Beerfest takes place this weekend, from 13 to 16 June. We're gearing up for a boozy weekend (or week, if you've seen the one we've been having), and getting our bellies ready for the 400 types of beer at the outdoor festival.
We were given a box of approximately 16 beers to taste ahead of Beerfest Asia. We also got to taste an additional 34 beers, courtesy of more than a few good beer suppliers and Daniel Goh of The Good Beer Company. Thank goodness for the second batch – our view of Beerfest would otherwise be skewed to sickeningly sweet Qoo-like Taiwanese sparkling juices before we even set foot into the festival.
There are 406 types of beers available at Beerfest, and you won’t have the time (or liver) to try them all. So use your time – and beer dollars – wisely: we’ve organised this gallery in the order of booth numbers to make it easy for you to work your way through the festival.
Before you start, take note: the right way to taste beers, Goh (pictured, right, with Dave Bonighton, chief brewer and co-founder of Mountain Goat Brewery) revealed, is different from that of wine tasting – you have to first smell the beers, then take a mouthful of the liquid (enough to coat the entire tongue), and you must swallow. "The key to [differentiating] beer is [through] its bitterness at the back of the throat," says Goh. So swallow you should. If you aren’t able to taste these beers at Beerfest Asia, The Good Beer Company (Address: 335 Smith Street, #02-58 Chinatown Complex | Tel: 94302750) and Brewers’ Craft (Address: #01-191, Blk 354 Clementi Ave 2 | Tel: 98152613) would have them. If you're only looking to buy the bottles home to savour slowly, 99 Bottles (Address: 217 East Coast Road, TIDES #02-08 | Tel: 94302750 | Opening hours: Fri 6.30-9pm; Sat & Sun 1-8pm) would be the place to get them.
Also make sure you line your stomachs with food before you start drinking. You wouldn't want to end up having to resort to these. The salt and pepper prawns (pictured, $18) from Yang Ji 194 (next to The Good Beer Company) go really well with the bacon beer that's coming up in this gallery.
CRITICS’ PICK* | BEST FOR SINGAPORE WEATHER | Mountain Goat Steam Ale* and Hightail Ale | Rogue Merchants (Booth B2) | Perfect for our humid weather: the cool-fermented German style Steam Ale has floral and "smashable" qualities that make it easy and light to drink. "Steam Ale can be an extremely underrated beer – it’s really good for our climate," said Goh. The Hightail Ale is maltier, with caramel notes. "Ride in to our brewery on a bicycle for the first time, and your first beer is on us," promises Dave Bonighton, chief brewer and co-founder of Mountain Goat Brewery in Victoria, Australia. It wasn’t just the good beers that won us over, the championing of sustainable and "organic" in its chain of operations made a difference, too.
BREWED FOR THE TROPICS | Mountain Goat India Pale Ale | Rogue Merchants (Booth B2) | These guys also make a series of beers called “Rare Breeds” (one-off and seasonal) and “Cross Breeds” (collaborations between Mountain Goat and guest brewers/breweries). This is a Rare that became popular, and so was turned into a permanent brew – and no wonder the India Pale Ale is fruity, with passionfruit and pineapple notes at the top, and leaves a bitter taste at the end.
FOR THE PREMIUM PALE ALE| Hawthorn Witbier and Premium Pale Ale | Rogue Merchants (Booth B2) | We're not a fan of the cloudy, straw-coloured Witbier's (pictured, left) cardboard aroma (from the coriander, perhaps?), astringency and dry finish, but the Premium Pale Ale's (pictured, middle) qualities of spicy and fruity-floral, with its non-lingering aftertaste agree very well with us.
FOR A WAKE-ME-UP | Coldstream Apple Cider | Rogue Merchants (Booth B2) | This, we were told, is an entry-level cider, and it's clear why: all the obvious qualities of a cider are pronounced in this light-coloured, almost clear, brew – sharp, carbonated (lightly), mildly floral and easy to down. This'll wake us up on a hot, humid day. It won’t be gentle, but it’d be a pleasant way to wake.
COMPLEX OPPOSITES | Hitachino Nest Weizen and White | Eastern Craft (Booth B4) | The Weizen (pictured, left) is a wheat beer with some floral notes, mixed with that of ripe bananas (fermentation from the yeast). It's not too astringent, which makes it easy to drink, and is made in the same German style as the Erdinger beers, which makes it vastly different from the White (pictured, middle). The Belgian-style White is more complex and herbal – these qualities are stronger at the cup of the tongue – with a slight bitterness at the end.
THE SILENT KILLER | Hitachino Nest Red Rice | Eastern Craft (Booth B4) | "Wolf in sheep's clothing," was the summary one of us gave to this 7 per cent abv beer (pictured, right) that does not reveal its true make-up until you taste the kick of alcohol when you finish swallowing. Brewed Belgian pale ale style, it's also fruity up front, so you think it's lighter than it actually is. Beware, it's made with fermented Koji rice, which is what is fermented to brew sake.
