Brewing in Singapore

One man's adventure of brewing beer in Asia.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lombok, Indonesia

When I returned from the USA, I found that the Larger (Tiger) brewery next door (from where we get all our utilities) was shut down for maintenance. We could do no brewing, no packaging, no cleaning, - almost nothing + we had a long weekend coming up. So, bo pian (I had no choice), I went on Holiday.

My friend James had decided the week before that he was going to Lombok island in Indonesia - So I just tagged along. Lion Air had special going - and it was as easy as that.

Lombok is the lesser know island next to Bali, and being lesser know is not as frequently visited and not as touristafied. The people of Lombok could not have been friendlier, and the island was beautiful - the picture speak for themselves ( ) . We rented a car for two days and drove around the island. Then we took a boat out to the Gili islands and spent a few days there. The Gilis are a bit more touristy and not as nice as the main island, but still it was nice and not that crowded.

And the beer - the beer was good and cheap (although a bit harder to find than in Bali as Lombok is predominately Muslim) . Beer Bintang and Ankor beer were the most available (I preferred the Ankor) and the cost for a big bottle sitting on the beach - about 19,000 Rups (or $2 USD).

My recommendations for those visiting Lombok are A) stay cheap - the lower priced hotels are nice and clean, B) rent a car and tour around, get to places you normally would not and see the scenery, C) if you take a boat buy the cheapest local ticket and don't be talked into buying any other kind of ticket, D) walk around and meet the people in the towns or villages - I met dozens of friendly people who were excited to practice their English and I got to practice my Bahasa Indonesia (great fun).

It was a great trip - very enjoy.


Before San Diego I went home for a break (and a lot of yard work). "Home" is Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Northern California. And it is always a bit of a culture shock to go from Singapore to Anderson Valley. Kind of akin to shifting from 5th gear to first (without clutching). I know I have said this before but Anderson Valley just about could not be much less like Singapore (except maybe unless it were in the Alaskan outback). The total land area of Anderson Valley is about the same as Singapore and I suppose crime is relatively low
in both, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. I love both places. Here are just a few of the differences.

Singapore = 4,500,000 people
Anderson Valley = 4,000 people (maybe)

SIN = is a business Hub, with very little land left for agriculture
AV = is one of the last truly agrarian communities in California
(almost everyone is farming something)

SIN = is ultra modern model of efficiency and prides itself on that fact
AV = in an archaic anachronism held together with bailing wire
(and prides itself on that fact)

SIN = has Singlish -
AV = has Boontling -

SIN = most people live in high rises
AV = there's no building over three stories

SIN = nearest neighbor is 2.5 meters away
AV = nearest neighbor is several hundred meters away

SIN = there are literally thousands of great places to eat
AV = there is one (maybe two) good places to eat

SIN = there is great pressure to conform and behave
AV = is a community of non-conformists given to acting up

SIN = Almost no one owns a gun
AV = Almost everyone owns at least one gun

SIN = Has (supposedly) thousands of plain cloth police hidden everywhere
AV = Has Kieth, the one policeman (& his angry dog) looking menacingly at you

SIN = many children have never seen a live chicken
AV = some people still barter for child care with live chickens

SIN = has Geylang
AV = has the Wool festival

Our Mendonesian house among the Redwoods (and Bamboo)

The view out my window in Singapore

The Craft Brewer's Conference & World Beer Cup

I was in San Diego for The Craft Brewer's Conference (CBC) & World Beer Cup (WBC). The CBC is an annual event that moves around the country. Last year the CBC was in Austin Texas; a great city with great music and a lot of great food (esp the BBQ). The CBC is an educational conference with presentations and lots of opportunities to exchange ideas and network with fellow brewers and other people in the industry. As you might imagine a conference of craft brewers is more fun than a conference of software engineers or sales persons (believe me, I speak from experience). And I say this not to cast aspersions on those other groups, but to confirm what most people already believe - that making beer for a living ismore fun than most jobs. But having said that, all in all a conference is a conference - there are speaker sessions and a trade show and hopitality rooms and discussion groups and open forums and a lot of schmoozzing. Sama Sama, tetapi tidak sama (same same, but different).

The WBC is an every other year event. This year there were almost 3000 beers entered in 91 styles from 644 breweries in 58 countries. That's a lot of beer. The judging took 129 judges from 21 countries three days to complete (that's about 2350 hours of judging!). I was lucky enough to be one of those 129 judges. Judging at the CBC is a great opportunity to learn and listen to what other people from around the globe think about beer and brewing techniques. It is a rare glimps into how other (sometimes secretive) brewers think. But contrary to what you might imagine beer judging is not that much fun. The judges take their responsibilities very seriously and spending 8 hours a day tasting and writting notes on about 130 beers each day is pretty tough work (esp on the third day).

Unfortunately Archipelago did not win any awards this year (there is alway 2010 WBC) but I am happy to inform that Asia Pacific Breweries did - their Baron's Strong won a bronze medal for "Belgian style Strong Ale" and Anchor Ice (from VBL - Vietnenam) won a Gold medal for "Tropical style Light Lager". I think that's pretty cool. (previous Singapore medal winners are Tiger beer and Brewerkz E-IPA)

Photo caption: Lucky 13: Not only does each of the 6 judges at this table have 12 beers to judge in this final round - look at the color (and one would suspect flavor) differences. It'sa Tough job, but somebody has got to do it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

SoCal & the Fish Taco

Offer - The Huge Fish Taco, complete with guacamole, from La Posta (on 3rd in SD)

Jenny goes in for another bite - still only about a third of the way into her fish taco

just too big - Christopher has to come in as a closer to finish it off

If Southern California was its own country (and it should at least be its own state - and I mean that in a good way) the fish taco would be the national dish. Loved by surfers, skater grommets, businessmen and moms alike it fairly screams Southern California. So I was in San Diego a few weeks back for the Craft Brewers Conference and World Beer Cup (more on that later) one of my main missions was to have as much authentic Mexican food as possible (or at least as much authentic SoCal Mexican food as possible). Our friend Tom Nickle (owner of O'brien's Pub - recommended a very small street corner joint near by and off we went. The thing about all food (at least for myself and most of my friends) is the more authentic the better - and sometimes that means you gotta search a little harder and look a little further.

Some times you have to look past the 1960's Naugahyde and the chipped asbestos floor tiles or past the the paper plate or aluminium foil presentation and maybe even past the worn out tank top and flip flops of the person cooking. Never mind all that - don't be distracted by looks, the taste is what we are looking for. (and being a good bargain can help one look past minor defaults in presentation). I have found it to be true in most places; the best food is usually not in the nicest restaurants.

There's really not any great Mexican food in Singapore, there's maybe a few above average places (Cafe Iguana is pretty good) but there is nothing like in California. No burrito wagons on the corner, no late night Taco stands - and nothing like the El Centro Nuevo in SF, or like La Posta or Ortega's in SD, or Babita in LA. So when I am in California that's what I want to eat. Luckily it's not hard to find. Now, the decision; "I'll have a Bohemian and ...." Carnitas, Tamales, Carne Asada or the Fish Taco ?? It's so hard to discide - I Better plan on coming back tomorrow.