KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - If one needs an indication of how much the craft beer scene has grown in the last five years, all one needs to do is look at The Better Beer Festival, Malaysia's biggest - and only - craft beer festival.
The first The Better Beer Festival in 2012, held at Taps Beer Bar in Changkat Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, drew only about 200 people. Last October's (2016) event at Publika Shopping Gallery drew almost 3,500 craft beer lovers.
The festival returns this year (2017) on Oct 6 and 7 at White Box & The Square in Publika in Kuala Lumpur and the organisers, craft beer distributors MyBeer, are expecting about 6,000 people to show up.
"We did not expect such a big crowd last year," says Mr Alvin Lim, co-founder of MyBeer and Taps Beer Bar. "After the festival, we saw more people getting interested in craft beer and the participating local outlets saw more business as well.
"We started The Better Beer Festival as a celebration of craft beer in Malaysia. Every year, we made it a point to bring in more craft beers from more breweries and this year is no different," he adds.
There will be 250 craft beers from 43 breweries this year, compared with about 150 brands last year. The beers come from all over the world, including the United States, Australia, England, Scotland, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Scottish brewers Brewdog and Tempest Brewing will be sending representatives, as will Hawkers from Australia, Hitachino Nest from Japan and Pasteur Street from Vietnam.
"We're proud that two craft brewers from Thailand will also be coming - Sandport and Happy New Beer," Mr Lim says. "Craft brewers from Thailand tend to struggle to brew in their country because of the strict rules. Sandport actually brews in Taiwan, while Happy New Beer brews in Australia."
Besides the breweries, local craft beer purveyors such as Paus Beer Bar, Gold Bar Beer Dining and Crafted Belgium Beers will also be participating. There will also be beer-centric activities such as Meet-The-Brewers and Beer Appreciation sessions.
"The two Thai brewers will be talking about how difficult it is to brew beer in a country where it is illegal," Mr Lim says.
This year's The Better Beer Festival will feature a range of specially curated food as well as live music performances by Malaysian musicians. There will also be four mini events in September leading up to the festival, involving collaborations with four outlets - craft beer infused dishes with Glass Tartines & Tipples (16/9); a food, sake and craft beer pairing with Japanese outlet Tabe Tomo (20/9); a beer ice cream class with Ice Cream Bar; and a craft beer cocktail masterclass with Pahit Bar, who have created a specially designed Rum Bubble Milk Tea for The Better Beer Festival.
There will also be a collaboration with Uber for its "Don't Drink & Drive" campaign launch at the festival, where attendees will get promo codes for their rides to and from the festival.
Entry to The Better Beer Festival 2017 is free. Tickets for Beer Appreciation Sessions are available at Taps Beer Bar outlets. For early birds, a minimum purchase of RM200 (S$63.50) in beer vouchers will get a person complimentary festival glasses.