The Geek has been considering a recent credit card statement and pondering the cost of beer geekery in Singapore, and more broadly what it costs to enjoy well-crafted, expertly executed, balanced brews in what is arguably one of the most expensive cities in the World. This exercise has also prompted some soul-searching about the value of homegrown brews and the importance of the passionate, committed professionals who stand against the tide in Singapore to dedicate attention, opportunity, and most precious of all, time to creating Singapore craft beers, an enterprise that can charitably be referred to as fringe in KPI-driven, corporate Singapore.
Craft beer is first and foremost about independence
Craft brewing in Singapore not only takes guts and passion, but a mountain of vision, planning, and money. “No money, no talk” is as Singaporean an aphorism as there is, and while bandied about quite casually in everyday conversation, has an ominously practical ring of truth to it when referring to craft brewing. Craft beer is first and foremost about independence. Craft beers are created independent of the money and therefore the influence of large, well-endowed, commercial breweries. This allows a craft brewer the freedom to use ingredients and employ processes that will best realize his or her vision of what each beer should be. This independence, to brew what and how a brewer wants to, leads to the defining flavor and character of a craft beer. Finally, the craft brewer is able to brew independently and boldly because smaller production volumes are generally anticipated which gives the brewer the confidence to be more daring and even experimental. Independence, small volume, and the bold flavors that consumers have come to expect of a craft beer all come at a price because another Singapore aphorism “where got cheap and good” is equally true.
Craft beer is like a mind-blowingly good char kway teow that you stumble across in the heartlands
Another common feature of craft beers that I find endearingly attractive is how local all the best ones are. Most of the beers on my list of personal favorites and all-time favorites are from local breweries that I’ve stumbled upon in my travels. In that regard, craft beer is like a mind-blowingly good char kway teow that you stumble across in the heartlands, that you can only enjoy on site. Local craft beers often reflect the local terroir just as well as wine, because craft beers are a local artisan’s expression of the regional ethos and native ingredients. At the very least, it is an expression of the local microflora. It is also ultimately an expression of the palate in situ and speaks volumes about what people enjoy where a beer is crafted.
Supporting a Singapore craft brewer is no different than lending your support to local hawker culture
Brewing in Singapore is subject to the same Laws of Financial Thermodynamics that govern every aspect of everyday life in this charmingly nosebleed-expensive city. Real estate, water (a source of constant national angst), and utilities all conspire to make that pint of Made in Singapore that the ang moh* sitting next to you at the bar is blissfully enjoying, cost a little more. So while the Geek is not suggesting you throw good money at bad beer just because it’s made in Singapore, I am suggesting that you spare a thought about the financial risks that a fellow Singaporean had to take to bring you something truly wonderful that is worth your time, the calories, and certainly your money. When you think about it, supporting a Singapore craft brewer is no different than lending your support to local hawker culture, they’re both organically grown in Singapore, they both offer a fresh artisanal product that is crafted to suit Singapore tastes and to make Singaporeans happy. They both also give Singaporeans the opportunity to bask in some reflected glory when friends from out of town marvel at the depth of flavor presented in a mouthful Hill Street Char Kway Teow or the first sip of John Wei’s Beware the Seagulls or Daryl’s latest New England IPA, or even one of Casey’s quirky yeast experiments.
The sensory value of that single pint can never be replicated by one or even numerous towers of commercial lager
If it helps you come to terms with what it costs to enjoy genuine craft beers in Singapore, which are flavorful, robust beers churned out by small, independent breweries, then consider this. A measure of craft beer is meant to be enjoyed as a quality product. Craft beers are not and were never created to be a volume product. Taking the full measure of a well-balanced craft beer is all about sequentially sampling the beer as it breathes and slowly warms, allowing the different textures, flavors, and aromas to parade past your senses in a languorous cabaret. So while a full pint of a barrel-aged ale may cost the same as a tower of the national lager, the sensory value of that single pint can never be replicated by one or even numerous towers of commercial lager. The Geek’s just saying that a pint of craft deserves as much attention as a snifter of Calvados, a properly mixed Old Fashioned, a short pungent Robusto, or an expertly extracted single-origin pour-over of Yergacheff.
All the Geek is suggesting is that there is more than ample nascent brewing talent in Singapore, and the next time you find yourself enjoying a pint of Made in Singapore, which these days is more often than not, then maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to pay what’s fair or even a little more, and allow time to slow and expand as you allow all your senses to luxuriate in this offering teeming with flavor and aroma. This is the Geek’s idea of mindfulness, and if you’re not a better person for it, then at least this would’ve been a demonstration of solidarity, Lion City Spirit, and support for Independent Singapore!
*local term of endearment for craft beer aficionado