Thirst for craft beers in Singapore on the rise
Rising interest has led to more licensed microbreweries
After trying a craft beer during a scuba diving trip in Bali, Mr Francis Khoo fell in love.
In 2015, he opened microbrewery Little Island Brewing Co in Changi Village, offering about 15 craft beers brewed on site.
"What I like about craft beers is that they have a hoppier flavour and more body than mass-produced beers," he said.
The number of licensed microbreweries here has risen, from 12 in 2013 to 21 last year.
There is growing interest from Singaporeans, with businesses here telling The New Paper they have seen more customers over the years.
Craft Brew Asia, an interest group that holds tasting events and brewing classes, has about 200 members now. When it started in 2004, it had only "a handful".
For Mr Khoo, 50, good ingredients and quality set such beers apart from those produced by mainstream brands.
He said: "For craft beer, we import and use a lot of ingredients like barley, wheat and different varieties of hops from countries like the UK, which is expensive. Some mass-produced beers and lagers may add rice instead of barley as a cheap substitute to get fermentable sugar."
Mr Kevin May, 31, general manager of Neptune Marine Pacific,visits Little Island at least twice a week to indulge in a few pints of craft beer.
He said: "I like that the craft beers are unique. It is also nice that you get to see the brewing process on site as opposed to picking up something off the supermarket shelf that doesn't seem to have a story behind it."
Unique flavours are another distinguishing factor.
Mr Khoo said: "With craft beers, anything is possible. People can put in wood chips, exotic fruits, herbs - ingredients that you normally can't get in mass-produced beers."
Over at LeVeL 33, the world's highest microbrewery on the 33rd storey of Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1, the range of craft beer takes on unique and seasonal flavours.
These include the Bohemian Pilsner, inspired by the first pilsner developed in 1842 in the city of Pilsen in the Czech Republic, and Oaked Bock Beer, matured in French oak, recreating the taste of traditional beer in wooden barrels.
LeVel 33 head brewmaster Gabriel Garcia, 37, agreed that the beer-drinking crowd in Singapore has been evolving.
"Singaporeans travel a lot... When they are exposed to craft beers overseas, they come back and look for that. They are a propelling factor of the dining and drinking scene here," he said.
LeVeL 33, which is in its eighth year of operations, currently has about 14,000 customers a month.
Growing interest has attracted some overseas breweries to set up shop here.
Famous for unique flavours such as Cherry Ruby (cherry beer) and Green Piece (seaweed beer), Beerfest Brewery & Restaurant is an international chain of restaurants that was brought into Singapore in October 2014.
Mrs Natalia Shaptalova, personal assistant to Beerfest director Sergei Polianskii, said there has been a 10 per cent to 15 per cent increase in customers each year since the launch.