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When you think about Singapore, images of an idyllic metropolis likely come to mind; maybe the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, the futuristic Gardens by the Bay, or one of the many Michelin star rated restaurants. Perhaps your thoughts go to rooftop bars serving Singapore Slings, alongside the jaw dropping price tag one would expect in the fourth most expensive city in the world. I’d venture a guess that you don’t think about craft beer. You should.

With over a million millennials representing nearly a quarter of the resident population and a reputation for culinary innovation, it fits that Singapore has some of the coolest beer bars and brewery operations Asia has to offer. It’s a match made in brewing heaven.

On a recent stopover, I took some time to explore the Singapore craft beer scene. Here’s a glimpse of what the city has to offer.

Singapore Craft Beer Guide - Level33

Taking Craft Beer To New Heights At LeVeL33

The Concept
Dubbed the “world’s highest urban craft brewery”, LeVeL 33 Craft-Brewery Restaurant & Lounge is situated 33 floors high in a financial tower overlooking the Marina Bay. Panoramic views from the LeVeL33’s wraparound patio impress even the toughest critic, long before the first beer is even poured.

While the lunch time crowd is decidedly corporate, things liven up as the sun goes down, fuelled in part from an extensive wine and beer-cocktail menu. While the team at LeVeL33 identifies themselves as craft brewery first, they are without a doubt the most sophisticated and literally polished craft brewery I’ve ever set eyes on. From the moment you enter past a series of five massive copper brewing kettles, which I’ve been told were quite the engineering feat to install 33 floors up, you know you’re in store for something special.

The Beer
Argentinian born Brewermaster Gabriel Garcia leads a two person brewing team that has crafted five year-round brews along with rotating quarterly seasonals such as an oaked bock beer and a fall pumpkin ale, complete with 60 kg of fresh pumpkin in a 1,000 litre brew. Everything is brewed onsite, served unfiltered and unpasteurized. Garcia, recognizing the at times insane heat of Singapore’s tropical rainforest climate as well as its relatively early stages of development in the global craft context, has kept most brews “light and approachable”. The beers follow a fairly easy to understand naming convention reflecting each beer’s recipe history. The 33.1 Blond Lager represents 40% of their nearly 90,000 litre annual business, and the 33.3 Stout is kept under 5% ABV instead of the much higher amounts expected of traditional North American craft beers. Their local and light twist on beer shandies includes 33.1 Blond Lager and mango juice, or the 33.9 Wheat Beer mixed with grape juice.

Brewing in the midst of a fully functioning restaurant and lounge presents Garcia with some unique challenges. Anyone who has taken a brewery tour or worked in the industry knows a brewery is often very wet, with various kettles and fermenting tanks being washed out with each brew. Garcia does not have that luxury, as a dozen or so servers are constantly passing through his operation. Things within the brewing area are kept immaculate and dry. Large shipments of malt also need to be creatively scheduled as to not interfere with aesthetics or safety for guests. And while I certainly don’t envy that part of his job, being able to tap a fresh keg and enjoy those views ‘at the office’ would be totally worth it.

The Food
While beer is at the forefront, the food at LeVeL33 certainly vies for attention. Dishes such as the forest appetizer featuring seven textures of mushrooms, or the beehive desert featuring a geometric assortment of chocolate and honey are works of art in their own right. Almost intimidatingly so. Executive Chef Jimi Tegerdine works along side the Brewmaster to ensure dishes are expertly paired with the beer or in many cases include beer as an ingredient. My top pick, the burrata cheese appetizer paired with the 33.3 Stout for a brilliant cappuccino like taste in your mouth. Topped with crispy pancetta and charred peach, the burrata is worth committing at least four of the seven deadly sins for in my opinion.

The Verdict
The beer is definitely good, particularly the wheat and bock, but it’s the formidable views and unique upscale vibe that clinch the appeal for locals and travellers alike.

LeVeL33 Craft Brewery, Restaurant & Lounge is located in the Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC) Tower 1, at 8 Marina Blvd. Open 11:30am (12:00 on Sundays) to 11:30pm (extended to 2:00am Thurs-Sat). $9.33-12.33 SGD for 0.3L or $13.33-17.33 SGD for 0.5L craft beer servings. Or opt for the 1L taster of five brews for $22.33 SGD. 

Singapore Craft Beer On Tap in Chinatown’s Hawker Stalls at Smith Street Taps

The Concept
Singapore is famous for both ends of the food spectrum, from high end cuisine to the amazing cheap eats of hawker stalls. Looking to apply the same distinction to beer, the team at Smith Street Taps operates a modest food stall in Chinatown Complex, offering high end craft beer in a low key hawker stall environment. Twelve taps are on rotation at any given time, with news of which beers are pouring posted daily to Facebook and the Untappd app. Brews are predominantly US craft, such as San Diego’s Stone Brewery or Rogue Nation from Oregon. During my recent visit, Ontario’s very own Flying Monkeys Smashbomb Atomic IPA was on offer. There is also a healthy representation from German, English, Japanese, and local Singaporean craft brewers.

The atmosphere at the tables around the stall is exceedingly casual but carries with it a warmth and certain energy capable of putting a traveller at ease. Then again, finding a tasty craft beer can have that effect, no matter what the surroundings. Glassware is an eclectic mix of whatever various breweries will contribute and sign boards noting that day’s beers are scrawled in chalk. Three bodies weave amongst the kegs in the small space, no more than 16 square meters, all with their own beer in hand while serving customers. Smith Street Taps has been written up in several beer and travel publications, with Condé Nast calling it a “favourite low-key hangout”. Despite the accolades, watching and conversing with the team, you’ll still get the feeling that it’s a pretty raw shop fuelled by passion. It’s as craft beer as craft beer gets, without actually brewing it themselves.

