Brewed in Singapore: Sampling Singapore’s Craft Beer

With​ ​a​ ​drinking​ ​scene​ ​known​ ​more​ ​for​ ​cocktails​ ​(not​ ​just​ ​the​ ​Singapore​ ​Sling)​ ​and​ ​the​ ​ubiquitous Heineken-owned​ ​Tiger​ ​beer,​ ​Singapore​ ​might​ ​not​ ​be​ ​on​ ​the​ ​radar​ ​for​ ​many​ ​craft​ ​beer enthusiasts. However,​ ​rest​ ​assured,​ ​if​ ​you​ ​find​ ​yourself​ ​stranded​ ​on​ ​this​ ​island,​ ​you’ll​ ​have​ ​plenty​ ​of​ ​good​ ​beer.

Drinking​ ​venues​ ​come​ ​in​ ​a​ ​wide​ ​range​ ​of​ ​sizes​ ​and​ ​polish,​ ​from​ ​self-serve​ ​taps​ ​in​ ​open-air​ ​hawker center​ ​stalls​ ​to​ ​slick,​ ​state-of-the-art​ ​skyscraping brewpubs​.​ ​Expertly​ ​curated​ ​bars​​ ​and​ ​bottle​ ​shops ​offer​ ​imported​ ​craft​ ​brews,​ ​bottled and​ ​draught,​ ​from​ ​around​ ​the​ ​world.​ ​About​ ​a​ ​dozen​ ​microbreweries​ ​-​ ​run​ ​by​ ​both​ ​expats​ ​and locals​ ​-​ ​provide​ ​locally​ ​brewed​ ​options.​ ​No​ ​matter​ ​the​ ​type​ ​of​ ​drinking​ ​experience​ ​you’re​ seeking,​ ​you’ll​ ​find​ ​something​ ​to​ ​suit​ ​your​ ​tastes​ ​in​ ​Singapore’s​ ​craft​ ​beer​ ​scene.

Exploring​ ​Singapore’s​ ​Microbreweries

With​ ​only​ ​four​ ​days​ ​to​ ​explore,​ ​and​ ​a​ ​disappointing​ ​inability​ ​to​ ​marathon​ ​drink​ ​in​ ​Singapore’s​ ​high levels​ ​of​ ​heat​ ​and​ ​humidity​ ​(more​ ​practice!),​ ​I​ ​decided​ ​to​ ​focus​ ​my​ ​exploration​ ​on​ ​drinking​ ​locally produced​ ​beers​ ​at​ ​their​ ​sources.

This​ ​is​ ​by​ ​no​ ​means​ ​an​ ​exhaustive​ ​exploration​ ​of​ ​the​ ​island’s​ ​microbreweries. People​ ​who know​ ​Singaporean​ ​beer​ ​might​ ​wonder​ ​why​ ​I​ ​left​ ​out​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​better-known​ ​mainstays​ ​like RedDot​​ ​or​ ​Brewerkz​. Basically,​ ​my​ ​sampling​ ​methodology​ ​came​ ​down​ ​to​ ​“what’s​ ​the​ ​closest​ ​brewery”​ ​and​ ​“oh​ ​that sounds​ ​like​ ​an​ ​interesting​ ​place​ ​to​ ​drink.”​ ​I​ ​know;​ ​I’m​ ​such​ ​a​ ​pro.

In​ ​any​ ​case,​ ​the​ ​four​ ​breweries​ ​I​ ​visited​ ​are​ ​all​ ​worth​ ​a​ ​try​ ​for​ ​different​ ​reasons,​ ​as​ ​each​ ​has something​ ​unique​ ​to​ ​offer​ ​by​ ​way​ ​of​ ​beer​ ​and​ ​atmosphere.

Note:​ ​The​ ​order​ ​of​ ​breweries​ ​in​ ​this​ ​list​ ​reflects​ ​chronology​ ​of​ ​my​ ​visits​ ​and​ ​is​ ​not​ ​meant​ ​to​ ​imply quality-based​ ​ranking.

Yellow Van pale ale at The 1925

1.​ ​The​ ​1925

In​ ​the​ ​up-and-coming​ ​Jalan​ ​Besar​ ​neighborhood, The​ ​1925,​ ​family​ ​owned​ ​and​ ​open​ ​since​ ​2014, brews​ ​and​ ​serves​ ​their​ ​beers​ ​in​ ​a​ ​familiar-feeling​ ​distressed-wood-and-concrete​ ​tap room.

From​ ​their​ ​five​ ​taps,​ ​they​ ​offer​ ​three of their​ ​own​ ​beers​ ​plus​ ​two​ ​rotating​ ​guest​ ​brews.​ ​When​ ​I visited in July 2016,​ ​they​ ​were​ ​pouring​ ​Yellow​ ​Van​ ​pale​ ​ale,​ ​Small​ ​Monster​ ​IPA,​ ​and​ ​Blk​ ​622​ ​dark​ ​ale,​ ​along with​ ​two​ ​beers​ ​from​ ​California’s​ ​Coronado​ ​Brewing. While I like the name and story behind Yellow Van best (not to mention the tiny yellow van sitting on the bar), my favorite of the beers was the nicely balanced IPA.

The​ ​“beer-inspired”​ ​menu​ ​features​ ​pub fare fusing western and local flavors. For my lunch, I opted for a rice bowl involving a giant grilled portabella, pork belly, and a mix of savory and sweetish flavors spicy enough to keep me drinking the beer.

