A history of beer in Singapore

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Cherylene Chan opens the file on our island-state’s long-standing love affair with the yellow stuff

First published on 8 Apr 2011. Updated on 19 Apr 2011.

1909

The government introduces liquor tax
If anything’s rained on our alco-parade, it’s the sky-high price we pay to binge on the booze. Yes, Singapore’s strict customs division has been pinning alcohol tax more than half a century before our tiny Red Dot even gained democracy. Of course, if we lived back in the day, it probably wouldn’t have rid us of more than a few cents. Now? A litre of beer sets us back $48 in tax. Yeowch. 

1931

Archipelago Brewery Company opens
Before Archipelago started crafting spice-laden beers, it was also Singapore’s maiden commercial brewery. German brewers Beck’s started up the plant to churn out Anchor beer, no doubt paving the way for booze-hards across the British colony. Its heyday as a local brewhouse was sadly short lived. During World War II, the British – deeming it enemy territory for German ties – seized the factory in 1941 and sold it to Malayan Breweries.

Malayan Breweries founded

This beer stable – known as Asia Pacific Breweries these days – is the lovechild of Heineken and soft-drinks conglomerate F&N. Solely brewing Heineken at first, the company eventually created Tiger beer a year later and has been rapidly expanding ever since. It currently boasts a franchise of over 120 brands of beer and stout, including ABC, Baron’s Strong Brew and Guinness.

1932

Tiger beer released
Singapore’s malty memoirs wouldn’t be complete without Tiger beer’s legacy. Our very own award-winning lager started out as Malaysian Breweries’ flagship brand. Originally brewed to mimic Heineken in taste, Tiger soon became the choice swig among foreign troops during World War II, who later spread the word back to their home countries. 

1979

Singapore says ‘Prost!’ to its very first Oktoberfest
You probably already know that Erdinger’s been staging Singapore’s Oktoberfest since 2005. But did you know Singaporeans and German expats first clunked mugs at this bier orgy at Holiday Inn over 30 years ago? The German Association picked up the tradition the following year, before handing over the baton to the Swiss Club. Over 2,000 guests would flock to the club every year to knock back pints and watch a specially fl own-in brass band. 

1997

Brewerkz sets up shop
Devin Otto Kimble and Daniel Flores opened this homegrown microbrewery and restaurant – the first of its kind on our shores – at Riverside Point. Scott Robertson was appointed brewmaster, and he’s been the brain behind all of Brewerkz’ permanent and seasonal drafts ever since, from India Pale Ale’s malty kick to the Oatmeal stout’s silky finish.

2006

Archipelago relaunched as craft-beer microbrewery
After slipping under the radar for over 60 years, Archipelago’s name was revived as a bespoke speciality beer brand. Its current incarnation opened its doors to guzzlers along Circular Road with just three brews devised by world-class brewer Fal Allen – Traveller’s Wheat, Straits Pale and Trader’s Ale. Beers infused with Asian spices, and flavours like gula melaka and star anise, became their calling card, both quenching and intriguing local palates.

2008

Ernest Ng opens RedDot Brewhouse
Singapore’s only independently run brewhouse owes its existence to a South African safari venture. After chugging home-made ale concocted by soldiers in the grasslands in 1997, Ernest Ng got hooked on the art of brewing and went on to complete an official brewmaster course and turned his hobby into a full-blown career. He even designed and restored RedDot Dempsey’s colonial interior himself. We salute his passion.

2009

Beerfest Asia premieres
As if Oktoberfest wasn’t enough slosh time, we hatched our very own five-day homage to beers both near and far. The maiden Beerfest Asia took place behind the Singapore Flyer and rounded up over 300 beers. Over 25,000 proud brewski lovers rallied together to sample everything from Little Creatures to Wychwood Hobgoblin, as bands like all-female AC/ DC tribute act Hells Belles and Vertical Horizon played on.

2010

Beer Market rings its opening bell
With stock-market bars having already gained a foothold in Europe, it was only a matter of time before kiasu upstarts opened the floor to buzz-chasing ‘traders’ here. This is Singapore’s only NASDAQ-inspired bar, where customers have some influence over drink prices, and a market crash is cause for cheer – the cue for rounds of dirt-cheap booze. Jump in!

Tiger Beer Crystal

Tiger pumps some fresh fizz into this new variant to its timeless formula. Frankly, we’re chuffed, because the original was starting to look a tad lonesome after 70-odd years. Its younger sib steps out in a modernist, crystalline bottle that embodies its cleaner, lighter taste – the result of being filtered at a frosty -1°C. Lay your hands on a coveted bottle at selected bars, including OverEasy and Le Noir.

By Cherylene Chan
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