In January I set forth with my partner Sara on an epic 6-week cycling trip across Middle Earth, and while we sampled some tasty beer, our trip was admittedly less about "hoppy drank" and more about escaping the depressive horror of a bone-chilling Canadian winter. Oh, that and finding Hobbit meat. They were not home.
"Where is all the Hobbit meat?", wondered Sara.
Fortunately, before returning home we did manage to score a kilogram worth of New Zealand's highly regarded and sought after Riwaka hops - a hop variety that's currently unavailable in North America (unless you're exceedingly well-connected).
If I were to take a random sampling of my readership audience I'd wager a bet that at least 90% of you are white men. Of this group, 75% of you have pretty legendary beards, and if you don't it's probably because your beard growing capabilities are sub-par. Of the remaining 10%, half of you are white females (probably not bearded), and the rest of you are from various ethnicities (though you're most definitely blokes). The GTA Brews Homebrewing Club - of which I am a member - is the biggest of such clubs in Toronto. Toronto has one of the most diverse populations in the world, and yet GTA Brews struggles to broaden its base to appeal to women and minorities. We're trying though. Amongst the rarest in the group, it seems, are black, and Asian people.
If you've been following the blog of late, you're aware that I'm in fact currently backpacking across Southeast Asia with my girlfriend, Sara. She's of Malaysian descent and technically a GTA Brews member - whaaaaat?! We started our travels in Singapore, flew to Indonesia, then hit up Malaysia and Sri Lanka before landing in Thailand. Sadly, the variety of beer in these countries has been quite limited. I can only occasionally sniff out craft beer, and when I do it's usually in obscure pockets of big cities. Even still, the beers at these niche bars are usually imported from Europe or North America and (almost) never locally brewed…
Many hobbyists in the homebrewing community feel as though the craft brewing market is saturated with brewpubs and microbreweries that it's inevitably slated for collapse. Some argue that opening a brewpub or brewing company is not worth the risk, and that it's current rate of growth is unsustainable. By this same logic, New York City's massively successful Shake Shack burger joint would probably never have opened since there were already hundreds of hamburger restaurants in the city at the time, and the burger market share in New York was spread so thin. In 2004, Shake Shack took off.
Through my travels (I'm currently doing a half-year trip around Southeast Asia) I've had lots of downtime at airports and on buses to reflect upon these apocalyptic predictions and to consider the risks involved in my own brewing ambitions. Opening a Silly Sir brewpub and/or brewing company is a daunting, high-risk task that will require intense dedication, long hours, and serious commitment and consideration if it is to become the bustling hangout I envision. At this point, my role is almost exclusively that of a sponge - soaking up as much information as I can on how to successfully run, market, and sustain a viable business. Here's what I've learned so far in listening to podcasts, reading books, and skimming websites on the matter.
Sara and I are currently in Bali, which is home to our new favourite Southeast Asian beer thus far: Bali Hai. We stumbled upon it at a knock off 7-11 (Mini Mart) in Ubud, and were thrilled to finally find a beer that wasn't Heineken or Bintang (Indonesia's favourite beer). I bought a small can of it for the equivalent of about $2.40 CAD and proceeded onward to the Alcoholic Monkey Forest.
This one passively pawed at it, but I would not let go...
In considering what to write about Southeast Asian beer, I almost just want to say don't bother and leave it at that. Granted, we've only explored Singapore and Indonesia thus far, but the beer we have tried leaves a lot to be desired. This is hardly surprising given that the Muslim population of Indonesia, for example, hovers around 90% (Singapore shares a similar demographic makeup). There's maybe one exception, and I'm bored and on a 9 hour train ride to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, so here's a breif write up.