By Brian Spencer
Oh, sure, expect scads of beer-guzzling lunatics at Beerfest Asia, the biggest annual booze festival in Southeast Asia this year held from June 13 – 16 at Singapore’s Marina Promenade. Their cups will be filled with a smile from the Fountain of Inoffensive Mediocrity flowing from the Asia Pacific Breweries tent, where the island’s Alcohol Overlord will plow its obsequious masses with a strong current of semi-affordable Tiger and Guinness and Kilkenny and Heineken beers. It will get a little rowdy, shallow pools of urine will cover the toilet seats, and the rock of Guns ‘n’ Roses, CCR, and Queen cover bands will be supplemented by the sweet-sweet siren song of retching punters.
There’ll be more than 400 beers and ciders from 20+ countries poured in all, plus a fine selection of whiskies and wines. The only thing missing this year, really, is the Duff Beer option:
“It’s like a madhouse for beer lovers, with the completely insane going nuts in the commercial tent whilst those with a degree of sanity seek refuge at the craft beer booths,” says Jeremy Reynolds, director of Eastern Craft Trading and JiBiru Japanese Craft Beer Bar.
Therein lies the genius of Beerfest Asia–it’s more than just a big-top circus for indiscriminate booze hounds. We’re all there for the same reason, of course, but Beerfest’s path to enlightenment does fork. There’s also ample room for, you know, beer
snobs sophisticates like me to pretend that we’re above the fracas as we sip small-batch beers, civilized and discerning, and pontificate with slurry-speeched sagacity about flavor profiles and dry hops and roasty finishes.
“For me, it’s an event where work and play come together well, and where creative minds can talk about more creative brewing,” says Andrew Wee, executive director of Trilogies of Beers and Moa Brewing Company, New Zealand Bar & Grill, the latter a chic showcase space for Moa beers that, due to its location near Changi Airport, is perfect for those looking to spend a long layover savoring non-pasteurized craft beers brewed in Marlborough, NZ.
Moa will be one of the more well-represented breweries this year, with four beers on tap–Pale Ale, Original, Blanc, and St. Joseph–and more than five additional brews poured by the bottle, including their fruity Breakfast and Belgian-style Blanc Evolution. Reynolds says that Eastern Craft will be flying the Hitachino Nest flag–look out for the Japanese microbrewery’s debut of their new Mandarin Orange IPA on draft.
Additional Beerfest Asia Highlights:
– Raymond Lee from iBrew, Singapore’s only full-service homebrewing shop, will be on hand to discuss the art of brewing your own beer and to show off his new half-sized Coopers Beer starter kits. “A lot of people think the 23-liter kit is too big, so recently I got smaller fermenters that are exactly half the size of the regular ones,” he says. “Now those people whose house is too small or who are not ready to commit to 23 liters can instead do a half batch.” Kits come with all the necessary supplies–bottles, spoons, hydrometer, etc–and iBrew stocks nearly 20 different mixes, including a stout, Australian pale ale, Canadian wheat, and sparkling ale.
– I’ll be camping out at the booth for American craft beer importers BeerStyle Distribution, whose impressive lineup of microbreweries features Anderson Valley, Victory, Lagunitas, Deschutes, and Ninkasi. They’ll also serve 11 from Stone Brewing Co. (I hear the Espresso Imperial Russian Stout is particularly luscious) and 10 from Rogue Ales, including their conversation-starting Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale.
– TSA Wines is bringing six beers from Evil Twin Brewing (one of my personal favorites) and more than 25 beers from Scottish microbrewery BrewDog, including their heavy-hitting Tokyo imperial stout (18.2% ABV), Ghost Deer strong ale (28% ABV), and TNP double-imperial stout (32% ABV).
– Jobber and Rogue Merchants are in total bringing some 25 beers from such new-to-me Australian microbreweries as Hawthorn Brewing Company, Holgate Brewhouse, and Matso.
Whether it’ll be your first or fifth time at the event, Reynolds and Wee have some practical advice for making the most of it. “Make sure you visit all corners of the festival early, before the alcohol kicks in,” says Reynolds. “I’ve met so many people in previous years who never knew certain areas or exhibitors existed, even though they visited on more than one day!”
Ever pragmatic, Wee also suggests getting the full lay of the land. “Take things easy the first two hours, eat well, and allow yourself to soak in the atmosphere,” says Wee. “Drinking too fast would make the evening uncomfortable, kneeling in front of the toilet altar.”
All photos courtesy of Beerfest Asia.