The life and times of a microbrewer in Singapore

With their “That Old Black Magic” dry Irish stout claiming a gold medal at Craft Singapore’s Asian Beer Medals, Little Island Brewing Co is the toast of the town. We caught up with their head brewer, Steve Spinney, to get to know the man behind the beer. 

, The life and times of a microbrewer in Singapore
What was the first beer you ever drank? 

My first beer was a West Country bitter, an English cask ale. I loved it so much, I decided that I liked real ale as opposed to commercial ales and pilsners.

How did you get your start brewing your own beer?

I first started brewing when I was 24 years old. I was living on a farm and wanted to be self-sufficient – support myself and my family based on my own means. That meant growing my own vegetables, raising chickens and producing my own beer. I learnt how to brew from books and improved with practice, as you do with most things.

How did you cross over from homebrewing to commercial brewing?

I worked for two years in a brewery in the Midlands in England when I was 38. It was very different from homebrewing and I learnt how to work with large quantities there. I had my own restaurant in Indonesia at 40. During the economic slump following the tragic Bali bombing, I started to brew on a commercial scale for the locals. The business in Bali ended in 2012 but a chance encounter with Francis Khoo (Little Island’s “Island Chief”) in Bali brought me over to Little Island. He had tried one of my established craft beers as well as a new brew, a golden ale, and as they say, the rest is history.

What advice do you have for hobbyist brewers who are keen to make the leap to opening a brewpub?

Try as many beers as you can to understand the flavors and complexities. Try as many hops and grain mixtures as you can since it’s easier to experiment with small batches. Have a good feel for what you like and do it with passion.

, The life and times of a microbrewer in Singapore
What would you like to see more of in Singapore’s beer scene?

I want the public to be educated on how they can enjoy craft beer as it’s just full of amazing flavors, aromas and colors.

Tell us something most people wouldn’t know about your day-to-day work.

When I’m working on the brew, the temperature gets to such a point that I can feel my brain cooking. I’m very hands-on when I work. It’s vital for me to be able to touch, smell and taste the product so I can control the brew.

What’s the best part of being a brewer?

The drinking, if you’re a good brewer!

If not a brewer, what would you be?

I would be a chef – I love cooking and have been producing hams, sausages, bacon and pies.