went out and bought a back Chinese dress shirt with embroidered black symbols on it (I know – I have been told – black is very inauspicious, but I look cool in black - very Chuck Norris like in Return of the Dragon – or was Bruce Lee wearing the black Chinese shirt ? Well, whatever, I was a white guy in a cool looking Black Chinese shirt – you get the idea).

To see the whole totally kickass Bruce vs. Chuck fight sequence visit:

On the train ride in to town no one looked at me too strangely so I began to feel a little more relaxed, like maybe it was okay for an Ang Moh to be dressed like a Bruce Lee wanna be, at least during Lunar New Year. When I arrive at the party, I see that pretty much everyone is dressed in Chinese attire (wheeuoh). In fact everybody looks really great, the guys are mostly dressed in shirts that are less reserved than mine (and now I am kinda jealous cause I did not buy something a little more flashy) and the ladies all look very fetching in their silk dresses or shirts. The party turnedout to be a lot of fun. There was nice entertainment, tasty food, and a lot of good conversation. And I learned a lot about the structure of our company.

The next night I went down to Chinatown to see the Big Event. I had heard that we had some kind of participation down there so I though I might go down, watch the fire works, have a couple of beers, and welcome in the Year of the Dog from our beer booth. On my way through the very crowded street (they estimated over 100,000 people were in attendance) I happened to see two guys in Tiger beer shirts. I figured they knew where the booth was so I caught up and tagged along with them. These guys had badges and headed straight back to the VIP area, the security guard stopped me the gate. I whipped out a name card and said “Ahhhh, I’m with them” (who knew I could be so quick on my feet) and the very nice security guard guy apologized and gave me a VIP badge too. Tiger brewery had about 100 employees there and it was not so much a booth as it was a great big hang out session with free beer and hired help to dispense it (see the “additional pictures” section to the right). We were very near the main stage which made for good viewing. There were singers, dancers, and at midnight really good fireworks to welcoming in the New Year. The event ended (at least for me) when everyone started pouring beer over each other (I was told that it’sa Singaporian CNY thing, but I felt that this might be a tradition that it was acceptable to shy away from). After being lightly doused my friend Guss and I decided to retire to a near by bar and pay for the beer inside us rather than have free beer on the outside of us.
And the best part was we didn’t have to be back to work until Thursday. (you just gotta love having 5 days off in a row). It was definitely an entertaining and fun weekend.

Gong Xi Fa Cai – Happy New Year of the Dog.


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