By Brian Spencer
Consider this one Singaporean craft beer experiment that’s a resounding success.
The Great Beer Experiment is one of 32 merchants at PasarBella, a swish, Western-style indoor market located in Bukit Timah’s expat-friendly Turf City complex. The market’s Oceans of Seafood restaurant pairs its tempting range of fresh seafood with a select number of bottled craft beers, but TGBE is otherwise PasarBella’s only beer-centric vendor. It’s also one of the market’s signature stalls, at least in the eyes of this beer
snob enthusiast, and reason enough to make the modest trek out to the island’s western half — especially on weekends.
Owned by Singaporean craft beer distributors The Drinking Partners, TGBE stocks anywhere from 120 – 150 different bottled beers at any given time, including Trappist ales from five of the world’s eight remaining beer-brewing monasteries and a few labels from local craft-beer kings Jungle Beer and Brewerkz. The overall selection is an agreeable balance between what the staff themselves like to drink — think beers for beer geeks — and what commonly appeals to the Singaporean palate. To that end, the shop’s top-selling beers are Crabbies Ginger Beer and Magic Hat’s #9; both regularly sell out.
As I say, weekends are generally the best (and busiest) time to visit TGBE and PasarBella on the whole. That’s when the market hosts live music, when food vendors serve weekend-only specialties, and when TGBE tends to have super-rare beers (at least for these parts) flowing on two taps. When I visited for the first time this past May, for example, Goliat Imperial Coffee Stout (To Øl) and Draft Bear Imperial Pilsner (Mikkeller) were both on draft, and since then TGBE has tapped My Antonia (Dogfish Head), Heaven & Earth (De Molen Hemel & Aarde), Dry Hop Thriller (Revelation Cat), and more. Plastic cup pours tend to run $12 – $15 SGD — certainly not cheap, but, well, welcome to Singapore.
Aside from the beers, TGBE earns high marks for its friendly, knowledgeable staff. That’s right, unlike at 95-percent of the bars in Singapore that serve craft beer, the guys and gals here are actually capable of confidently answering questions about a random beer on the shelf (gasp!), and are happy to make recommendations based on which types of beers you normally enjoy (double gasp!). If you’re new to craft beer, or just want to learn more about the beer-making process, the shop also has a few vials packed with different types of hops and barley for demonstrations and sniff tests.
Bottles range from around $7 SGD to just under a half-month’s rent (again, you’re in Singapore), but choose wisely and, if you’re so inclined, you can drink yourself silly for far less than at most of the island’s proper bars. It’s a fairly compact space, with just a few stools surrounding the tap bar and a handful of tables made from old kegs in front of the shop, but the limited seating contributes to a fun, communal vibe and facilitates boozy conversation with a generally laid-back crowd.
Takeaway is also of course an option, and you’re welcome to bring food over from elsewhere in PasarBella; try Le Patio, Five & Spice Kitchen, Nibbles by Rabbit Carrot Gun, or roasted pork belly from Keith & Kin (weekends only).
The Great Beer Experiment is located at stall 46 within PasarBella, 200 Turf Club Road, +65 6469 7291. Sunday – Wednesday 9:30am – 7:30pm, Thursday – Saturday 9:30am – 9:30pm.
More Places I Like to Drink in Singapore:
+ Old Empire (A non-descript pub offering Singapore’s best selection of craft beers)
+ JiBiru Japanese Craft Beer Bar (Japanese microbrews served in an open-air courtyard)
+ Mohican Pub (An Indian-themed Indian bar in Little India — but not that kind of Indian)
+ Taphouse by Brewerkz (A casual, scaled-down showcase for Brewerkz beers at Dempsey Hill)