One Night in Cologne Changed their Lives forever: Alive Brewing's Story
Craft Brewery Spotlight: Alive Brewing Co.
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Singapore’s craft brewing scene is full of great quality brews, but we think Alive Brewing Co. has such consistent quality as to warrant a much closer look from you – especially if you are just getting into Singaporean craft beers.
The year was 2019 and it was a chilly and wintry November afternoon. Ryan Yue and Qing Yang found themselves in a crowded but cosy taproom in Cologne, Germany, the beer-drinking capital of the world. The two best friends of over a decade share an interest in craft beer, and were on a pilgrimage to taste some of the best beers that the world had to offer. They specially ventured to Cologne in search of a traditional German light pale ale with over a hundred years of history – the Kölsch.
They were greeted by a sight and aroma that would change their lives forever: a row of glasses filled with a light, clear liquid that shone like gold in the light of the pub. They each took a glass and took a sip of the crisp ale. And as the cool liquid washed over their tongues, they were struck by the delightfully fragrant, fruity and malty beer that was surprisingly delicious. Glass after glass, Ryan and Qing Yang tasted an impressive array of Kölsch and the quality was like nothing they had ever encountered before. From that moment on, the friends knew that they had to bring this delicious experience home to Singapore in one form or another.
This memory was the inspiration for One Night in Cologne – one of the flagship brews of Alive Brewing. More on that later!
Alive Brewing’s craft brewery is neither the largest on the island, nor does it have a long history, yet the brewery enjoys a very outsized reputation amongst craft beer enthusiasts. Speak to any Singapore-based craft beer geek (I’ve done an informal survey myself), and chances are high that they would invariably recommend brews from Alive Brewing. This is very impressive considering the modest scale of Alive Brewing’s production and the fact that it had only begun operating in 2020.
Bringing Alive to life
After tinkering with home brewing for years, the long-time friends with a shared passion left their white-collar jobs to pursue their love for brewing craft beers. Their mission was to bring all the special and delicious styles of beer they had tasted from around the world and present them to Singaporeans in the freshest way possible.
After more than a year of planning, research and construction works, their dream became reality in early 2020, when they set up Alive Brewing’s brewing facilities in the West of Singapore. It’s worth noting that setting up brewing operations in Singapore was no casual financial decision. It was more common for Singaporean craft beer brands to brew their beers in neighbouring countries under “gypsy brewing” arrangements, because the cost of setting up a brewery from scratch and operating it in Singapore requires a heavy capital outlay.
Alive Brewing’s first beer, False Sense of Security Hazy Session IPA was launched on 2nd April 2020. We'd like to follow this sentence with "It quickly became a phenomenon," but as fate would have it, our main characters immediately ran into a huge roadblock. On 3rd April, the Singapore government announced a nation-wide lockdown to contain the pandemic. Calling the experience “an insane whirlwind”, Ryan and Qing Yang met with incredible challenges running their fledgling business in the face of distancing measures, supply chain disruptions and a general sense of uncertainty and fear.
Despite these challenges, the buddies kept brewing keg after keg, determined to bring their Alive vision to life. They worked tirelessly to develop new releases, and also collaborated with the community of craft brewers in Singapore to make their beers accessible to home delivery. Alive Brewing made it out of the forest whilst earning a reputation for its delicious brews.
Alive Brewing Co has come a long way, from a place of intense anxiety and uncertainty during the height of the pandemic, to a well-known name in the Singapore craft beer scene at the top of the mind of every serious enthusiast.
The brewery has a range of hoppy IPAs, session ales and flavourful, velvety NEIPAs; there is something for everyone. More importantly, there is a remarkable consistency in how many of their flagship brews receive glowing reviews from the community.
And as the brewery’s fanbase continue to grow and expand, Ryan and Qing Yang remain committed to their original mission of bringing the best beers from around the world to Singapore, one fresh, delicious pint at a time.
Notable Releases from Alive Brewing
Alive Brewing’s releases come in bright kaleidoscopic labels with memorable names that playfully tease at what’s to expect. Here are a couple of our favourites from their usual line-up.
The aptly-named False Sense of Security (session hazy IPA, 4.7% ABV) comes in at a very modest 4.7% ABV but it packs a surprisingly brilliant burst of ripe pineapples, mango and fragrant hops one would have expected in a higher ABV IPA. This makes for a boldly-flavoured craft beer that is nonetheless very sessionable.
Of course, there’s One Night in Cologne (Kölsch, 5.2% ABV), inspired by Ryan and Qing Yang’s bar crawl experience in Cologne. This is a faithful reconstruction of the smooth-drinking, highly crisp and refreshing style of beer from said German town. Alive’s brew has barely any hop bitterness, but delivers a flavourful malty-breadiness with a subtle cereal sweetness with a lightly floral finish.
Sense of Symmetry (NEIPA, 7% ABV) is one of Alive’s biggest hits amongst long time craft beer lovers. With fresh tropical notes and a rich and thick mouthfeel, this is often described as an “ice-blended mango smoothie”. This has a flavourful profile perched between tropical juiciness, rich hops and an ample biscuity maltiness, all of which are very balanced with a fitting sense of symmetry.
Finally, for something incredibly easy on the palate, there’s the Relax Juice (Tropical session ale, 4.2% ABV). This is a refreshing and sessionable ale with rich and tropical notes and a thick orange juice-like texture. It is gently sweet, citrusy with a very mild hoppiness.
Singapore’s craft brewing scene is full of great quality brews, but we think Alive Brewing Co. warrants a much closer look from you – especially if you are just getting into craft beers. Not much fanfare is heard from these folks on the media, as Ryan and Qing Yang quietly plug away, making batch after batch of consistently high-quality brews. We’ll raise a pint of NEIPA to these folks and cheer these passionate folks on as they continue to grow their business and expand their fanbase across Singapore and eventually the region!
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