KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 — If you’ve heard of craft beers, chances are this is thanks in part to former advertising executive Kennhyn Ang, the man behind Ales & Lagers, a one-stop shop for craft beer enthusiasts.
From his days as a novice beer enthusiast running the blog Beerbeer.org (launched in 2008) to starting Ales & Lagers in October 2012, Ang has observed a growing appreciation of craft beers.
“People are starting to accept craft beers from microbreweries. There is now a 50/50 mix of those who are simply curious who walk past my shop from offices nearby and the regulars, who bring friends to try.
“While some might pair these niche beers with cheese as they do with wine, others would enjoy their beers with local food, such as char kway teow,” he says.
Whilst not a pub, Ales & Lagers has become a favourite catch-up spot like the bar in the TV show Cheers. If you drop by, do try and spot a few of Ang’s favourite items that keep the place buzzing.
1. The trusty bottle opener
This trusty bottle opener has always been with me ever since I was a beer blogger years ago and travelling to different places to try new beers. MacGyver has his pen knife, and I have my bottle opener.
It’s not an expensive one. In fact, I got it in Singapore in 2008; it came free with two bottles of Erdinger. Yes, Erdinger is a commercial brand but I don’t believe in just drinking craft beers but trying all sorts.
This particular opener is very nice to use. I have had others, possibly “prettier” ones, that don’t quite fit the palm of my hand so well. This one is designed to conform to the shape of the hand, I guess.
These days it’s more of a keepsake because when I drink at bars and clubs, there is always someone to open the bottles for me. So this bottle opener stays at the shop and no longer follows me around.
2. The travelling chairman
I actually found this Chairman Mao bust in the store room and decided to put it outside on the shelves. Since then, it’s become very popular with customers, almost like a mascot for the shop.
It’s actually a vintage coin box. It was made in China but I bought it in Singapore. It got filled up with 50 sen coins and of course, I removed the coins as change for the business! In fact, my friend and I bought two of these coin boxes. Mine is blue velvet and he got the red one, which I prefer, but that’s life, right?
Most things that I own are impromptu additions; I’m not nostalgic about collecting stuff. Back when I was blogging about beer, I would get lots of media kits and free gifts that now I just ignore. I try not to bring so much paraphernalia back with me, especially when I travel.
Travelling is a good time to drink because I don’t have to drive; I can walk back or take a cab. Hong Kong, one of my favourite places to drink, however, isn’t a good place to drink and walk back to the hotel on account of the streets being very steep!
3. The old fisherman’s ale
My favourite beer is Old Fisherman’s Ale by Pannepot, a Belgian brewer. This is a dark ale brewed with spices. I love its complexity. Its flavours include the sweetness of banana and a dark fruitiness, almost like a dark roast. The aftertaste is a syrupiness that sticks.
When the beer is young, it’s quite sour, and when it ages, it becomes mellow. Its colour is very dark, almost black. At 10 per cent alcohol, this ale has a wine-like texture.
The first time I drank it was in 2010, at Brux-Ale, Bangsar (they have since ceased operations). I never tasted beer so good. And this is part of my personal beer philosophy; I don’t believe in pushing craft beer exclusively — as long as it’s good, even if it’s commercial or home-brewed, that works for me.
I remember two friends and I were sharing the bottle, the three of us sipping slowly at it. The best things are meant to be shared.
4. Beer Armageddon
Another treasure that I keep in my shop is an empty bottle. This is no ordinary bottle but a 330ml Armageddon, supposedly the strongest beer in the world at 65 per cent alcohol. I drank this at Beertopia, Hong Kong’s International Craft Beer Festival this March.
Friends and customers keep asking me what this tasted like. To be honest, when I drank it, I already had 10 to 12 beers so I don’t really remember the taste of this beer. It must have been really strong though because the beer bottle followed me all the way back to Kuala Lumpur, in my backpack’s side pocket, and I didn’t even realise it!
The trick is to take small sips. You’re only supposed to have it like a shot, and not an entire bottle. How much did I take? Well, to give you an idea — I met a lot of brewmasters in Hong Kong. The next day, when I checked my phone, there was a selfie of one of the brewmasters and me. I don’t remember that at all. Hopefully that’s all we did.
5. The tulip-shaped glass
The tulip shape of the Duvel glass is beautiful, not unlike a nosing glass for wine. The round contours help to release the flavours and aromas of the beer, and the smaller rim collects them so you can enjoy them longer.
I have one made from glass; the better ones are made of crystal, which is thinner so it feels nicer to hold. For tasting sessions, the character of the glass allows better appreciation of the beer.
Besides the Duvel, I also like a Toku glass as it’s also for nosing. This is great for serving high alcohol content beers of 10-12 per cent.
6. The rarest bottle cap
My favourite bottle cap comes from the Trappist Westvleteren 12 Dark that comes from a Belgian brewery found inside a Trappist abbey. The bottle has no label so you have to read the bottle cap to figure out what beer it is. Even then the design is very minimal.
As the Westvleteren Brewery’s brews have been rated as some of the best beers in the world and are sold in very small quantities from the abbey store, these beers are very rare and can cost up to RM190 a bottle. In fact, they don’t sell them to businesses, only individuals and only after having made a reservation by telephone.
Even then, individuals are only allowed to order one crate (with 24 bottles per crate) every 60 days. Hence it’s very expensive in the overseas market.
The longer you age the beer, the better it tastes. Beer geeks would buy at even high prices, and keep the “young” beer for five to six years to allow the taste to mature. This bottle cap, therefore, is my keepsake of a very exclusive beer.
Ales & Lagers
D1-G4-06, Solaris Dutamas, No. 1, Jalan Dutamas 1,
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Open daily 3pm–10pm Tel: 03-6419 0328