Tiger Beer’s Journey from Grain to Gold (or Spinning Mediocrity as Sacrosanct Nectar)

Tiger Brewery Tour

By Brian Spencer

The Anheuser Busch Brewery tour in St. Louis, MO, has the Budweiser Clydesdales horses. In Amsterdam, the Heineken Experience thrusts you into a vibrating “Brew U Ride” that traces the journey of its beer from fermentation to delivery. Magic Hat, in Burlington, VT, offers crunchy hippie tour guides with nose rings.

In Singapore, The Ultimate Tiger Brewery Experience has… well, it has Fred, an enthusiastic corporate stand-in who narrates a short video detailing the Tiger beer brewing, bottling, and shipping process. Here’s the hil-arious twist to Fred’s otherwise straight-man presentation: during the video he asks the live tour guide questions, pauses for his answers, then answers the tour guide back — even though he’s in the video! Oh, Tiger Brewery… what will you think of next?

Tiger, of course, is the Singaporean equivalent of Budweiser in the US, Leo in Thailand, and Heineken in the Netherlands, which is fitting since the latter now controls Asia Pacific Breweries, producer of Tiger beer. Unlike Heineken, however, Tiger is a perfectly drinkable, straightforward lager, one that in 1998-99 even took home a gold medal in the Brewing Industry International Awards’ “International Lager” category.  It’s the beer for beer drinkers who just want to drink a beer. It’s the everyday lubricant of Uncle Tan, a Singaporean equivalent of Joe Six Pack.

Tiger Brewery, located in what’s considered the far Siberian netherworld of Singapore known as the West Coast, is reachable by public transit slog (MRT to the bus), but a journey here is best taken and considerably shortened by taxi. Over 1 million bottles and some 960,000 cans of Tiger beer are produced daily in Asia’s first fully automated system; this may help explain the beer’s complete lack of personality. Tours are held six times daily between 10am and 5pm Monday to Friday, cost S$16 per person, and include a 45-minute “beer appreciation session” (read: as much beer as you can pour down your gullet in the allotted time limit) at the conclusion.

Vintage Tiger Beer Memorabilia

As mass beer-producing brewery tours go, Tiger mostly colors within the well-defined lines. The inoffensive 45-minute wave of sugar-coated propaganda begins in the slick visitor centre, where you’ll watch a forward-thinking promotional video, hear about some of the awards Tiger has racked up over the years, and can see the progression of Tiger’s labeling and memorabilia via a display case filled with vintage bottles, playing cards, coasters, and trays. From there you’ll visit an outdoor kiosk for a hazy rundown on the ingredients used in Tiger beer — the hops come from Europe and the United States, which is like saying the wine came from France — and then it’s into the sweltering brewhouse for a brief description of the facilities.

Tip: You will be drenched in sweat by the time you leave the brewhouse, so dress accordingly. My hunter-green polo was an unfortunate choice: though everybody was soaked and everybody knew it, the sideways glances cast in my direction, after departing the space, meant I was designated as the embarassing sweaty pig of the bunch.

The video featuring Fred and shiny, happy APB employees follows a courtyard photo-taking opportunity, and then it’s on to the Packaging Gallery, the last stop before the 45-minute free flow in Tiger Tavern. Here you can make like Laverne and Shirley (ugh, sorry) by pulling defective bottles off a digital Tiger beer assembly line, ogle the evolution of Tiger draft taps, and take part in a live demonstration on how to serve a perfect Tiger beer. (Volunteers keep their poured beer.)

Tiger Tavern

With its low, wood-beamed ceiling, leather upholstery, and dark mahogany tables and cabinets, Tiger Tavern is a cozy, decidedly masculine space modeled after a traditional Irish pub. It’s one of the few places I’ve been to in Singapore with decent background music (Radiohead instead of Adele? Gasp!), and it very much felt like a real bar, from the pool table right down to a skeezy bartender hitting on two free spirits twentysomething American girls in our tour group. Full glasses of Tiger and Heineken are inclusive, while other brands in the APB family, including Baron’s Strong Brew, ABC Extra Stout, Anchor, and craft brewery Archipelago are available in smaller tasting glasses. You’ll have to pony up an extra S$6 for each 300 – 568ml pour of such premium beers as Guinness, Kilkenny, Erdinger, Kirin, and Bulmers cider.

Is it worth the trek? 

Yes, though considering the fairly remote location, even with a 45-minute beer buffet the S$16 admission fee should be cut down to S$10, if not waved entirely. Then again, superstars like Fred don’t come cheap.

The Ultimate Tiger Brewery Experience is located at 459 Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim, Singapore. Tours are available Monday – Friday at 10am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm, 4pm, and 5pm; visit Tiger Brewery Tour for more information and to make advance reservations.

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