10 beer spots in Singapore

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The beer revolution has arrived! Alexander Barlow rounds up the ten finest alt-pour boltholes the city has to offer

First published on 7 Apr 2011. Updated on 11 Mar 2013.

Archipelago

Originally founded in 1931 and re-opened by Asia Pacific Breweries (Tiger, Heineken) in 2006 as its entry into the bespoke beer fray, the draft here is brewed in Tuas and delivered to Archipelago’s growing number of outlets. The flagship on Circular Road still roars on weekends, but you can find four other perennials that include a changing guest tap at Joo Chiat’s Smokey’s and The Queen & Mangosteen. We tried ours at Barossa, the new Aussie-Italian in Holland Village, and, heck, what a wheat! A highly sessionable ale with cool blasts of fresh orange peel and lemon on the nose, followed through with a soft, delicately carbonised, not-too-boozy texture and a slowly unravelling hoppy-lime finish. The burly Irish Ale was memorable with its raisin and malty-toffee notes, but really, it’s all about the wheat here. 79 Circular Rd (6327 8408). All beers from $8++ (330ml).

LeVel33

Fresh craft brew arrives at the Financial District in the shape of this sleek new destination for in-the-know beerists and more refined, anti-binge imbibers more keen on the boutique brew than on sloshy, woe-is-me booze sprees. Not that this place doesn’t have a buzz. Lunchtimes run a fairly upbeat clip with the outdoor penthouse terraces packed after five with office escapees supping up the happy-hour hops: the most popular Blond Lager has a refreshing and faint, fruity palette but might lack character for more experienced beer drinkers. Pale Ale has slightly more depth – but still felt fairly light-bodied – and made a handsome, amber-coloured pour with the same creamy lace that lingered to the final sip. #33-01 Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1, 8 Marina Blvd (6834 3133). All draft beers before 8pm: $9.33++ (300ml)/$13.33++ (500ml); after 8pm $12.33++/$13.33++. 

Prague Microbrewery

Based on the fringes of the city, the fairly drab, ho-hum setting at this Tanjong Pagar microbrewery can really only point to one certainty. The loyal hopheads here come for one thing only: top-tier craft brew at prices that live in roughly the same neighbourhood as your average swill down the road. Two Czech-style pilsners brewed on site make the draw: the lighter Svelte Pivo ($11, 500ml), with its lively hoppy nose, is cloudy, rich but highly drinkable, with the darker, fuller-bodied Tamave Pivo ($11, 500ml) more complex in character and deep-brown coloured with a satisfyingly roasty, bitter finish. #01-00 Amara Hotel, 165 Tanjong Pagar Rd (6879 2608).

Overtime

A kind of happy truce between a trad-Bavarian Bräuhaus and a Thai disco – honestly, not as unsettling as it sounds – this new, lively pub chain for craft-beer converts and up-for-it nine-to-fivers trumpets its food – a mix of Asian-Western comfort staples. It’s not bad, but hardly destination stuff. It’s the beer that steals the show, and it’s cold, Arctic cold – in fact, we haven’t found colder. Or, on that note, anywhere that’ll pour your beer into a fresh, frosted glass at halfway point. Service, some of it clad in sexy German dirndls, is switched on. Stärker is crisp, medium-bitter and shows fair charisma for a lager. The Aromatic has a wheaty sweetness with a clean, brisk lemon-y aftertaste. Both come with a seven-day guarantee of freshness, straight from the barrel and – did we mention they’re bloody cold? Blk 18, 18E Dempsey Rd (6472 4388); Holland Village, 25 Lorong Mambong (6465 8368). Beer $22++ per pint. Happy hour before 7pm: buy one get one free; from 7-9pm buy one, get half free.

Paulaner Bräuhaus

Certainly one of the more attractive bars on the list, this long-standing brewpub popular with business-y, white collar-types salutes modern Bavarian decor without making the Bierhalle-pastiche of it so common to major-chain boozers. To arrive at the right time of the brewing process is to be greeted by the rare, bitter-sour smell of boiling hops from the grand copper-wort that takes centre stage at the bar. At the taps, it’s a two-man show: the medium-bodied, cloudy-gold Munich Lager was fresh and upbeat, with obvious fruit tones balanced with light, clean, hoppy bitterness – in other words, a great session beer. Decent enough was the Munich Dark which, not really finding the broodier notes of some of the dunkels we’ve had, might be too simple for keener malt mavens, but still had a light, caramel-sweet taste that would make a good entry-level pour for newbies looking to get dark. #01-01, Millenia Walk, 9 Raffles Blvd (6883 2572). All beers $13++ (330ml).

