Beerfest draws thirsty crowds

Craft cider specialist The Mad Tapper had 20 ciders on offer.
Craft cider specialist The Mad Tapper had 20 ciders on offer.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Even with the sweltering, humid weather and road closures, nothing was going to stand between beer lovers and their ice-cold tipples.

In the first three days of the annual Beerfest Asia starting last Thursday, some 27,000 people trooped down to the Marina Promenade.

Another 5,000 people were expected yesterday, when the festival closed at 10pm, making visitor numbers on a par with last year's festival.

This year, they got to pick from 400 different beers, of which more than 100 are new to the festival. These included Japanese beers such as a pale ale from the Hida Takayama brewery.

The event, which is now in its seventh edition, is 80 per cent owned by Sphere Exhibits, a subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings. Its partner is music lifestyle company Timbre Group.

Craft cider specialist The Mad Tapper proved to be a popular draw, with many queuing to try the 20 ciders on offer. Quirky flavours include ciders mixed with beers hops.

The Mad Tapper's co-owner Jasmin Wong, 24, says that the five-month-old company's first outing at Beerfest Asia has been good, given the crowds which have been coming by to try new flavours.

She said: "Craft ciders are a huge trend in America now and it's starting to take off here. Beerfest visitors have been open to trying something new."

Festivalgoers who wanted to sample the various flavours without having to chug through bottles could also opt for sampling portions from some of the booths for the first time at Beerfest Asia. Between 50ml and 70ml of certain drinks were served up at these booths and cost $1 to $2 each.

Epicurean Nomads, a premium Japanese artisanal sake and craft beer outfit, was doing brisk business with its "omakase selection" of beers, which cost $12 for five 50ml portions.

This was the second time that the brand took up a booth at the event and was selling 19 types of beer.

Mr Charles Ng, 41, director of Epicurean Nomads said: "It's an opportunity for those who are new to Japanese beer to understand the different brewing styles. The sampling sizes are also good value as they can try many beers, without having to buy an entire bottle they haven't tried before."

But it wasn't just the tipples which excited the crowd. Festivalgoers shuttled between two tents and outdoor spaces to catch live bands, comedy acts and games such as The Great Beerfest Beer Pong Tournament.

First-time festivalgoer Nasha Pestonji, 25, a partnership manager for a non-profit organisation, gave the event two thumbs-ups.

She said: "I'm not a beer drinker, but my husband convinced me to come because he came in previous years and enjoyed it. I've tried some really good beers and the booths have been good at introducing the flavours to a newcomer like me."

However, others rued a smaller festival. There was no whisky and wine lounge, which had been a feature since 2013 and exhibitors - there were more than 30, a number similar to last year - took up smaller booth sizes due to "manpower challenges", said the organisers.

Scriptwriter Mihir Desai, 29, said that this year's festival did not measure up to past editions. "There was definitely more variety last year and it was a lot bigger. The festival should get better every year, given that they have such a strong fanbase, but its standard seems to have gone down instead."

Even so, others were just keen to soak up the atmosphere.

Financial consultant James Ong, 28, who has been to the festival three times, said: "It's where my friends and I have a gathering for a good time. We have some beers and stay through the night."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2015, with the headline 'Beerfest draws thirsty crowds'. Print Edition | Subscribe