11 Places to Sip Craft Brews
Artisanal ales are taking the region by sweet sudsy storm. BRIAN SPENCER raises a glass to some of the most notable craft breweries, from Japan's urban taps to Australia's beachside brews.
Published on Jan 21, 2016
Though still only a blip on Japan's widening craft-beer map, Kyoto is finally starting to catch up with beer-loving cities like Tokyo and Yokohama. Tucked into a back alley of the vintage Furukawa-cho shopping arcade, intimate (1) Beer Komachi (444 Hachiken-cho, Kyoto; +81 75 746 6152) complements six draft brews with a small, well-curated list of bottled beers from mostly American craft breweries. Nearer to Kyoto Station, (2) Beer House Craft Man (643-1 Nijohanjiki-cho, Kyoto; +81 75 371 7676) is a modern, three-story beer bar and Italian-fusion restaurant with 25 taps, the most in the city. Expect a mix of obscure and well-known Japanese craft brews.
In Tokyo, Kiuchi Brewery has expanded its on-site brewing program from Ibaraki Prefecture to the (3) Hitachino Brewing Lab (N1, 1-25-4 Kandasuda-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; +81 3 3254 3434). Here aspiring brewmasters work in tandem with seasoned pros on their own beer batches, which staff bottle and ship anywhere in Japan after fermentation back in Ibaraki. This is also the best spot in town to sample Kiuchi's range of Hitachino Nest beers: 10 are tapped, including a few exclusive to the lab.
Hitachino Brewing Lab, in Tokyo. Courtesy of Hitachino Brewing Lab.
Singapore microbreweries tend to veer towards the mundane, but in the past year a slew of import-focused tap bars have helped compensate for the middling local brews. Just north of Orchard Road, (4) Nickeldime Drafthouse (01-06 Novena Gardens, 273 Thomson Rd.; +65 6256 0261) brightened up residential Novena lwith 15 craft taps and a takeaway bottle shop. (5) Tap Craft Beer Bar (88-90, 1F Capitol Piazza, 15 Stamford Rd.; +65 6224 1607) opened with 20 taps and more than 80 bottles largely drawn from California breweries.
Tap Craft Beer Bar, Singapore. Courtesy of Tap Craft Beer Bar.
It's (6) Druggists (119 Tyrwhitt Rd.; +65 6341 5967), however, that should top your Singapore craft crawl. Occupying a lovingly maintained Jalan Besar shophouse owned by the Singapore Chinese Druggists Association, this 23-tapper caters to craft fanatics with an island-best draft menu featuring outstanding ales from European breweries like Mikkeller and Brouwerij de Molen.
Sydney rivals Melbourne in beer, as in all other things Australian, but now beer enthusiasts have good reason to leave the city for a day and head to the Northern Beaches area.
In Mona Vale, roughly an hour from Sydney's CBD by bus, (7) Modus Operandi Brewing Co. (14 Harkeith St., Mona Vale; +61 2 8407 9864) splashed onto the local brewing scene in scoring top honors at Australia's Craft Beer Awards for its nuanced Former Tenant Red IPA—no small feat for a then three-month-old brewery. Modus Operandi pours 10 draft beers at its working brewhouse and taproom, all available in one-liter takeaway cans sealed in a custom "CANimal" contraption.
Modus Operandi Brewing Co. Courtesy of Modus Operandi Brewing Co.
Just down the road in Brookvale, (8) Nomad Brewing Co. (5 Sydenham Rd., Brookvale; +61 4 1081 8084) turned heads with a series of collaboration-brews with esteemed U.S. craft breweries Cigar City, Stone and Sixpoint. Sample these and other seasonals, like the Freshie Salt & Pepper Gose (a tart, salty beer brewed with Tasmanian peppers and saltwater from Freshwater Beach), at Nomad's small tasting room.
Try a Gose at Nomad Brewing. Courtesy of Nomad Brewing.
A key figure driving Hong Kong's rapidly maturing craft scene, ex-banker Rohit Dugar founded Young Master Ales brewery in 2013 and has teamed up with other beer industry professionals on (9) TAP - The Ale Project (15 Hak Po St., Mongkok; +852 2468 2010). Here brews from Young Master and other Hong Kong breweries flow from half of the bar's 14 taps; the others pour BrewDog, Founders Brewing Co. and other quality imports.
On Hong Kong Island, (10) Craft Brew & Co. (17 Old Bailey St., SoHo, Central; +852 2885 0821) has done so well since its mid-2014 debut in Soho that it's already spawned a second outlet less than two kilometers away in Sai Ying Pun. The original venue has up to 15 beers on tap and around 25 bottles—look for special house beers like the Kung Fu Lager and Liberty IPA.
Bar bites at Craft Brew & Co. Courtesy of Craft Brew & Co.
Singaporean microbrewery Brewerkz looked south to set up (11) Brewerkz Jakarta (GF Crystal Lagoon at Senayan City, 19 Jln. Asia Afrika; +62 21 2923 5788), its only overseas brewpub. The sports bar currently serves Brewerkz's signature oatmeal stout, IPA, golden ale and pilsner.
Brewerkz Jakarta. Courtesy of Brewerkz Jakarta.