Sunday August 12, 2012
TIPSY TURVY By MICHEAL CHEANG
Our columnist just can’t get enough of this craft beer bar that serves one of the most impressive range of beers in Malaysia.
HOW would you like a pint of Old Engine Oil? Or a taste of a Temptress? What about downing a Skullsplitter, or knocking back a Texas Ranger?
It doesn’t matter if you like your beers black, white, red, or brown, or if you like stouts, ales, lagers or fruit beers – Taps Beer Bar probably has something you will like. Heck, probably the only types of beers you won’t find here are the commercial brews you see in every other pub or club in KL.
Taps opened its doors a little more than six months ago, and has already established itself as the place for the beer connoisseur, as well as those who are sick of drinking the same old beers every day.
The outlet is a joint venture between five cousins – Adrian, Alvin, Aaron, Brian and Mili Chong – who had always wanted to open a bar together. “We’ve always had the idea of starting a bar, but we didn’t want a regular bar, because then we would be doing what everyone else is doing,” said Mili.
Melbourne-based Adrian, who is a huge fan of the diverse craft beers widely available in Australia, was the one who initially mooted the idea for a speciality craft beer place, according to Aaron.
“Last April, Adrian came back, and we went for drinks. While deciding where to go, he started complaining about the lack of varieties of beers in Malaysia,” he recalled. “Then he started explaining about the craft beer concept and how it has taken off in Australia. That was how we got the idea of setting up a craft beer bar in Malaysia.”
After that initial discussion, they called up Mili and Alvin, who were also keen on the idea, and the rest is history.
With more than 60 different brands encompassing 69 different beer styles on their menu currently (with more to come in the future), Taps is probably THE place to go to try as many different ones as possible, and expand your beer education.
While most of their beers are sold by the bottle, Taps also has an impressive 14 draught taps, each serving a different beer, and when one runs out, a different beer will take its place. And if you have trouble choosing which beer to have, you can also opt for a tasting paddle of three beers from the tap, which is an excellent way to try as many varieties of beer as possible in one sitting. Speaking of tasting paddles, Taps also has a regular Tasting Tuesday event where the first 40 customers will get a free tasting paddle featuring three different beers each week.
Granted, the beers here aren’t exactly cheap, but they are still about the same price as some of the more commercial premium brands out there, plus they taste a whole lot better (or at least, different). And with the variety available here, you could go back every day for a month and try a different beer each time. And yes, they also serve food as well (including a pretty decent rendang pizza).
BrewDog, one of my favourite brands of beers at Taps, has previously been featured in this column, but that is not the only brand worth trying. Taps also carries beers from enigmatic Danish brewers Mikkeller, the eccentric Norwegian Nøgne Ø, Japanese craft brewers hitachino Nest, Scottish trailblazers Thornbridge, Harviestoun, and Orkney, English staples Meantime, Rogue from the US, and Australian brands like Mountain Goat, Kooinda and Bridge Road Brewers, amongst others.
With so many beers available here, it’s hard to highlight each and every single one of them. So, here is an overview of some my personal favourite beers available at Taps. Be warned though, some of these beers are only available in very limited quantities, so don’t be surprised if the one you’re looking for is sold out already. But that’s the beauty of Taps – even if your favourite tipple is out of stock, there are so many other new beers to discover that chances are you’ll be able find another new favourite beer ...
The aforementioned Old Engine Oil English Porter is my personal favourite from this Scottish brewer. Don’t worry, it doesn’t actually taste like engine oil – Harviestoun’s founder and master brewer Ken Brooker (a former employee at Ford Motors) named it so because the viscous nature of the beer reminded him of engine oil. It is a rich, full-bodied, chocolate malty porter with wonderful coffee notes. Other Harviestoun beers worth trying are Ola Dubh (an exceptional ale matured in whisky casks), Schiehallion (voted World’s Best Pilsner in 2008), and the surprisingly easy drinking (despite the name) Bitter And Twisted.
Kooinda and Bridge Road Brewers (Australia)
The Kooinda Black IPA is one of my favourite beers here. It is a well-balanced, full-bodied beer with a great floral, hoppy nose and a creamy, fruity flavour. The Kooinda Valhalla blonde ale is also an excellent beer to start the night, with a great grassy nose and nice cereal, citrus flavours. Bridge Road Brewers, on the other hand, brew some mean single-hop IPAs, including the Galaxy Single Hop IPA, and the stellar Stella Single Hop IPA.
Mmmm ... Chocolate Porter ... like drinking a beer made from liquid dark chocolate. I’ve tasted lots of beers with hints of chocolate, but never one that was as chocolaty as this one. Meantime’s London Porter is also pretty decent, and is an excellent substitute should Taps run out of the Chocolate Porter.
In my BrewDog story some time ago, I wrote about the Black Tokyo Horizon. Well, the Mikkeller Black Imperial stout was one of the stouts that was part of that collaborative beer. Even on its own, it is still one of the best stouts I have ever tried. At 17.5% ABV, it is also one of the strongest beers on Taps’ menu, and I definitely do not recommend attempting to finish this on your own. Other beers from this brewery include enigmatically named brands such as Dim Sum Beer (an interesting spice & vegetable beer inspired by Asian food), Beer Geek Breakfast and the excellent I Beat You IPA, as well as the rather experimental Lambic Spontan series of traditional Belgian-styled lambic beers.
Unfortunately, my favourite beer from this Scottish brewery – the wonderfully rich, limited-edition, whisky cask-matured Dark Island Reserve barleywine – is currently sold out. However, you can get a pretty good idea of how it tastes with the more easily available Dark Island, which is a well-balanced dark ale with great malty flavours. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try the intimidatingly named Skullsplitter Scotch ale (8.5% ABV) or the ominous Black Friar (7% ABV, from Inveralmond Brewery), both of which are fine, rich dark brews that deserve to be savoured slowly.
I’m quite partial to a good IPA, and Thornbridge’s Jaipur IPA is one of the better ones available here, with a refreshingly floral and citrus aroma and flavour. The Kipling American pale ale is also a pretty easy-drinking beer that is great as an opening drink.
I’ve mentioned this brand before, but it bears repeating that BrewDog’s Hardcore IPA is still one of the smoothest, yet hard-hitting IPAs around. If you want something a bit higher up the scale (and have cash to spare), you might want to consider trying a bottle of the brewery’s special Abstract beers. Taps currently serves the Abstract06, an 11.5% ABV, triple dry-hopped Imperial black IPA that costs a whopping RM97, but tastes like no other beer you’ve ever tried before.
■ Michael Cheang wishes Taps was located nearer to his home or office, so he can go there every day and have a different beer each time.
Taps Beer Bar is located at One Residency, 1 Jalan Nagasari, Off Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur. For inquiries, call 03-2110 1560 or visit www.tapsbeerbar.my.