Brewing in Singapore

One man's adventure of brewing beer in Asia.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

New Brews

For all those of you that are looking forward to new beers from Archipelago we have several treats for you in late 2007 and early 2008.

We will be bringing back the smooth and roasty Java (Black Lager beer). We brewed this beer last year and it was a popular addition to the Archipelago draft line up (plus it is one of my favorite beer styles). Silky smooth, round and redolent with roasted coffee flavors Java blends the best of old Bavarian brewing traditions, the original home of the black Lager, with a flair from the east. To give Java a hint more coffee flavor we have blended in a touch of special hill grown Kopi Bali (Balinese coffee) to the dark roasted malts. Aged (or lagered) for an extended period of time to develop the velvety character, the result is an even richer roasted, nutty, chocolate flavor in this already luscious dark beer. Since this is one of my personal favorites I am very much looking forward to its release in late December.

We have also just brewed a special beer for the DFS (Duty Free Shops). The beer is named Explorer. It is in the Belgian Saison style, but lighter and more refreshing than our Siason Sayang (Sayang was maybe a bit ponderous for some). Explorer offer a variety of aromas and flavours reminiscent of the fragrance of the outdoors. Explorer is lightly spiced with liquorishy Anise and coriander, it has a strong bready character and a hint of fruits and hardwoods, a note of fresh cut grass, and touch of acidity. Golden pale in colour, Explorer is smooth and complex, round and flavorful yet refreshingly dry and thirst quenching. We have a limited number of kegs to pour at our Archipelago signature pubs (Circular road or Far East Square) otherwise "Explorer" is available in bottles exclusively at DFS in Singapore.

To help ring in the new year Archipelago has decided to put our ever popular Samui into bottles so that you can enjoy it at home or (better yet) at the beach. Archipelago Samui was brewed to commemorate our first anniversary. We decided to go out on a hunt for that special ingredient to create something totally new for this exclusive birthday brew. We felt that the tangy taste of the calamansi lime would truly be complemented by the fruity flavors of wheat and the nutty flavors of malt. The use of imported German Saaz hops gives this beer a nice light floral note. We combined all that with a hint of the aromatic herb pandan leaf to create a concoction that is both zesty and refreshing and uniquely Archipelago.

Come on down to one of our pubs and try the new brews (or look for them at outlets around the island) - Cheers

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I shifted apartments last week. I moved from Bukit Gombak to Holland Close. -Whuhh, moving is always a lot of work. First you have to pack up everything you own, then you have to move it all, then you have to go back and clean the apartment (scrub, scrub, scrub - lest you not get back your deposit), then you have to unpack everything into your new location. It’s a lot of work. But at least in my case I don't have everything I own here in Singapore - so not too bad.

What precipitated this move was a spectacular rent increase. Not a just a small the 20% increase (as I had expected) but a whooping 120% increase (Wah Lau - more than double what I was paying !!) and mines was not the worst of it - Bill's went up 150% and I talked to one guy whose rent tripled. WTF is going on with SIN rentals? So - I had to move (boh pian).

My new place is about 40% more than what I was paying, but still that is 30% less than I would have had to pay had I remained in Bukit Gombak. (seems like some sort of high school math problem: "If Brewer's rent went up 215%, and his new rent is 40% more than his old rent ..... what would was his original rent ?" - I never liked math)

My old place was a nice Condo with lots of amenities (a pool, a gym, BBQ pits, a putting green, gardens, security guards, etc), but it was far from town. It was close to work but far from most activities. My new place is by Holland Close It is an HDB (government built, but privately owned) housing development. And although it lacks the amenities of a condo it is a nice, quiet and comfortable. And it is in a MUCH more exciting part of town. There is Holland Village on the one side and Commonwealth on the other, and each has its own special attractions.

In Holland village there are restaurants, bars and shops a plenty. There are several very nice restaurants, some tucked away in quiet corners, the bar scene is lively and the beer selections pretty good, but what I am most enamored with is the grocery store. The first time I went into the Cold Storage grocer in Holland V. I was giddy with excitement. After more than two years of shopping at a "mom n pops" style grocery near my old place - where an item might (or night not) be on the shelf one day and never to be seen again the next - I was now suddenly confronted with a plethora choices. Choices in both number of items, and the selections within a given category. I had not seen selections like this since I left Seattle 7 years ago. It all seemed so decadent. They seemed to have all the western items I could never find in Bukit Gomak without sacrificing any of the local things I had come to love and depend on. GOOD GOHD, they had CHEESE ! And decent fish cake too. I literally stood in the isle and giggled (I hope no one saw).

The Commonwealth side is special in another way. It has a few "mom & pops" stores that are convenient and friendly, but what it has that is special it dozens of local eating places - and they are fabulous. When I first walked around the Holland V. side I thought "where will I eat ?", because although there were some nice restaurants with what looked like pretty good food, they were not the Singapore eating houses I have fallen in love with. They were all, well, too fancy for everyday eating - and I saw no Malay food at all! * - what to do ?

