Singapore is a hard city to pin down. The best way to describe it to my Florida friends is Boca meets Hong Kong–an artificial, soulless, new, manufactured, wealthy, consumer-driven zone, yet one that does not totally lack the character and culture of Asia. It’s got green space, public transport, and street food but an Epcot Center ambiance.
What Singapore lacks in natural charm it makes up for in terms of convenience. Everything is easy in Singapore: especially walking. We noticed that right away because walking in KL is a pain the ass. The only thing not easy about Singapore is the cost. Ouch.
We had a killer time in Singapore because we hung out with some great people (Clive Wright from Vancouver, who we met on Facebook through Rick Green; and also fellow Ratebeerian Lars) and drank some very good beer. Beerfest Asia Singapore welcomed us as media, and we had passes for three days to the festival. The festival was 90% piss-up with most people drinking macro swill being peddled by hot chicks in costumes with fuzzy angel wings and silver tights. To me this was not a surprise because the Beerfest Asia is exactly what would happen if Miami Beach had a really big beer festival.
Festival highlights included Polish dark bock from Amber brewery called Kozlak; Locher Appelzeller Schwarzer-Kristall from Swizerland; Epic Galloway Porter from a Utah brewery; and another American brew Lakefront Bridge Burner.
Other highlights included meeting the brewer from Storm in Bali, which made me think about my cousin Court who has a second home there.
One night we got caught hungry at the festival and found out the hard way how thoughtless the planners were in neglecting to include some good eats. This seemed extra sinful in Singapore, a city known for its cuisine. The fast food was below-average even for its type and made Sysco look like a Michelin guide candidate. I picked away at some cardboardy fries to stave off inebriation while I sipped on the beer to assuage my palate.
In Singapore itself we didn’t actually get to eat as much as we would have liked because we were there for only 3 days and all 3 days were festival days. But we did go on one hunt for laksa. The stall is one recommended by Bourdain but surprisingly we were the only foreigners there. The laksa was different from any we had before, with the white (rice) noodle cut up into small pieces to eat with a spoon alone, plus the addition of plump fresh oysters and real squid.
The bands at the fest were all crap except for Hell’s Belles, a fun all-female five-piece AC/DC tribute band from west coast, USA. With my press pass, I had pit access and even though I looked like a fool next to the real pros I got some good shots. Of course, all my good shots are of the bass player because that’s the way I roll.
I miss music as much as I miss good beer, but we did not get to do anything beyond the beerfest in Singapore in terms of catching some shows. KL leaves us starving for good entertainment but thankfully we have the World Cup! We have watched as many matches as possible and they were showing them on two large screens at the festival.
We fit in all of Singapore’s brewpubs except for Archipelago, which was closed on Sunday afternoon. However, we had all of the available Archipelago beers at other bars as well as at the festival where we drank with the brewer, Fal Allen. For your convenience, here is a link to Fal’s list of the Singapore brewpubs.
You can check out my impressions of some of those places on Ratebeer as well as the individual Singaporean beers here. Both Josh and I agreed that of the local brews, the Brewerkz cask-conditioned Hopback Ale was the most enjoyable.
We stayed at the Swissotel Stamford, which is a classy but friendly establishment. It was once the tallest hotel in the world, and it’s still one of the tallest. Our room was on the 56th floor–certainly the highest room I’ve ever had. The hotel is located in the same mall as the City Hall metro stop, making getting around town and to the festival very easy for us. You can read my review of the Swissotel on Trip Advisor. We flew in via Air Asia because they had a good deal on the hotel. The bus from KL would have taken about 5 hours, maybe more with the border crossing. Maybe next time we will try it that way just to see what it’s like to go through the bustling border town of Johor Bahru.