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Beer festival is back in its 9th edition

On top of enjoying beer and music, festivalgoers at Beerfest Asia can also join masterclasses on how to brew beer

Want to learn how to brew your own beer at home? Or make ice cream or cocktails from unfinished beer?

You can pick up some tips from this year’s Beerfest Asia, an annual festival of beers from around the world.

Next weekend, besides sampling more than 500 beers and ciders, beer enthusiasts will also get to attend masterclasses and workshops by local and international brewers.

Each workshop is 45 minutes long and can hold up to 50 participants. They are free for passholders, but require registration.

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The sessions include a class on how to brew beer at home with master brewer John Wei from local brewer Brewlander, as well as a workshop on how to make ice cream and cocktails from beer waste or wasted beer by microbrewery and restaurant 1925.

There are also tasting sessions, such as the one with New York’s Brooklyn Brewery, where you can try five barrel-aged beers.

Festival director Ian Lim, 35, says they decided to introduce masterclasses this year, after feedback from festivalgoers that they wanted to understand technicalities behind beers and the brewing process.

Now in its ninth edition, the festival, which will be held from Thursday to Aug 20, has also moved to a new location: Marina Bay Cruise Centre.

As for the beers, local craft brewery Archipelago Brewery will be debuting four new beers – brown ale, India Pale Ale (IPA), witbier and craft lager – each with a cheeky Hokkien name derived from national service slang.

For example, Sibeh Ho (which translates to “very good”) is a witbier brewed with Curacao orange peel and coriander, while Tok Gong (“untoppable”) is a citrus aroma-fuelled American IPA.

Archipelago’s assistant business manager Jimmy Wong, 35, says the beers were existing styles that the home-grown brewery has produced over the years, but they wanted to make the brews “connect with locals because most people don’t know we are Singaporebased”.

While nursing an ice-cold pint, visitors can also enjoy a line-up of local bands, cover bands and DJs. Acts include home-grown groups Raw Earth and The Day Trippers as well as tribute bands, namely, Gunners (Guns N’ Roses), Hysteria (Def Leppard) and Slippery When Wet (Bon Jovi).

On the decks are local and international DJs Zig Zach, Brendon P, Haan, KFC, Shigeki and Stephen Day.

Last year, the festival was held at Marina Promenade and drew 32,500 visitors. This year, organisers Sphere Exhibits and United Overseas Bank hope to draw 34,000.

The new location is more adaptable to weather conditions, Mr Lim says, adding: “The combination of indoor and outdoor locations with a great waterfront view makes it an ideal new location for Beerfest.”


Attend beer workshops: Learn to brew beers at home


Brewlander's master brewer John Wei (above) will be conducting masterclasses at Beerfest Asia.PHOTO: DAMIAN OOI

A regular beer homebrewing class, where students are walked through the entire process from understanding malt, hops and yeast to pitching the yeast and washing the equipment, typically takes about six hours.

But Brewlander's master brewer John Wei will give a 45-minute crash course on Aug 20 during Beerfest Asia.

Participants will learn the basics of how beer is made, including an introduction to ingredients and three different ways to start homebrewing.

Mr Wei, 35, started brewing beers at home in 2008, having learnt to do so from books and online forums.

He is now a brewer at Brewlander, a five-month-old "gypsy" brewer. Gypsy brewers do not have their own brewing facilities and produce beers in facilities rented from other breweries. He is also a partner in the company.

The label now produces 35 hectolitres or about 10,000 bottles of each of its beers at a go, at its brewing facility in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, making beer styles such as a double IPA (India Pale Ale) called Courage and a summer ale called Hope.

The workshop will be "kept as simple as possible", he says.

"The goal is for participants to walk away enlightened rather than confused."

Besides the homebrewing workshop, he is conducting another session on famous beer styles of different cities on Thursday.

He says: "I hope everyone will leave with a greater appreciation of how the beer is made and to step out of his comfort zone and try the many different styles of beers out there."

Brewlander's booths at Beerfest Asia will carry a variety of beers, including limited kegs exclusive to the festival.

Try Grace, its kolsch, an ale with characteristics similar to a lager that originated in Cologne, Germany, and has Chinese tea infused in it; or Respect, its porter, which is a dark, full-bodied ale.

Respect will be served the traditional English way - unfiltered and unpasteurised, and straight from the cask.

Anjali Raguraman

•Mr John Wei, master brewer at Brewlander, will speak on Popular Beers Of Famous Brewing Cities on Thursday from 6 to 6.45pm, and conduct a session on Basics Of Beer Making and Introduction To Homebrewing on Aug 20, 2 to 2.45pm. Both sessions take place at Level 2 Function Room, Marina Bay Cruise Centre. Go to www.beerfestasia.com/games_workshop to sign up.


Attend beer workshops: Adding character by barrel- ageing


Joseph Soriero.