*Okay, not entirely true; in Holland Village proper (where all the shops are) there is no Malay food but there is a great Nasi Padang place on the west side of block 46. It is Sarena Nasi Padang & Ayam Penyet (yum - smashed Ckicken - one has to wonder how this dish came about, but I digress). At Sarena the food is excellent (and unordinary - like curried Jack Fruit!) and the staff friendly. There are also several other good place to eat in the section of fod stalls

At first my walking exploration of the Commonwealth side did not yield much and as the first day drew to a close I was becoming a bit worried. Would I have to start cooking at home more ? Had I made the wrong decision to move here. But then I saw, in the middle of a parking lot for a huge complex of HDB flats, a bunch of old shop houses and on the corners there were places to eat. I wandered over not expecting too much, but to my surprise I had discover the veritable mother lode of eating houses. This complex will sustain me for years to come. It has over three dozen places to eat and the range of foods and the quality of what's available is fantastic. The atmosphere perfect (for me), it is just what I look for - outdoors, local food (of all kinds) with nice and friendly people. That first night I had some Nasi Padang style and it was really good. The next I had clay pot chicken rice at a place called Read Seal and it was really delicious, the best clay pot I had even had, way better than that "famous" place in Geylang (at least in my opinion). There is a Laksa place I have high hopes for too, and several Chinese places and an Indian one too. So far I am 2 for 2 and I expect that most places there will beat my expectations. (located at blocks 116, 116, 118 off Commonwealth link)

And maybe one of the best things is I discovered I am only a short $4.00 taxi ride from my friends Ernest's new Red Dot brew pub* in Dempsy.

So basically shifting to my new place was a total win. I am in a better neighborhood, closer to town and my friends, in a more comfortable apartment, surrounded by even better makan (both in variety and quality), close to a brew pub and it is cheaper rent. Yeah, I am gonna consider that a total win!

*Blk 25A #01-01 Dempsey RoadSingapore, 247691Singapore+65 6475 0500

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Whoa ! So much has happened in the past month, I think I will break it in to three separate posts. 1) The GABF (Great American Beer Festival), 2) I shifted apartments (from Bukit Gombak to Holland Close), and 3) we made two new beers (plus we are putting Samui in the bottle - yumm).

So I start with the GABF. Held in Denver each year the GABF is the largest beer festival in the USA. At this, the 26th annual, an estimated 46,000 people attend over the three days of the event. There were more than 600 breweries represented and they entered almost 2800 beers to be judged by a panel of 104 brewing professionals (I was lucky enough to be one of the invited Judges). The judging takes place over three days. Each judge tastes about 100 to 120 beers a day (about 25 to 30 beers per round) - pallet fatigue might otherwise be a bit of a worry, but we are all trained and experienced professionals. Beers are judged in one of 75 categories, each category has three rounds, the final of which is the medal round. The judges take a lot of notes and give feed back to the brewers.

In my opinion the most useful thing about beer competitions is this feed back to the brewers. The beers are tasted and analyzed by Judges who have been trained in sensory evaluation and the brewing processes. A trained pallet allows a judge to glean clues as to the cause and effect of the flavor and aroma defects and make educated comments on those flavors, aromas and their interaction and possible derivations. This feedback can give the brewer insights as to what procedural or raw material changes might be made to rectify the problems or enhance positive attributes. This in turn can lead to something we are all very interested in: better beer. And making interesting, quality beer is really what it's all about. Of course the brewers must always take this feed back with a grain of salt because unfortunately not every judge is perfect and even the best pallets can be mistaken (sometimes) - and of course not all people have the same taste and likes.

Besides judging beer I got to spend some time with good friends that I don't get to see very often. There is a core group of us that seem to always end up together (I think maybe it's because we are all of the same "generation" of brewers). On Friday after the judging was done we went out on our usual Dive Bar Crawl (check Pau Hana Time Blog for future updates on Denver). We started around 10:30 in the AM (there is really nothing quite like being tipsy before lunch - now that's relaxation!) and we ended the evening about 1:00 AM. We went to 11 of Denver's worst (best) dive bars and 4 fairly decent ones - 15 bars in all - and I think we had some food in there somewhere (I recall a slice from some pizza place and later on White Castle mini-burgers with fries). High lights on the day/evening was a real old school bar called "Bar Bar" - it only had one sign out front announcing "BAR" - so locals just refer to it as the Bar Bar. It had not been remolded since the early sixties and the place was a classic, complete with interesting bar tenders and sketchy patrons - and a mean Bloody Mary. (if you are inclined look for it near the Denver Hitting Club). There were a couple of nice bars long the way too. Our favorite was called Sobo; 8 really nice (and hard to find) imported beers on tap and a few micros as well. The place was clean and friendly with flirty waitresses.

The festival itself was a fun time (all be it a bit crazy) 15,000 over people converging in one spot to taste and discuss the best beers America has to offer. I didn't have a bad beer the whole time and there were some really interesting ones (all of which are not available in Singapore - alas). I guess I'll just have to keep drinking the nice Microbrewed beers we have here until my next visit. to the GABF.

Speaking of festivals it looks like Singapore will have its own International Beer Festival starting this year in October. The organizers plan on bringing in beers from around the region. Their focus will be on craft beers but will include larger breweries as well. Look for it in 2008.

AND also coming to Singapore soon my friend Ernest Ng (whom you may remember from earlier posts) opens his own Brewery in Dempsy called Red Dot* - look for them start serving up interesting beers in December.

These are indeed very exciting times to be a beer lover in Singapore !!

*Blk 25A #01-01 Dempsey RoadSingapore, 247691Singapore+65 6475 0500