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We Fell In Love With Craft Beers Again At Almost Famous

Cheers to more serendipitous discoveries, including this one at Almost Famous.

 

 

Life seems to have its funny little ways of throwing surprises and near misses at me.  

Just around the corner from where I spent my university days, tucked away in Chijmes Singapore is this surprisingly enjoyable craft beer spot I somehow missed. The name of the place? "Almost Famous". I chuckled at the name too - maybe that's the reason it remained elusive and flew just below my radar through all those years. 

 

 

Stepping into Almost Famous, it’s a straightforward minimalist affair. An industrial-chic get up greets you - cool concrete walls giving off a chill vibe, neatly contrasted by bright white tables and lighting. The crowd is a delightful mix of perhaps fresh out of school adults and college students, bringing a young and unpretentious energy to the space. Groups laughing, sharing stories over drinks and loaded fries (later, I found out it's a Poutine) amid a background hum of tropical house music. This isn't the place for the ostentatious; the focus is on informality, company and the quality drinks. I felt right at home.

 

 

Now, let's talk about what I'm here for: the craft beer. Around 13-16 craft beers are on tap, showcasing a rather big selection of international breweries. Peek inside the chiller for more bottled and canned beers. It's a change of scenery I appreciate, given that the past few taprooms I've visited are focused on more local brews.

You wouldn't find any of those ubiquitous mass market commercial beers here. Instead you'll find those from craft brewers of the sort that crazy beer enthusiasts swear by - in other words, 'almost famous' to the mainstream public.   

 

 

I bought 3 half-pints - two from the well-known Pasteur Street from Vietnam and a Belgian ale. 

Dragon Fruit Gose, Pasteur Street Brewing, 4.3% ABV – Review

 

I began with a dragonfruit gose from Pasteur Street Brewing - a prominent craft brewery based in Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam which has a fruit-forward approach (passion fruit, pomelo, lychees, etc) that make for very approachable brews for both craft beer lovers and newcomers.

The gose is a mild sour beer originating from Germany that obtains its sour note from the lactic acid produced by Lactobacillus bacteria in a controlled souring process. The defining trait of the gose amongst sours is its milder note and light saltiness. This characteristic can be traced back to the slightly saline water used for brewing in its town of origin, Goslar. Modern brewers from now add a small amount of salt to emulate this traditional flavour profile.  

 

 

Colour: Bright red, resembling cranberry juice. 

Nose: Fresh, very mildly sour in aroma, like a cranberry juice. 

Palate: Crisp and medium bodied. Opens with a tangy sourness, light cranberry juice, grape soda, with a growing grain-like note. Rather one-dimensional.

Finish: Clean and short. Light barley and grain notes with a persistent yeasty sourness, turning towards a light salinity of pickle water.  

My Thoughts:

😐

First one's nothing to shout about. This is a really approachable sour, with all the hallmarks of a gose. Yet it seems to have very straightforward and predictable notes without much personality. I would have preferred this to be a little fruitier.

Also, where's the dragonfruit? All I detect are perhaps cranberries here. A little bit of a let down to be honest! 

Pomelo IPA, Pasteur Street Brewing, 6.5% ABV – Review

 

Thankfully the Pomelo IPA from Pasteur Street is much more satisfying and is one that I would return to again.

 

 

Colour: Canary yellow.

Nose: The nose is incredibly tropical and robust, full of mangoes,  pineapples, sweet honey and a thick IPA-like fresh hoppy bitterness.

Palate: Quite the burst of flavour with a thick body and velvety texture. You can definitely feel the 6.5% ABV. Opens with the citrusy zing of grapefruits and certainly pomelo that melds seamlessly with the robust hoppiness of the IPA. Very juicy, citrusy, with a very convincing pithiness (think fresh pomelo rinds and lemon peels), rather than hoppy bitterness.  

The beauty of this lies in its ambiguity - I was left wondering where the citrus notes end and where the classic IPA bitterness kicks in. It's like having two dance partners moving in perfect synchrony, and you can't tell one from the other.