BEST FOR NOVELTY DRINKERS | Kinshachi Chocolate Draft | Eastern Craft (Booth B4) | "Is it a stout?" we asked. No, the Kinshachi Chocolate Draft (pictured, left) is a lager, and a very dark one at it, though not as bitter as the colour had us expecting it to be. It's heady with the sweet smell of milk-dark chocolate, but it tastes like iced mocha without the milk. This will be wonderful with ice cream to make an affogato or a beer float. Does Beerfest Asia have an ice cream truck? They should.
BEST SOUTHEAST ASIAN CIDER | Albens | Eastern Craft (Booth B4) | You would never have thunk this cold-filtered apple-based cider (pictured, right) hails from Bali, especially when you’ve tasted the dirt-like wines from this neighbouring Island of Gods. Albens (pictured, right) is the complete opposite: mellow floral notes lead into mildly acidic sips. So laid back; so Balinese.
A BITTERSWEET BEER | Birra del Borgo Extra Re Ale | The Drinking Partners (Booth B5) | This amber-coloured beer has a mild bitter, slightly peppery finish, though it starts off sweet and fruity with notes of grapefruit and bitter orange. We’re on the fence about this one. Daniel it though.
DUMB BLOND | St Feuillien Blond and Bruin | The Drinking Partners (Booth B5) | "With this Blond (pictured, right), I feel like I'm dancing in a flower field in Holland. Then you realise it's actually mud,” said one among us. We all nodded in agreement: the lemon barley front notes hit, and then, a murkied fizzle followed. Disappointing.
STRONG BRUIN-ETTE | St Feuillien Bruin | The Drinking Partners (Booth B5) | The Bruin (pictured, right), however, is the exact opposite – strong, dark, with the aroma of sarsaparilla. It's well-balanced, malty with a herbal sweetness in the middle, and slightly more carbonation. As Goh puts in layman terms for us: "It's carbonated because the yeast eats up the sugars and then they 'fart' a lot. That's when the CO2 is released."
SWEET SWEET SPICY GINGER | Crabbie's Ginger Beer with Spiced Orange and Ginger Beer (Original) | The Drinking Partners (Booth B5) | You can't really taste the alcohol beneath the intense sweetness and aggressive bubbles of these Scottish beers. Though the spiciness is tamer in the Original (pictured, left) than the Spiced Orange (pictured, right), we prefer the latter for its complementing citrus addition.
FOR EASY CHUGGING | Magic Hat #9 Not Quite Pale Ale | The Drinking Partners (Booth B5) | We smell fresh apricots – less intense than ripened, dried apricots in this Magic Hat flagship brew (pictured, middle). This easy-chugging “not quite pale ale” Vermont brew is what New York university grads drink. We wish our local selection was more like this – fun, fruity, unconventional.
NEW | CRITICS’ PICK | BACON BEER - NEED WE SAY MORE? | Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale | Beerstyle Distribution (Booth B6) | You'd want to get to this one early as it is a limited edition. Even for Beerfest Asia, the beer distributors are only able to bring a few (if we're lucky) cases in. The spiced maple and smokiness of the bacon swirl around to vie (gently) for the drinker's attention, leading up to a bitter, but comforting end. It also whets up an appetite: this not-too-savoury-smelling beer had us craving pork dumplings, buns, even carrot cake. Proves the adage that bacon does taste good with everything.
FOR EPIC SHARING | Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic | Beerstyle Distribution (Booth B6) | This has been a long time coming. There are 12 of these Vertical Epic beers produced by Californian brewery, Stone, and each subsequent brew is produced one year, one month, and one day after the last. The 12.12.12 ale (pictured, second from right) is the final in the series; the first was 02.02.02. The entire series should be savoured as a flight, though we only managed this one (no complaints - Christmas came early!); it’s an incredibly complex brown, almost black, beer, with aromas of cardamom, star anise, cinnamon and dark toffee and molasses. We like it really cold, although the suggestion is to let it warm up in the glass a little for the roasted malts and baking spices to come through. If a fruit cake could be a beer, this would be it.
FOR A SWEET TASTE OF SUMMER BERRIES | Cheeky Rascal Apple Cider and Summerberry Cider | Jobber (Booth B13) | So rebellious are these ciders that both the Apple Cider and the Summerberry turn out very sweet and highly acidic. The Apple Cider (pictured, middle) tastes like fizzy apple juice (Granny Smith and Pink Lady, to be exact), while the Summerberry (pictures, left) reminds us of drinking liquified strawberry jam, with a hint of pear. Not that that's a bad thing: "You can actually taste the summer berries bouncing around," a happy taster commented.
ALSO GOOD FOR SINGAPORE WEATHER | Matso’s Pearler’s Pale Ale, Ginger Beer and Mango Beer | Jobber (Booth B13) | These Australian beers are well suited to our climate. While the Pearler's Pale Ale is full and summery with malt, the cloudy-looking Ginger Beer (pictured, right) is the "beer version of the teh alia (ginger tea)" because of its strong ginger aroma and small, sharp bubbles. The Mango Beer (pictured, middle) reminds us of a black mango tea made with a pulpy, sweet, fat mango. The "tea" has a little bit more astringency (that's the hops communicating), with a floral top note, sweet middle, and a bitter end.