While barrel-ageing is typically associated with whisky, rum and wine, beers have also been traditionally aged in wooden barrels to impart flavours to the brew.

With the advent of modern brewing, most beers are now stored in sterile, stainless-steel kegs which do not add any character to the beer while it ages.

Barrel-ageing, however, sees beers placed in old oak barrels used for other spirits, for anywhere from six months to a year or more, before consumption.

New York-based microbrewery Brooklyn Brewery, which is part of the specialist craft brewery movement that champions barrel-ageing beers, will be making its debut at this year's Beerfest Asia.

Brooklyn Brewery's export coordinator Joseph Soriero, 26, explains that American craft brewers began ageing beer in second-hand bourbon barrels in the early 1990s, thanks largely to the surplus of barrels from bourbon distilleries in Kentucky. Legally, bourbon whiskey can be aged only in fresh-charred oak and not used oak barrels.

Brooklyn Brewery started barrel-ageing its beers around 2007. Other than former bourbon barrels, it has also experimented with rum, cognac, white and red wine and Scotch whisky barrels, among others. It plans to use sherry barrels next.

"I'd like to think of barrel-ageing as another ingredient when looking at a beer's composition," says Mr Soriero. "It's a really powerful tool in adding flavour and complexity and can truly transform the beer inside the wood."

Last year, the brewery made a Christmas Beer aged in Islay whisky casks from Scotland that "developed an intense smoke (character) early on".

Generally, stronger-bodied beers such as Imperial Stouts and Strong Belgians "tend to hold up better over time in wood". He adds: "Sours are also a great choice as the low pH and acidity helps the beer maintain its character."

He will conduct tastings on Friday and Aug 19, where participants will get to sample five unique barrel- aged beers from the brewery.

"They will span the history of the brewery's barrel-ageing programme and will explore how fruit, wild yeast, microflora and different varieties of wood can help transform the beer inside the barrel," he says.

The brewery is also showcasing some of its top beers at its Beerfest Asia booth, including the flagship Brooklyn Lager, which will be on draught, along with the Brooklyn East India Pale Ale and Brooklyn Summer Ale. Also check out new additions such as Naranjito Orange Peel Pale Ale and Brooklyn Sorachi Ace Saison.

"Beerfest Asia is a great occasion to pour our favourite beers at the festival, sample a few of our rarest barrel-aged offerings never before poured in South-east Asia and meet Singapore's beer fanatics and local brewers," says Mr Soriero.

Anjali Raguraman

•Mr Joseph Soriero, export coordinator for Brooklyn Brewery, will conduct tastings on barrel-aged beers at Level 2 Function Room, Marina Bay Cruise Centre, on Friday (6 to 6.45pm) and Aug 19 (6 to 6.45pm). Go to www.beerfestasia.com/games_workshop to sign up.


Enjoy live music: Raw Earth go big on the blues


Singapore blues and roots rock band Raw Earth comprise (from far left) Danny Loong, Francis Chan, Ken Lin Hanrong, Victor Chen and Surath Godfrey.PHOTOS: BEERFEST ASIA

Home-grown stalwarts Raw Earth have established themselves as one of the local scene's most prominent blues and roots rock band.

Their line-up includes nightlife veteran Danny Loong on lead guitar, keyboards and vocals, and Francis Chan on bass and vocals.

They are both from now-defunct Universal Blues Band, better known as Ublues, the local outfit that played the same stage as late soul legend James Brown at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia in 2005 and had done gigs at blues joints and festivals worldwide.

The band also comprise singer-guitarist Surath Godfrey, lead guitarist-singer Victor Chen and drummer-singer Ken Lin Hanrong.

Raw Earth have made their mark worldwide with shows at the Byron Bay Bluesfest 2016 as well as regular sets at local nightspots such as Barber Shop by Timbre and Muddy Murphy's.

What kind of a set goes down well with Beerfest?

Danny Loong: We're going to do a tribute set to American blues icon B.B. King, who died in 2015, but we'll also focus on songs from British blues and rock 'n' roll acts.

A big event needs the big sound of British blues bands - they have some anthems that are easily recognisable.

Every time we play Sunshine Of Your Love by Cream or Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones, we get the crowd going. It's very important we get the crowd to sing along.

You have played a lot of gigs over the years. What happens when you forget the lyrics or play the wrong note in a live show?

Loong: It happens to the best of us. The thing to do is just regain your composure, but what's more important is the reaction from the rest of your band members. If they get thrown off, then the audience senses it.

I'm very fortunate to have band members who are very kind and we are very close as a band.

When anything happens, we give one another a smile and a wink and we carry on with the show.

It's rock 'n' roll. You try not to make mistakes, but when you do, we support one another.

What was your most unforgettable show?

Loong: This was when I was playing with Ublues. We travelled to Memphis in the United States to enter a blues competition in 2003 and we were the first band from Asia to compete.