Finish: Clean notes of light hoppiness and barley at the end.  

My thoughts:

☺️

This more than made up for the letdown I experienced with the gose. This tastes almost as strong and flavourful as a DIPA (double IPA) without the overwhelming hoppiness. As the name suggests, this really does have notes of pomelo. The tropical citrus fruitiness also beautifully compliment the classic IPA notes. 

Duchesse de Bourgogne Flanders Red Ale, Brouwerij Verhaeghe Belgium, 6.2% ABV – Review

 

 

But the crown jewel of the evening was none other than the Flanders red ale from Belgium's Brouwerij Verhaeghe. A quick background on Brouwerij Verhaeghe. Dating back to 1885, Brouwerij Verhaeghe is an acclaimed family-owned brewery that stays true to traditional brewing methods, particularly Belgian sour ales.

The Duchesse de Bourgogne is the brewery's most iconic beer, and also Belgium's quintessential example of the Flanders red ale style of beer.  

This beer is named after Mary of Burgundy (1457–1482) who in 1477 became the reining monarch over vast stretch of territories across modern day France, Belgium and Holland, and due to her huge inheritance became Europe's most sought-after royal brides.

This beer has a much more pronounced sour character compared to other sour beers, and is sometimes described as "farmy". To create this defining feature, the beer is matured for up to 18 months in large oak barrels, and undergoes further fermentation with multiple yeast and bacteria strains, giving this a really rich complexity. 

 

 

Colour: Deep red tea.

Nose: Thick, very tart and really rich. Opens with a balsamic vinegary aroma, some soy sauce and a funkiness that reminds me of meaty prosciutto and a barnyard. There's also a blend of orange, honey and cardamom that reminds me of DOM Benedictine liqueur. 

Palate: The palate is what blew me away. I'm not exaggerating - think of the sharp nasal rush you get from wasabi, but in the form of incredibly vibrant high octane beer flavours. 

It opens with an incredible Jamaican rum-like funkiness, UHU Glue, with a lively note that rushes up your nose within a second of you tasting the beer. Then it unfolds into layers upon layers of depth. Root beer, Dr Pepper, more aged rum, balsamic vinegar, raspberry jam, Californian Zinfandel, and then a delicate malt sweetness with a touch of caramel. 

Finish: Long but clean with a fading light balsamic sweetness, plum-like sourness and light barnyard funk.

My Thoughts:

🎇🎆

This was nothing short of a fireworks display in my tastebuds - a literal flavour explosion in your mouth so intense I coughed a bit and my eyes watered. If this is the first time you're tasting it, it might scare you a little bit. It's very intense in flavour and jam-packed with complexity that it would make any sour beer junkie fall instantly in love.

This is perhaps the most memorable beer I've tasted in a long while, and has some flavours I'd never have expected to experience in a beer. 

Now, it's worth noting that the Duchesse de Bourgogne is also available for off-trade purchase in a bottle. The bottled product is great in its own right, but drinking it from the tap (assuming it's kept fresh by the taproom) gives you a sour ale with much more lasting fizziness and freshness that really amplify those dynamic flavours.

If there's one drink recommendation to take away from my visit, this would be it. Truly, a must-try for anyone who appreciates a bold brew.

 

(Source: Almost Famous)

 

All-in-all, I really appreciate the curated selection of beers, the informal vibes and the overall energy of this watering hole. While I wasn't really in the mood for munchies on the night I visited Almost Famous, but from what I hear the beers are paired with very decent casual bar bites, with popular dishes being the Poutine and Tom Yum Gyozaa. 

After chatting with several of their staff, I'd add that the folks manning the taps here are legit beer geeks who could provide genuine and thoughtful recommendations, insights into the beers and celebrate your discovery of a new favourite brewery or beer style, as they did in my case.  

I've been dreaming about the Duchesse since that evening. If you haven't tasted it at a taproom, please do yourself a favour and head down to Almost Famous pronto.

Cheers to more serendipitous discoveries, right?!

@CharsiuCharlie