GOOD FOR DESERT DRINKING | Matso’s Lime Cider with Wild Ginger | Jobber (Booth B13) | The spine of this slightly unruly, spicy-sweet cider (pictured, left) is the same wild ginger emulsion that goes into their Ginger Beer. The desert limes (sourced from the Australian Outback) actually softens the drink, rounding out the crispness of the cider. It’s an expected dry finish.
DON'T TRY THIS ALONE | Matso's Chilli Beer | Jobber (Booth B13) | A little sip burns a long way. The warm sensation stirred up in the back of your throat is almost immediate, and it intensifies, proving it's potent stuff. We had to really cleanse our palates to be able to drink the other beers after drinking this one, and that was only two sips! Proceed with caution, and don't spill it or rub your eyes. That said, we imagine pairing steaming mussels with this to be extremely delicious. The roast pork and chilli sauce was a little much on the throat after the beer, though.
NEW AT BEERFEST, BUT DON’T BOTHER | Obolon Premium Lager Beer, Okasamytove (Deep Velvet) and Magnat | ABT Group (Booth B14) | These Ukrainian beers aren’t quite our type: while the bitter Premium (pictured, second from right) has an almost bland taste achieved by using rice in the brewing process (one likened it to the snake grass drink – a traditional Chinese herbal drink), the Velvet (pictured, second from left), a dark beer, garnered “essence of chicken” in its comments. “I wouldn’t finish it, but this watered down Kilkenny is interesting,” commented another. The Magnat got off easier, registering “average tasting” and “light and easier on the palate.”
BEST FOR FATHERS | 8wired’s iStout and Superconductor | Ten Green Bottles (Booth B17) | We're surprised the iStout (pictured, far left) has not been sued by Apple yet. Though with its liquid state and kopi o kosong (hawker speak for “black coffee, with no sugar or milk”) colour, it is hardly a contender for the Macs. This one's a big beer that's sweet at the beginning, bitter at the finish and very complex and herbal all around. The Superconductor (pictured, second from left) is equally, if not more, loud: this (rare) double IPA has a lot more malt, with strong caramel notes. The bitterness also intensifies with every sip, as does the warmth of its caramel notes. Pop would love this.
BITTER BEERS | Feral Golden Ace and India Pale Ale | Ten Green Bottles (Booth B17) | While the Golden Ace’s bitterness overpowers the lemon, spice and apples, the tea-like India Pale Ale (pictured, left) is fruity with a white grape aroma, and a little astringent. The hops stand out in the middle of these sips with its bitterness. We’re not big fans, but will take it if the queue is short.
NEW, BUT USE THIS AS DETERGENT | Stiegl Grapefruit Radler | Summer Zest Food & Beverage Management (Booth B18) | This carbonated grapefruit juice doppelganger hits you squarely in the nose with its citrus aroma, but that’s where the pleasantries end: we got comments that range from “like Lucozade” and “What is the point of 2.5 per cent abv alcohol?” to “tastes slimy, like I have not brushed my teeth in years. Ugh.”
BEST FOR A ROAST LAMB | La Socarrada | Eastern Craft Trading Pte Ltd (Booth number to be confirmed) | This Spanish triple malt craft rosemary beer reminds us of Christmas, with its rosemary, honey and subtle ginger notes. It's a really dry one which we'd like to marinate a leg of lamb with; pour it over the garlic-studded meat and let it juice up in the oven. Take this one home for us, will you.
ARTIFICIAL-TASTING SPARKLING JUICES | Sweet Touch Taiwan Lychee, White Grape, Green Apple | Kaimay (Booth R5) | These are the ones that taste like Qoo – light Qoo, bitter Qoo, bad Qoo, Qoo Qoo. The entire range smells artificial, like the flavours you find in Japanese gummy sweets. One of our commenters said, "This is Fuji Apple what!" What we’d like to know is how in the world these became classified as 'beers'?
DON’T CALL A JUICE A BEER | Taiwan Fruit Beer Grape, Orange, Pineapple and Mango | Kaimay (Booth R5) | "Cocktail syrup!" "Air freshener!" "Bad Orangina, but at least it tastes like something!" and "Ribena gone stale," are the comments our tasters scribbled down (in annoyance). After a while, all of these tasted the same. One even commented that little kids would love this – but why would little kids be the target market for a beer company?
MEH. | Gold Medal Taiwan Beer | Kaimay (Booth R5) | Was this beer (pictured, middle) separated at birth from Chang beer?
So we are not big fans of the Taiwanese beers, and clearly love us some bacon, chocolate, rosemary and complex craft beers. We do hope you're as excited about Beerfest as we are, and hope that you'll discover some of our favourite beers and ciders, and more, at Beerfest Asia 2013 when you win some of these tickets. After all, 50 beers is only an-eighth of the selection of the beers that will be available at Beerfest Asia. See you at Beerfest!