Craft beers can be intimidating for the casual drinker. There is beer jargon to grapple with, such as IPA (India Pale Ale, a robust hop-laden brew) and Imperial (used to describe beers with stronger and bolder flavours).
Compared with regular beer, craft beer offers a wider range of flavours.
Craft Singapore, an inaugural craft beer festival held as part of the i Light Marina Bay festival, hopes to shake off that snobbish image by introducing the beverage in a fun and laidback way.
Come March 4 to 6, beer enthusiasts can mingle with beer professionals from about 20 breweries, which will set up booths to showcase more than 200 craft beer and cider labels from 14 countries.
A third of these breweries will make their Singapore debut. These include Stone Head Beer from Cambodia, which will bring in beers such as Morning Monsoon, an Imperial stout brewed with coffee and coconut; and Melbourne's Holgate Brewhouse, which carries porter beers infused with Dutch cocoa and vanilla beans. They join big names in the craft beer scene such as Brewdog from Scotland and Japan's Hitachino Nest Beer.
BOOK IT / CRAFT SINGAPORE
WHERE: Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade
WHEN: March 4, 4 to 11pm; March 5 and 6, noon to 11pm
ADMISSION: Tickets at $95 a person (includes $50 worth of food and beverages vouchers) from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
Craft Singapore's festival director Charles Guerrier, 44, notes that most drinkers see craft beers as "niche products".
"Besides being more expensive, craft beers have more intricate and complicated flavours as they are made with more hops and malts."
Mr Guerrier, who hopes to attract 8,000 to 10,000 visitors, adds that bringing the breweries under one roof is a convenient way to get people acquainted with craft beers.
"We're bringing the beers to the people, instead of the other way round. They can sample the beers and chat with brewmasters to discover their preferred flavour profiles of beers."
Each serving of beer will cost $5 to $10.
Another way of introducing craft beers is to pair them with food. There will be five booths by eateries such as Full of Luck Club, which serves Cantonese-style steamed buns with fillings such as smoked duck and salted egg yolk and prawns; and Vatos Urban Tacos, which serves Korean-Mexican food such as kimchi carnitas fries and tacos. Prices are $6 to $16 a portion.
Mr Guerrier says: "Beer pairs with food better than wine, as it has more subtle flavours and aromas that complement or contrast with food."
For example, he notes, dark ales go well with beef and pale ales with pork, as the sweetness of the malts in the beers matches that of the meats. And the refreshing citrus- like taste of a wheat beer enhances the flavours of seafood.
Craft Singapore is an extension of Craft Beer Week, a series of craft beer events, promotions and masterclasses that has been organised by Mr Guerrier, a director at marketing company Evolve Beverages, since 2012. Progressing to a full-fledged festival is in line with the growing interest in craft beers, especially golden ale, among drinkers here.
He says: "Younger Singaporeans are travelling more or have studied in countries such as Australia, where there's an active craft beer movement, and they have an emotional attachment to the labels they have tried there."
Explaining the burgeoning popularity of golden ale here, he describes it as an entry-level craft beer as it is mildly sweet and not too bitter, and has more flavours than lagers.
Another palate-friendly tipple that is popular among Singapore drinkers is cider. At the festival, visitors can expect quirky flavours such as blueberry and one that has been aged in a bourbon cask for six months from American cider house Woodchuck.
There will also be 10 workshops on topics such as cooking with beer and understanding what goes into ciders and ales. The workshops are free for ticket holders. Other activities include music performances, face- painting and balloon sculpting in the festival village.