Beer sampler at LeVel 33 Singapore
The beer could be terrible (it’s not) and LeVeL 33 would still be amazing

2. LeVeL 33

At LeVeL 33, the “world’s highest urban craft-brewery” the view steals the show. On the terrace (if you can stand the heat and humidity), you can drink the afternoon away, enjoying a vista that encompasses Marina Bay with its otherworldly architecture and stretches out to the Straits of Singapore. Oh, and they make some decent beer, too.

The beers,​ ​of​ ​which​ ​6​ ​are​ ​offered​ ​on​ ​tap,​ ​are​ ​all safe choices​ ​and​ ​well​ ​executed,​ ​with a style to appeal to everyone’s tastes. I got the sampler paddle so I could try them all. My​ ​favorite​ ​was​ ​the​ ​seasonal​ ​blanche, a​ ​witbier​ with​ a ​light​ ​coriander​ ​flavor that went down​ ​easily​ ​in​ ​the​ ​heat.​ Interestingly, the “porter” is poured as a mixture of the IPA and stout. Thus my sampler paddle came with only 5 beers, and I had to reserve enough IPA and stout in order to mix my own porter.

If nothing else, the beers are presented well, and the sampler paddle just begs to be photographed with that awesome view behind it. In fact, one woman, who had been drinking inside with her friend, hurried out to the terrace when my beer was delivered. She asked if she could please take a picture of it; I obliged and we had a fun little beer photo session together.

Food-wise, their menu is supposed to be excellent, but after 3 hours of eating my way through the hawker centers earlier, I could manage only a “tapas” snack of olives, cheese, and salami sticks. Something’s gotta give.

Blue Bali's beer sampler, where Pink Mamba (it really is pink) takes center stage
Blue Bali’s beer sampler, where Pink Mamba (it really is pink) takes center stage

3. Blue Bali

Tucked away inside the Botanic Gardens is Singapore’s only nano-brewery, Blue Bali Brewhaus. Every garden needs a brewery! This wasn’t exactly a planned stop on my brewery expedition, but after walking around all day, I needed a rest before my Night Safari adventure, so I figured, “Why not? It’s here.”

I plunked down in the open-air seating area as close to the fan as I could manage and ordered a sample of the three beers on tap that day: Bali Gold, Pink Mamba, and Doshi IPA. The flavors in the beers are subtle but a bit more experimental than the other two breweries I’d visited. Bali Gold is brewed with pumpkin, but the flavor is very mild, not the spiced-up, holiday variety we’re flooded with every fall in the States. Pink Mamba really is pink, brewed with dragon fruit, and undeniably pretty. They’ll even bottle it on demand so you can have a nice, rosy fresh one to take home.

Talked my way into an impromptu brew house tour at Blue Bali
Talked my way into an impromptu brew house tour at Blue Bali

Coincidentally, and fortuitously, Christian, the brewer, was also my server. He showed me around the brew house and chatted about the brewing process, how he learned to brew from the owner, and the challenges of making beer with something seedy like dragon fruit.

Blue Bali is also a full-service restaurant, so I decided to stay for dinner. As pumpkin seemed to be one of the day’s themes, at Christian’s suggestion, I had the pumpkin prawns. They were enormous and drenched in an amazing, lightly spicy curry sauce. Not a bad way to accidentally spend a few hours.

Waiting for my brisket at Little Island Brewing Company
Waiting for my brisket at Little Island Brewing Company

4. Little Island Brewing Co.

A newer addition to Singapore’s microbrewery lineup, Little Island Brewing Company is only about a 15-20 minute car ride away from Changi Airport. Thus, I thought it would be a good idea to make it my last stop before heading home to Chicago. Be careful if you decide to follow in my footsteps: breweries before airports can lead to travel challenges.

I am not gonna lie, Little Island was my favorite of the breweries I visited. I got a tour from Steve Spinney, the head brewer himself, who was quite generous with the samples. Beer always tastes best when you’re drinking with person who made it, trying the ones they select and hearing the stories behind them.

Beer always tastes better when you're drinking with the person who brewed it
Beer always tastes better when you’re drinking with the person who brewed it

The brewery and its companion restaurant sit on a sprawling lot with a big yard and row upon row of picnic tables, enough outdoor seating for 250 people. The beers are dispensed via a self-serve, card-based system to encourage sampling and experimentation.

While I enjoyed all of the beers I tried (and I tried quite a few), my favorite was the SPA, a balanced but more aggressive IPA. Steve said he hopes to turn into a regular offering. Contrary to what others had told me, Steve rejected the idea that the Singaporeans weren’t yet ready for or interested in challenging beers. He said that Little Island has become a weekend destination for people who are serious about beer. They can bring their families, have a meal, relax, and try several different styles.

In addition to the best beers I’d had in Singapore, Little Island also serves up some killer smoked meats. Despite the fact that I’d already eaten a late-afternoon heap of satay skewers at Long Bar with my Singapore Sling, brisket suddenly sounded like a fantastic idea. Blame the beer, the heat or both, but halfway through my pile of brisket, I started to think I might not care if I missed my flight home.

Epilogue

I did make it to the airport, but getting a cab was more challenging than expected, so I got an Uber instead. That delay cut into my duty-free shopping considerably, but I made my flight. I connected through Tokyo, and on the way there I (finally) got to fly on a Dreamliner. I’ve heard those planes are designed to minimize the uncomfortable side-effects of flying, such as dehydration. With the amount of beer and meat I’d consumed, I was a prime candidate for a deadly hangover. However, I’m happy to say, I landed feeling pretty freaking fantastic, so I’ll give Boeing credit.

Want to read more about how awesome Singapore is? Check out four reasons I fell in love with it, its awesome food, and how to stay cool.

If you want more international craft beer reading, check out my post on Iceland’s craft beer scene.

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