Craft brews meet commercial integrity in Sembawang, and the best beer deal in town

As part of the just concluded Singapore Craft Beer Week, we spent Saturday afternoon hanging out at the Jungle Beer Brewery, perhaps the only craft producer here producing both draught and bottled beers for third party retail. To call it an unassuming location would be to sully the word unassuming. It’s on the fourth floor of a commercial food prep facility, and you have to dodge delivery trucks to make it to the door; any preconceptions you might have had about a charming craft set-up in a bucolic countryside location are gone after the second van nearly mows you down. It’s also about as far north as you can go here without being asked for your passport.
Once you’re inside, however, it’s a different story. Brewer and Director Aditya Challa has built in a lounge space upstairs with a view down on to the small brewroom below (half a dozen or so tanks and a stash of malt and various pungent hops off to one side); and equipped it with a pool table and sound system (Arcade Fire, the National). It’s a genuinely pleasant place to hang out and sample their rapidly expanding inventory (including an easy drinking mango and orange wheat beer, and a coffee beer produced in partnership with local roasters Papa Palheta). And if you get hungry? Just order up a Sarpino’s pizza from their central kitchen on the floor below…
But if you missed the chance to visit as part of Craft Beer Week, fear not. Challa throws open the doors once a month or so (follow Jungle Beer on Facebook or email [email protected] to find out when), for what we reckon might be the best drinking deal islandwide: a $40 draught craft beer freeflow from 6pm-midnight. (Though it’s still not quite as good as the $5 it was going for on Saturday.) We can well believe him when he says folks get a little rowdy (if you’re going to make the effort to get up there, you’re going to want your money’s worth); and what better excuse to do so than in support of a homegrown artisan drinks initiative.
Challa is pretty much a one-man-band (aside from the jungle-inspired packaging, he handles every aspect of the business) and has an impressive focus on the product above all else. Not for him discounts to his distributors, nor any interest in marketing the brand apart from the beer. (Easy for anyone starting up to say. But he really does seem to be in it for the love.) And he’s optimistic about the prospects of craft beer here–citing recent reductions in brewing license fees and an ongoing anti-competition case that may prove less than favorable for the mass market brewers—though he’s struggled to find anyone qualified to assist him with the brewing, and laments the absence of any brewing courses at Singapore’s universities (he studied in Scotland himself). So, for now, how deep into the Jungle he can go depends on how much more he can do himself. Next up: a line of intriguingly-flavored lite beers (acai berry or calamansi, anyone?) under a new brand name. And, just maybe, a special edition I-S beer. (Flavor ideas on a postcard, please.)
You can find Jungle Beer at a growing number of establishments island-wide. See their website for the complete list.
Find out what are the best places in Singapore for craft beer