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Crafting an appeal
QUICK pop quiz: how many craft beers can you name off the top of your head? If you can count them with one hand, it just proves that while the popularity of artisanal brews has been steadily rising, it still isn't quite mainstream.
Charles Guerrier, director of marketing company Evolve Beverage, is hoping to change that with the launch of Singapore's first-ever craft beer festival, Craft Singapore 2016. Also the event's founder and festival director, the 44-year-old has been heavily involved in the industry for more than 10 years.
He says: "We're trying to get away from the idea that craft beer is a niche product and that they're just the same as commercial beer. In Asia, people have grown up with lagers, wheat beer and stout, and they think they know what beer is and whether or not they like it. But with the astounding variety of craft beers available, there really is a beer for everyone - it's just a matter of discovering it."
The festival will be held in March, and will be divided into five sessions, consisting of both day-time and night-time activities. The sessions will be catered to families and friends alike, with food and music accompanying craft beer masterclass sessions.
The masterclasses will be an opportunity for non-beer aficionados to explore a variety of different beers and ciders and ultimately, find one that appeals. Some of the topics expounded upon will be the pairing of beer with food, how beer is made, and how to taste the different flavours in a beer. This will, of course, be complementing the steady tasting of various craft beer brands.
Mr Guerrier, who moved to Singapore from the UK 18 years ago, says: "I've found that a lot of people are afraid of asking to taste a beer at a bar, and they're put off by the idea of having to pay for a whole bottle. We're trying to educate them to ask, to turn the whole process into a fun discovery."
The sessions will be catered to not just attendees of the festival, but also to service staff at bars and restaurants.
Mr Guerrier explains: "We'd like to teach service staff how to help people find their ideal beer, so we're putting together training programmes which include how craft beer is made, why they taste different, and how to identify what flavours appeal to which demographic. That way, they can make more educated recommendations."
The three-day festival will be held at the Big Top in Marina Bay, but rather than enclosing the space with a singular marquee, it will instead feature 25 individual booths of speciality beers and food by local restaurants, along with light-hearted but complementary activities such as beer pong. Some of the festival's partners are breweries Archipelago, Brewerkz, and Little Island Brewing Company and international brand importers TSA Wines (Brewdog) and MSBEV (Holgate).
The festival organisers are hoping to attract 10,000 people over the three days. Having conceived the idea for Craft Singapore 2016 several years earlier, Mr Guerrier feels it is finally the right time to take the plunge. In 2012, he initiated the annual Craft Beer Week in Singapore. Instead of an all-encompassing event, the idea behind it was to hold smaller events in outlets to introduce people to what craft beer has to offer.
He says: "When I first ran Craft Beer Week, there were five or six microbreweries and only 10 importers. Now, there are over 40 breweries and importers, which shows a lot of new industry involvement in a short period. There's definitely a pull from the market demanding a festival like this."
And although the growth in the industry has been consistent, Mr Guerrier estimates that in Singapore, the industry will grow between 200 and 300 per cent over the next three years.
He says: "We're way behind countries like the UK, the USA, and Australia. But when you see commercial distributors like Asia Pacific Breweries building their craft beer portfolios and hawker centres selling craft beer, it's evident that there'll be a significant growth in the segment."
- Craft Singapore 2016 will be held from Mar 4 to 6 at the Big Top in Marina Bay. Tickets start at S$80 per session, and are available at Sistic. For more information, please visit www.craftsingapore.com.