The Beer
Now in terms of the beer itself. Tricky. No doubt some of the coolest craft brands around. But realistically, given the route to market from the US or Europe, then through a distributor, the kegs brought into Smith Street Taps are arguably not the freshest. The clock is ticking from the moment they tap the keg. Thankfully, they realize this potential pitfall and kegs are often turned over in just a few days, or even a single night thanks to thirsty demand. Our server, who goes by the name of ‘Auntie’ shared that the tactics employed to ensure quality beer is served ranges from doling out slow moving beer to regular customers as a ‘thank you’, to simply dumping it. They are committed to only selling quality beer. During our visit we had no complaints – though we were partially bummed no free ‘vintage’ beer was on offer that night.

The Affiliation
Located a mere 30 feet away from Smith Street Taps, sister stall The Good Beer Co. offers over 50 different draught and packaged beers, and even a few ciders. So whether you prefer draught or a bottle, you’re sure to find something you’ve never tasted before.

Both operations are heavily involved in Singapore Craft Beer Week, which takes place in August of each year, and regularly play host to visiting brewmasters or ambassadors from craft beer suppliers from around the world. Their respective Facebook pages update regularly with such news.

The Verdict
For the most passionate and least pretentious craft beer conversations, Smith Street Taps wins. Just prepare yourself for the unexpected in terms of beer choice, and in the event you find a favourite, be prepared for it to disappear quickly.

Smith Street operates 6:30-11:30pm, Tuesday through Saturday making it an ideal stop while touring Chinatown’s cheap eats. Located at 335 Smith Street, within Chinatown Complex, unit #02-062. Pints vary from $6-13 SGD each.

Importing Classic Bavarian Recipes And Beer Hall Traditions at Paulaner Bräuhaus

The Concept
When it comes to paying homage to the noble tradition of beer making, we’re all ears. The Bavarian state of Germany has been brewing iconic beer since 800 BC, and Paulaner Bräuhaus is perhaps the perfect embodiment of classic Bavarian brews. Moscow to Jakarta, New York to Beijing. There are over 30 Paulaner Bräuhaus franchises worldwide outside of the original München operation. Paulaner Bräuhaus Singapore stands as the city’s only German microbrewery & restaurant.

Though the recipes and ingredients are primarily from Europe, every drop of beer served at Paulaner Bräuhaus Singapore Millenia Walk is brewed locally. It’s a bit to wrap your head around: German beer recipes, small batch brewed, in downtown Singapore. The novelty, including playing host to Oktoberfest, Maifest, and various other German holidays is part of what draws people in, though the impressive range of beers is capable of bringing them back. I got a good chuckle from seeing an actual 50 foot Maypole centrally located on the second floor dining room of the venue, along with a trophy case containing the local German association’s kitsch.

The Beer
In addition to three year round brews, seasonals are launched two or three times per year, aligning to the aforementioned German festivals. All are brewed according to Reinheitsgebot, which decreed beer could only be made from hops, barley, and water, with yeast added later to the list. As a result, no fancy pumpkin spice ale, raspberry packed rosé, or even a radler can be spotted on the beer menu. No, this is bier. Take it or leave it. But I’m pretty sure you’ll take an unfiltered pint or two.

First up, Munich Lager. Described as “a bright golden brew, full bodied with a smooth taste and a light hops flavour, using Hallertauer Perle hops” and brewed to 5% abv. It’s easy drinking and hits the spot. But the true stars are Munich Dark, with a natural malty flavour stemming from four different types of barley, and my top pick, the Hefe-weissbier. A wit beer, that while delicate in it’s floral notes, packs huge full bodied banana punch. Swoon.

The Food
Keeping in the vein of Bavarian tradition, the food menu at Paulaner Bräuhaus is classic German through and through. Homemade sausages, sauerkraut, and a ‘schnitzel shangri-la menu’ make appearances. Dishes like the beef goulash with homemade egg noodles are seasoned with dark beer. However, the most renowned dish on offer is without a doubt the crispy pork knuckle. Served with gravy and mashed parsley potatoes for $29.80, or on Saturdays along with two pints of your choice of beer for $40 SGD, it’s a feast worthy of the price tag. If you still haven’t had you fill, the glory of warm apple strudel with vanilla ice cream may call your name.

The Verdict
When someone presents you with a platter of assorted homemade sausages and a selection of well paired beers, how can you say anything but Prost? Paulaner Bräuhaus Singapore is worth a visit if you can time your travel during German festivals for a rousing beer experience.

Paulaner Bräuhaus Singapore is located at 9 Raffles Boulevard, #01-01 Millenia Walk. Restaurant open Monday-Saturday 12-2:30pm and 6:30-10:30pm, and 11:30am-2:30pm for Sunday Brunch. The bar is available from restaurant open to 1am Sunday through Thursday, extended to 2am Friday and Saturday. 0.3L pours $13-14, 1L jugs $30-31 SGD, but discounted Buy One Get One Sunday & Monday, or 20% off Tues – Sat noon-8pm. 

Disclosure: While we were dining guests at LeVeL33 Craft Brewery, Restaurant and Lounge, and Paulaner Bräuhaus Singapore, the opinions expressed in this piece are unbiased and entirely our own.

Singapore craft beer photos courtesy of Madeline Burch
LeVeL33 Craft Brewery, Restaurant and Lounge
Flickr: Michaela Loheit

Madeline Burch

Madeline was born and raised in Toronto Canada, educated in marketing, and has worked in brand management and the alcohol industry for nearly a decade. In search of great drinks, stories and photos, she has travelled to South East Asia multiple times and is currently based in Vietnam. From luxe travel to volunteer missions, she’s interested in it all.

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