The most important thing to know is that you will never go to OBar NUS, unless you happen to live in or near Clementi, a largely residential area functioning as the informal border between Singapore Proper and The Dubious Netherworld of Heartland Singapore. You’ll never go there, because visitors rarely take a westbound train to a bus, then walk another 10 minutes from the bus stop, all to visit a dive bar surreptitiously located on a college campus.
You’ll never go there, because though OBar is one of only a fistful of bars in Clementi — home to a rapidly growing expat population and no less than five adult educational institutions, including National University of Singapore and Singapore Polytechnic International — even Clementians don’t go there, mostly because many Clementians don’t know that it exists. As OBar is the only bar on NUS campus open to its nearly 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students, one would reasonably assume that the kids, at least, pack it nightly, like they would at any campus bar offering twentysomething-friendly distractions like electronic dart boards, and free karaoke in 10 languages, and, you know, beer — but no. OBar doesn’t draw many students, either.
Maybe it’s because most students assume they’re not welcome, understandable since for a time OBar was exclusive to staff, and because the building in which OBar is located is stamped with “STAFF CLUB” in big letters above the main entrance. Maybe it’s because Singapore college students don’t drink quite like their counterparts do in, say, the United States. Oh, I’m sure some booze plenty here, but there’s a gargantuan gap between the well-ingrained collegiate drinking culture of the US and that of decidedly modest Singapore.
You’ll never go to OBar NUS, because though I live within walking distance, more than 1.5 years went by before I finally wandered in — and even then, it took a visit from Stone Brewing Co. co-founder Greg Koch at what turned out to be a raucous launch party to get me there. I didn’t go, because for some I reason I thought it was an oxygen bar. It’s not an oxygen bar. Thank god.
OBar NUS is, improbably, a karoake craft beer bar with brews from the well-respected likes of Stone, Rogue Ales, and other American microbreweries flowing from up to four taps (and I hear there may be additional taps added in the near future). In a place where imported craft on tap is still relatively scarce, that it’s even available here is a miracle on par with Lazarus rising from the dead (and looking as one would expect); that it’s served for just S$8 a pint (about US$6) from 4pm – 7pm daily, and all night long on Sundays, is nothing short of Dwight Howard learning about condoms. This is easily the island’s best running deal on quality craft beer.
Related: Five of Singapore’s Best Beer Bars
Of course, you’ll still never go there, especially when you learn that the design could not be described as “modern industrial,” or “Brooklyn cool,” or “defined by its exposed brick.” When you picture OBar NUS, picture a dark room lit by beer refrigerators and flashing, multi-colored lights mounted along the bar. Picture barren walls painted flat white, a large KTV screen, a jumble of couches, black tables with black bar stools, and two electronic dart boards. Consider what it would sound like to hear the slightly inebriated wailing plaintive Mandarin and Cantonese pop ballads at maximum volume, over and over and over again. (I enjoy that bit.)
Picture a bar that is uncool in every way possible, except for the beer menu, and you’re picturing OBar Nus. It does, however, have a beautifully framed figs print just outside the entrance.
You will never go to OBar — but you really should. It’s a lovely little dive.
OBar NUS is located at 30 Lower Kent Ridge Rd., on National University of Singapore campus. Open until 1am.
More Places I Like to Drink in Singapore:
+ Smith Street Taps (Serving craft beers on draft at a Chinatown hawker centre)
+ JiBiru Japanese Craft Beer Bar (Japanese microbrews in an open-air courtyard)
+ Mohican Pub (An Indian-themed Indian bar in Little India — but not that kind of Indian)
+ Brewerkz Taphouse (The pleasant Dempsey Hill outpost of local microbrewery Brewerkz)
+ The Great Beer Experiment (Off-the-beaten-path craft beer shop/bar at PasarBella Market)
+ LeVeL33 (The highest urban craft brewery in the world)