We didn't get to the finals, but the owner of the bar that ran the competition asked us if we wanted to play a few sets there the next day. We played three sets. That was mind- blowing.

Playing a gig in Memphis was beyond anything I can imagine. As a young Asian man trying to play the blues, nothing beats being appreciated at the place where the blues were created.

It made me more determined to stay with music and play for as long as I can.

Eddino Abdul Hadi


Enjoy live music: Relive Guns N' Roses


Australian tribute band Gunners, comprising (from far left) Danny Torre, Lindsay Stronach-Bates, Sal Abate, Michael Burke and Paul Judge, will be playing the hits by hard rock icons Guns N' Roses and dressing like them.

It is no stretch to say that American rock icons Guns N' Roses have a huge following in Singapore - their concert here in February drew 50,000, one of the largest gig audiences here.

Fans hankering to hear live renditions of tunes such as Welcome To The Jungle and November Rain can relive that heady gig with a performance by Australian tribute band Gunners at Beerfest Asia 2017.

The five members take on the roles of Guns N' Roses' classic 1980s Appetite For Destruction line-up: singer Sal Abate is Axl Rose, lead guitarist Lindsay Stronach-Bates is Slash, guitarist Michael Burke is Izzy Stradlin, bassist Paul Judge is Duff McKagan and drummer Danny Torre is Steven Adler.

Have you had fans mistake you for the real Guns N' Roses members?

Lindsay Stronach-Bates/Slash: Sometimes it's like people forget you're not really that band. We've had people run up to us, excited with our gig posters and Sharpie in hand, screaming to autograph it.

What do we write? Lindsay Slash Stronach-Bates? "Slash" Lindsay? It can get funny. But we never say no.

It's no different from any original band. You always remind yourself that you're there to entertain them and if they want a little piece of you afterwards, then give it to them. Within reason.

What does it take to become Guns N' Roses on stage? What kind of preparations do you all have to do to be as authentic as possible?

Stronach-Bates: Each of us would have a different answer for that one, but we all take it very seriously.

Aesthetically speaking, we all prepare well in advance for shows and we have all carefully examined the clothing styles and stage moves of our respective various Guns N' Roses members.

It's a very energetic show. We like to party after the shows too. You can't be in a Guns N' Roses tribute and not have some of that spirit rub off on you.

Going home to bed afterwards just doesn't feel right.

Why Guns N' Roses? What is it about the band and their music that inspire tribute bands such as Gunners?

Stronach-Bates: Guns N' Roses were, in their prime, the most rebellious, offensive, dangerous and coolest rock band out there.

Their videos would appear on morning music shows and stand out far beyond anything else that was around at the time, and they still do.

Their music has it all - melody, chops, great musicianship and drama.

They really were a lightning in a bottle moment that has stood the test of time and that is what appeals to us and millions of other people.

Eddino Abdul Hadi


Muay thai fighter with a taste for house


DJ Zig Zach. 

Singaporean DJ Zig Zach has entertained electronic music fans and clubbers in local joints such as Kyo, festivals such as ZoukOut and Ultra Singapore as well as regionally in cities such as Bangkok, Bali, Hong Kong and Manila.

An active member of the home- grown house and techno scene, he has organised events and parties such as Blackout at Kilo Lounge and Ritual at the now-defunct club, Kyo.

But many will also probably recognise the 34-year-old, whose real name is Kim Khan Zaki, as the famed 1.83m-tall professional muay thai fighter who was a contestant on reality television show The Contender Asia.

He has not fought in the ring for more than six years and spends more time these days on his music as well as his day gig as a personal trainer.

Have you ever had to use your muay thai skills on any troublemakers at your gigs before?

No. When I was a kid, I got into a lot of trouble fighting. When I started fighting professionally and training, I actually didn't have any trouble outside the ring. It's kind of calmed me down a lot because I was always training and letting out a lot of aggression, so I never felt the need to be aggressive any more outside the gym. It's a very soothing process.

Have the bouncers ever asked me to help them deal with any troublemakers in the club? No (laughs), they do their own thing, I do my own thing. Most of them recognise me from my fighting days, so that's quite cool.

How did you go from muay thai to DJ-ing?

I started DJ-ing when I was 18 or 19. I started muay thai when I worked in a small private gym called The Attic many years ago.

In the gym, they had turntables and we would have parties for all our customers. It was a really fun gym.

What can the audience at Beerfest expect from your set?

Beerfest is more of a fun event, very light, so house music works best in that kind of environment.

You won't hear any EDM (electronic dance music) from me. It's not my cup of tea. It's very loud and the tracks all sound the same. It's just commercial music, stuff you hear on the radio basically.

I play more house - that's the fun, cooler, classier kind of music you can listen to any time of the day.

Eddino Abdul Hadi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2017, with the headline 'Brew, taste, drink at Beerfest'. Print Edition | Subscribe