Beerfest to diversify offerings

Beerfest Asia this year had two international DJs and themed music nights.
Beerfest Asia this year had two international DJs and themed music nights.PHOTO: BEERFEST ASIA

Festival organiser plans to ramp up music element, add new content in future editions as well as expand overseas

Cantopop, trance and 1990s hits. No, this was not a random playlist left on shuffle. Rather, this mishmash of genres was part of the music line-up at the recently concluded Beerfest Asia.

Over four nights from June 27 to 30 at Marina Promenade, a pop-up tent called Ignition at the annual beer festival played different music themed to each night. For instance, Throwback Thursday was 1990s music, while Sunday night saw attendees singing along to Cantonese pop hits.

The tentage also featured laser lighting in partnership with events and production company Unusual Productions and was one of many firsts introduced this year to grow Beerfest Asia's versatility, said executive chairman Chua Wee Phong of Sphere Exhibits, which organises the festival.

Ramping up the music element in the entertainment line-up will figure largely in future events, he added. This year, the company brought in two international DJs.

"We will always add on new content. Like any other event, it gets stale after two or three years."

Beerfest Asia has enjoyed steady growth since its conception in 2008 by home-grown lifestyle company Timbre Group. Sphere Exhibits entered as organising partners in 2010, before taking a majority stake of the festival in 2016.

This year's event saw about 37,000 attendees, up from 36,500 last year.

Another new initiative this year was the Beerfest Run.

Priced at $80 a person, the ticketed fringe event took participants on a 2km route around the Beerfest Asia grounds. At pit stops on the route, runners were given beers in 150ml portions.

The ticket included admission to Beerfest Asia, a runner's tee, a finisher's mug and as many beers as runners could drink along the way.

The inaugural edition was capped at 250 participants, of which 40 per cent were women.

  • And the beer Oscar goes to...

  • Six hundred beers from local and international exhibitors were on offer at this year's Beerfest Asia. The following have emerged as winners:

    Best Of Singapore: Spiced Mead by Lion City Meadery
    Home-grown meadery Lion City Meadery's Spiced Mead is a homage to masala chai in beer form. Spices such as cinnamon, cloves and star anise were roasted and fermented with eucalyptus honey for a clear blonde mead with 5.5% ABV.

    Best Of Festival: Brewlander Grace by Brewlander & Co
    This crisp, light Kolsch from Singaporean brewer John Wei of Brewlander & Co is one for tea drinkers. Infused with the flavours of lychee red tea, the 4.5% ABV beer has both refreshing floral notes and the soothing aromas of Chinese tea. Graceful just like its name.

    Best Of Asia: Classic Pale Ale by Young Master Brewery
    For an easy-drinking brew any time of the day, Hong Kong label Young Master Brewery's 5.0% Classic Pale Ale hits the spot. North American and Australian hops were used to create a balance of malty richness and hoppiness, finished with fruity and floral notes perfect for the weather.

"Everybody loved it; people were chatting and running and having a lot of fun," Mr Chua, 58, said, adding that the run created camaraderie reminiscent of his army days.

It has been a game of trial and error to develop the best combination of food offerings, entertainment and venue for Beerfest Asia, he noted.

Over the years, the organising team has tried various fringe activities to "introduce more life into the entire event" - such as beer workshops, stand-up comedy shows and live football matches.

For food, it has catered from the likes of Harry's Bar and Chinese restaurant Peach Garden. This year's key partner was catering company Neo Group and other local vendors included seafood restaurant Scaled by Ah Hua Kelong.

This year's venue saw a return to Marina Promenade, near the F1 Pit Building, which hosted every edition of the festival up to 2016. The organisers tested waters at Gardens by the Bay last year and Marina Bay Cruise Centre in 2017.

"When we started in 2008, it was just the excitement of a lot of beers (in one place) with a band playing. Over the years, it has morphed into very different combinations as we started playing around with things," Mr Chua added.

Aside from diversifying offerings locally, the festival is also expanding abroad and is now officially in six cities. It held its first overseas edition in Shandong, China, in October last year. In August, there will be editions in other parts of China - in Chengdu, Sichuan province, and Dongxing in the Guangxi autonomous region. Next August, there is one planned for Bali, Indonesia.

The overseas editions will run in the same format, but on a smaller scale and with localised entertainment, said Mr Chua.

Beerfest Asia is also in talks with tourism boards in the Middle East to take the festival there.

The Sphere Exhibits team is confident about the festival's continued evolution.

"In the past, (other major events) died along the way after a few years because they couldn't make money," said Mr Chua.

"Beyond government-sponsored events, we are (probably) now the only commercial festival surviving in Singapore that can draw more than 10,000 people."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2019, with the headline 'Beerfest to diversify offerings'. Print Edition | Subscribe