Redefining the draw of a local brew

NEWS: TODAY

Redefining the draw of a local brew

Photo courtesy of TODAY Online.
Photo courtesy of TODAY Online.
Written by Don Mendoza for TODAY on June 17, 2016.
See the actual report here: http://www.todayonline.com/lifestyle/food/redefining-draw-local-brew

The beer market may be more experimental but it’s still early days for flavoured brews

SINGAPORE — You don’t have to go far to see Singapore’s growing appreciation for craft beers. Especially with festivals such as this year’s Beerfest Asia, where you can sample a global variety in one convenient location.

It is also a great place to sample the fruits of the local brewing scene, which is slowly but surely maturing.

According to Malcolm Davies, head of Singapore’s Archipelago Brewery, more outlets are stocking craft beers from all over the world, but the local beer brewing scene, he affirmed, is not quite moving at the same pace. “There are certain things unique to Singapore that make it very hard to run a production brewery that would turn a profit. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, but it is not easy,” he shared.

There are, nonetheless, advantages to drinking locally brewed beer. “It is fresher and always will be,” said Davies. “The pleasure of drinking a fresh beer is increased by the sense of knowing you are supporting the local market.”

Starker Brewery manager Pang Chin Kiat concurred, adding that the ability to constantly develop new flavours of beer to retain a competitive edge is another advantage a local brewery has over its overseas competitors. He noted that more consumers are willing to try brews that are “skewed towards the sweeter notes” and more aromatic.

“We do see an increase in first-time consumers opting for Starker’s Lychee beer at our beer joints these days. Typically, a handful of first-time consumers have the mindset that an imported brew is one that is full of bitter notes and would generally opt for one that is flavoured,” he concluded.

Others such as Ivan Yeo, director and head chef at The 1925 Microbrewery and Restaurant, felt “consumers always like variety, no matter the product, and beers are no exception,” he said. “(But) for the local masses, we are still quite stuck on the IPA (India pale ale) trend and for the more seasoned craft drinkers, Saison and stout.”

The brewery has made beers using osmanthus flowers and coriander — which sold out rather quickly — but Yeo remained sceptical about the rise of Asian-flavoured beers, saying that while he thinks the idea of having pandan leaves or turmeric in a beer is interesting, “there have also been plenty of misses”.

“The idea of an Asian ingredient in a beer is novel but the tasting notes usually do not resonate well with the layman craft drinker,” he shared.

Robert Beck, Archipelago’s master brewer, said that the Singapore market is not yet craving a specific flavour, but believes it boils down to time and exposure. “For example, in America there was and still is a massive demand for heavily hopped beers and the industry has catered for that,” he said. “Now America is experiencing a huge rise in demand for Sour beers. Singapore is not quite at that demand level yet.”

Still, Archipelago came up with a Juniper Sahti just for Beerfest Asia 2016, a unique beer brewed with rye, oats and barley which are fermented with European baker’s yeast and flavoured with Juniper berries. No hops were used.

The result, Beck added, is an almost vanilla ice cream aroma that complements a subtly sweet and slightly sour bodied taste.

“In the past, it was proven that there wasn’t a market for beers brewed with local flavours. However, this seems to be changing,” said Davies. “The flavours that are doing well in Asia are traditional flavours such as green tea and fruits such as yuzu and calamansi.”

Davies thinks there still is a market for flavoured beers — at least in smaller volumes. “Some of these beers are not what we call sessionable — meaning people only want one bottle or a small glass, creating low sales.”

What to try at Beerfest Asia 2016

YELLOW VAN, PALE ALE (SINGAPORE)

Brewed by The 1925 Microbrewery & Restaurant, this pale ale maintains a great balance between hops and malt, and has a slight yeasty nose on the head followed by a malty body with a mildly sweet flavour.