When craft beer stall Smith Street Taps made its 2014 debut in the strangest of places – a grungy Chinatown hawker centre – who would’ve guessed how celebrated it would become? The brainchild of Daniel Goh and Kuok Meng-Chao, Smith Street Taps has consistently come out tops in the Best Beer Bar category at The Bar Awards Singapore. Thanks to their visionary work, the hops-loving duo have ushered in a new era of hawker bars in Singapore, not to mention spurred a mini-boom in bars offering craft brews on tap.
Tucked in a back corner of the notoriously maze-like Chinatown Complex, Smith Street Taps is a tough gem to find. The no-frills storefront is a cheerful clutter of beer-inspired fridge magnets and mini chalkboards, which announce the current beers on tap in colourful scrawl. A dozen taps gleam along one side – promise of refreshing pleasures to come. As dusk falls, this unassuming corner gets hopping with a diverse crowd of beer lovers.
Smith Street Taps offers an international lineup of hop bombs, covering a wide range of flavour profiles and styles – from light fruity ales like SweetWater Berliner Weisse to big, intense stouts like the North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial. The drinks roster refreshes every time a keg has kicked – save for the two permanent taps – and the owners have a penchant for unusual and even exclusive brews. Pints go for a very affordable S$13-S$17 per pint, so we won’t be surprised if you down a couple more than planned.
One funky brew we managed to catch during our visit was the Mikkeller SpontanLychee (S$16), a deep amber pour with a thin white head. Spontaneously fermented with lychees, the sourness of the lambic finds mellower expression in the lychee’s tart sweetness, along with crisp hints of lemon and grape. Even if you’re not a fan of sours, this light, citrusy number makes for easy drinking. The Shiga Kogen Wit (S$15) was another pleasantly summery brew, a straw-gold witbier which begins zesty and finishes with hints of cloves.
For a walk on the dark, sweet side, we had the Sankt-Gallen Kokutou Sweet Stout (S$15), a Flavoured Beer winner of the 2019 World Beer Awards. The Okinawa brown sugar (aka kokutou) brings out the best of the milk stout’s choco-caramel notes, producing a rich, nutty pint with a silky mouthfeel. With its roasty tang, this malt would be delectable paired with some satay from the stalls next door, or just as liquid dessert.
If your thirst isn’t quite slaked, hop down a few stalls to sister stall Smith Street Taps & Friends. Newly launched this August, SSTF boasts eight taps dedicated to local breweries such as Brewerkz, Lion City Meadery, Daryl’s Urban Ales, and Pink Blossoms Brewing.
We recommend trying the intriguing Asam Boi Gose (S$13), product of a colla-‘brew’-ation between Australia’s Beerfarm and Smith Street Taps. Asam boi is a preserved salted plum used in Asian cooking, and its namesake beer is dry-hopped in the sour ale base, unleashing a complex medley of salty, sour, and sweet. Along with Lion City Meadery’s Spiced Mead (S$14) – a deliciously Christmassy blend of spices like cinnamon, cloves, and star anise – this was one of the highlights of our night.