Brewerkz

Much as we’d love to herald the landing of a grand, new godfather of craft beer, the laurels still belong to this Clarke Quay stalwart, which leads the pack with a changing roster of nine fresh seasonal beers and four highly coveted mainstays – all of which show bags of character. Golden Ale is the weekend sessionists’ fave with a loud, honey-lemon aroma, a soft, rounded mouth-feel and a crisp, light-bitter nod on the way down. New on the list was the apple-and-cranberry Fruitbrewz, which showed a pleasingly sour, cider-like funk and made for a simple refresher, if not for the cranberry’s rather-too-medicinal dryness. Also new, the strong Black Rabbit, a hoppy, spicy English brown ale which wears its 7 per cent volume very lightly, has a balanced, herbed, loafy taste, with only a brief, tart send-off on the gulp. Bracing on the nose, the Mad Bee Ale had a floral, honey-like first sip and a perky sweetness that mellowed into an easygoing, hoppy and slow-sinking summer ale. Ace beer, shame about the tourist-heavy setting. Riverside Point, 30 Merchant Rd (6438 7438, www.brewerkz.com). Beers from $6++ (330ml).

RedDot Brewhouse

This place is in Dempsey – but never mind the lush, green outdoor setting, check out the real sideshow in the brewroom. Visible from the bar through a giant glass screen, steam emits from kettles, uniformed men in rubber boots peer into giant worts on tiptoe with torches, red lights flicker, gauges quiver. It might be more Dr Strangelove than Homer Simpson, if it weren’t for the cartoonish nuclear-coloured brew whizzing out from behind the bar. That’s the famous Monster Green lager fused with green spirulina, an algae thought to have healing qualities. We tried it – you have to, don’t you? – but it turned out to be a dud. It has no real taste or character on the palate and comes highly carbonated – a fizzy kidult juice. Despite what we first thought, the refreshing RedDot Lime Wheat was not a cloying, one-for-the-girls gimmick but showed nuance and breadth, with calm citrus-y notes that lingered long after the sip. Light brown with a pinkish hue around the edges, the malt-heavy English Ale was smooth, but didn’t impress with its spicy complexity – but in warm weather, that might be a good thing. These brews are made to refresh. 25A Dempsey Rd (6475 0500). All beers $6 (270ml).

Pump Room

Of course, there’s no shortage of mainstream swill in Clarke Quay, but if you’re looking to dodge the corporate pours and hit some repeat-visit-worthy brewski, this party-ready pick-up joint brags five of its own site-brewed ales and three guests from Archipelago. Pump Room Lager doesn’t have much about it; nor did the house wheat, though it’s chug-worthy enough for unfussy weekend imbibers. An upfront, strong Indian Pale Ale showed more ego, with a boozy, malty jab finished with a hop-tinged, dry-bitter finish. Serviceable, sure, but there’s better out there. #01-09 The Foundry, 3B River Valley Rd (6334 2628). All beers $15++ per pint.

Adstragold Microbrewery

Based in Chijmes, with a new outpost at East Coast, this bare-knuckle, no-frills brewpub is so brutally spare in arrangement – it’s a table, a chair and a bedroom beatbox for company – there can be really no mistaking what the draw is here. Three beers are brewed on site, not all of them great. The Hefeweizen ($8.90, 300ml) was a disaster: the head died on arrival, with zero lacing on the glass, and a watery, thin texture throughout. The darks, though, show far more temper and saved the day: the stout ($9.90, 300ml) had plenty on the nose, well carbonated with a malty-sweet, chocolate-y taste and earthy, sour finish. Red Ale ($8.90, 300ml), their pilsner-stout hybrid, had an attractive, reddish hue and made the most memorable sip. #01-06A Chijmes, 30 Victoria St (6337 8839); 417-419 East Coast Rd (6345 3378).

Jibiru

We waited, and waited…and finally, this smart little destination bar devoted to rarefied Japanese craft beer from the folks behind Oosters opened just in time to make the cut. And, boy, are we glad they did. A brilliantly researched menu offers a highly evolved list of hip, lesser-found craft pours from across Japan, with stronger, experimental bottles and lower-ABV easy-sippers for extended drinking given roughly equal billing. On draft are a surprising number of Hitachino Nest beers, including the excellent, spicy Belgian-style white ale ($9.30/$10.50++ 330ml), which comfortably lived up to its billing, with definite coriander and cool orange-peel notes on the nose, its light, sweet wheat fullness followed by a crisp, smooth finish. From a 15-strong bottled list, the cedar barrel-aged Hitachino Nest Classic Ale ($13.90++) impressed for its depth, with an abrupt woody-malty first sip which slowly mellowed into a rounded, tempered, herby English IPA-style afternoon sinker. What’ll we be back for? The Kinschachi Nagoya Red Miso Lager ($16.50++) from Land Beer Brewery, the Yona Yona Pale Ale ($12.50++) from the Yo-Ho Brewing Company in Nagano and the full range of their Hitachino drafts when they arrive in late April. 313@Somerset #01-26, Orchard Rd (6732 6884).

By Alexander Barlow
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