Brewing in Singapore

One man's adventure of brewing beer in Asia.

Monday, July 31, 2006

This, That and the Hungry Ghost

Well, it has been almost a month since my last posting and a lot has transpired. I brewed 10 batches of beer on our 3.25 hectoliter mini-brewery. We then pulled it out and shifted it over to our downtown location. And for that entire month I seemed to be surrounded by some incredibly cleaver evil demons whose main reason for existing was to @#%* me up. Upon its arrival I discovered the mini-brewery used 220, three phase electricity (and Singapore did NOT – I had to find a transformer), I had a fermenter that developed a mysterious hole in it (while full of beer), a fermentation that would not start, a pump seal (on my one and only pump) that came out of place and required a rebuild (in the middle of a double brew), a solenoid valve that stuck open and began freezing the beer, a hose burst, CO2 leaks galore, the list goes on and on. But with perseverance and the help many people (and not a few profane expletives from myself) the beer was brewed.

On the day we had to shift the mini-brewery downtown I had to brew the last batch of beer, clean the tanks and get all the utilities disconnected. The movers showed up as the electrician was disconnecting the power from he transformer. The brewery was shipped out, and then upon arrival downtown was stuffed into place behind the bar, and the bar was finished up.

All this had to be done to meet our launch prior to the start of the Hungry Ghost Festival as it is widely believed that to launch any enterprise during the Hungry Ghost is to doom it to abject failure. And we hoped to avoid that if possible.

We launched The Archipelago Brewery the last day before the start of the Hungry Ghost – at midnight on the evening of our launch the candles and incense were light, the food was placed outside, and the air was thick with the smoke of burning “Hell money”.

During the Hungry Ghost Festival the gates of Hell are flung wide and all the unhappy souls tormented there are allowed to go forth and roam the earth in search of food and entertainment (and possibly seek revenge on those who wronged them in what was happier times for them). So during the 7th lunar people put on entertainments, burn candles and incense, and leave out food offerings. All to keep the ghosts appeased. People also burn a lot of offerings to the deceased. These offerings are made by burning facsimile objects like paper televisions or radios, paper clothing, fake money, paper cars & even paper houses. They believe that these offerings will reach the ghosts through conflagration and help them exist more comfortably in their world.

Our launch was generally regarded as a big success. We had an excellent turn out and people’s reviews of the beers in general were very favorable (I personally had lost all perspective by this point and thus decided it best to start drinking to brace myself against any possibility of negative comments – luckily people started to say nice things before I got too inebriated, and I was still able to carry on semi-intelligible discourse with guests and the press). We started the launch at our excellently designed Archipelago Brewery outlet in town. After a beer we loaded everyone on to busses and took them to the waterfront of Sentosa island, were dockside we paired the beers with different dishes. After some makan and beer we took anyone who cared to out into Singapore Harbor for a starlight sailboat ride. Then back the pier for some local entertainment, music and more beers. Eventually most of the guests ended up back at our pub downtown for a few more beers.

Since the launch we have had at least one interview a day and today a local drama/variety show filmed on location at the pub. Nightly the number of patrons increases and we are selling about 50% more beer than we anticipated that we would. Which is great except….

Our 30 hectoliter brewery has been repeatedly delayed and has not yet arrived in Singapore. The brewery license for our pub/outlet location has not yet been approved and thus we can not yet brew there (you see where this is going don’t you?) So, this Sunday we will chop up the pub, crane out the mini-brewery, load it onto a truck and send it BACK to our micro-brewery location outside of town (where we DO have a brewery license). We will reinstall the it there, brew (like mad) until our big brewery shows up on August 14th. Meanwhile we will get the pub back in shape to reopen the next day (sans mini-brewery). Then the larger brewery will arrive and while installation is taking place we will again uninstall the mini-brewery and shift BACK to the pub downtown. Stuff it back into place and again fix the damage to the bar. I know it sounds like total and complete madness but ….. I ask you what other choice do we have? None.

I told my boss Andrea that when asked she would have to say “yes, he installed 5 breweries for us” (admittedly four of those breweries were the same brewery in different locations, but, really, does that actually matter?). And I would rather have the problem of selling too much beer (with all its associated problems) than have the beers be unfavorably received – I couldn’t take that kind of rejection.

The Beers

For those of you not familiar with our brand concept or beers, I list here a brief discription. (Picture - Our team in 1930's attire)

Archipelago Brewery Company was first established in Singapore in 1931 by German brewery Beck’s. In 1939 the brewery was seized by the British government as enemy property. In 1941 the brewery was sold to Malayan Breweries , which today is Asia Pacific Breweries.

Capturing the romance, adventure and craftsmanship of the original brewery, the new Archipelago Brewery Company will brew bespoke craft beers combining the best of the beer brewing traditions from the west, with the flavours and spices of the east. The brew master will creating unique and flavourful beers to match perfectly with the lifestyle, weather and food of the Malayan Archipelago.

Traditionally Brewed and Uniquely Archipelago

Archipelago Traveller’s Wheat

This wheat beer is refreshing, with a distinctive character and flavour. Working in the tradition of Belgian craft brewing, Archipelago’s Brewmaster has introduced some unique, Asian touches to this beer. He blended in Assam(tamarind)and lemon grass, with a hint of ginger, coriander and Chinese orange peel. All this creates a beer of unique refreshing character

Archipelago Traveller’s Wheat is enjoyed when paired with any food that is sour and spicy, especially those that contain Asian spices. Perfect with Assam Fish, Thai Vermicelli, Salads, Mussels, Top Shell, or Pepper Crab.

Archipelago Trader’s Ale

This is a very special ale, perfect for gatherings with friends and family, over a good meal or after a long day. Archipelago’s Brewmaster has blended special malts, hops, and a touch of Gula Melaka (palm sugar) and ginger to create this luxurious brew, which is creamy, smooth, enjoyable and satisfying till the last drop.

Archipelago Trader’s Ale is best paired with roasted meats or food cooked in brown sauce, such as Suckling Pig, Roasted Squid, Peking Duck, Satay and Rice Dumplings (Bak Zhang)and beer Randang.

Archipelago Straits Pale

This Beer is a real thirst quencher, crisp, clean and satisfying, making it a perfect choice for the tropical weather in Singapore. It is brewed in the American Pale Ale style with imported American hops for a refreshing crisp flavour with a smooth, round body that is enjoyable anytime.

Archipelago Straits Pale perfectly complements dishes such as Thai Green Curry, sea food, shell fish, Indian curries, Tandooris.