I have been thinking hard about whether to include this post about my lifelong beer escapade in this Psychic Tavern blog. I have finally relented, thinking that my readers should be given a chance to understand me better, especially my rather unsavory past in loving the booze. To recall, there were some occasions when I did encounter metaphysical forces during the times when I was intoxicated. For example, during my novice days, there was once when I experienced a ball of golden light descending upon my house and enveloped me while I was laying on my sofa at home after a heavy bout of drinking. After that incident, my awareness of energy forces became heightened. There were other occasions where I witnessed discarnate spirits hovering around me when I had a glass too many. I have grown used to seeing them in blackish shadows in some of the pubs I visited.
Those few close acquaintances whom I have been enjoying the fellowship actually frowned upon my mixing of spiritual development with my continued indulgence in beer. In the words of Stella, she jesteringly remarked that on one hand I seemed to improve leaps and bounds but on the other other my drinking excesses actually floored me and set back my growth.
These days as age catches up, I have successfully weaned myself from beer, though I still enjoy savouring its flavour once in a while.
My early induction into beer drinking
Since younger days, I have been guzzling beer. Along with my other siblings, we were taught by our late father how to drink beer. During the festive occasions, he would buy two bottles of Anchor beer, one for himself and one to be shared among my three other sisters and the youngest brother.
When I started working as a young adult, drinking beer with my colleagues was a favorite evening past-time. I was working in a government organisation in Stamford Road near the then National Library. After work, we occasionally visited the Raffles Pub nearby along Bras Brasah Road; I do not remember whether it was a part of the Raffles Hotel. On some rare occasions, we went to have our draft beer in a more raunchy joint – the Mayfair Pub, in the now-defunct Mayfair Hotel, I think at Loke Yew Street. The pub used to be frequented by off-duty civil servants and drew the crowd with its complement of Malay and Eurasian middle-aged women serving as waitresses cum public relations (PR).
Tiger Beer Promoter in Singapore 1930s
I still remember my weekend escapades to two favourite drinking outlets – Pavilion Restaurant and Ban Chuan Coffee House along Orchard Road; they served excellently chilled draught in gigantic mugs into the wee hours. Sadly, both are no longer around. I fondly recalled Pavilion used to be a favourite drinking joint for the Straits Times journalists. The late Chandra, its former reporter was a frequent customer there, and so was Leslie Fong, its former Editor-In-Chief.
Boozing during my days in the Army
After I joined the Army as a regular, for the next 15 years before I retired at 45, my life revolved around drinking affordable duty-free beer with my Army colleagues at the Tanglin And Gombak messes. Every week for five and a half day, we congregated at the mess after work and chatted about our family, our personal lives and just about everything under the sun. Though work related issues were seldom discussed whatever differences over official matters were amicably settled over mugs of beer. It was a great way to build and foster the camaraderie spirits.
My Overseas Beer Trail
Whenever I travel to overseas, my itinerary would inevitably include sampling the country’s native beer. During the early days of my overseas trips, I usually traveled to Thailand – my favourite beer was Kolster Beer, not Singha (it has a bitter aftertaste).
In Taiwan, I would never give its Taiwan beer a miss. I had fond memories of strolling along the night market (逢甲 in 淡水）seeping Taiwan Gold Beer from a can.
When I went to the States, I either drank their Miller beer, or the Corona said to be made from cactus by the Mexican.
The beer San Miguel (生力） is popular in Hong Kong and during those times I visited the former British Colony I would never give it a miss. One of my favourite beer in Hong Kong, whenever I patronised those hawker stalls in Hong Kong’s renowned food street in Temple Street selling roasted goose meat, used to be the Blue Ribbon (蓝带/蓝妹)。It would seem that the younger Hong Kong residents preferred imported foreign beer over the Chinese beer.
In China, there is an assortment of locally produced beer, depending upon which province I visit. Beer is not an indigenous product of China, and they learned beer brewing from the Germans who originated the Tsingtao brewery in Tsingtao, Shantung. Besides its world-renowned Tsingtao Beer, China has a wide range of other fantastic tasting beer. I love the Suntory, the number 1 beer in Shanghai, though it is supposed to be Japanese beer brewed in China. In Guangzhou, it was the Zhujiang beer I loved best; the alcoholic content by any standard was mild and I ended up drinking half a dozen of a big bottle with my Hong Kong colleague William every night when I was working there for two months. A former CID detective of the Hong Kong Police, he was an excellent drinking companion, and a loyal friend, who shared my interest in beer and good food. Later, during my trips to other parts of China, I have tried their Xihu beer and Xuehua or Snow Beer ( Both in Hangzhou and Suzhou), HuangHe Beer in the North Eastern region and Tibetan Beer. Back in Singapore, I have stumbled upon two other equally good and very affordable Chinese beer – Yanjing (Peking) and Harbin (Heilongjiang), and I love to have them when I am enjoying my favourite spicy hot sour (Szechuan) steamboat meal. I suppose all Chinese beer is lager beer.
Talking about my last trip to the Hainan Island a few years back, I recalled an encounter with a cocky lady who bragged that her husband was a Field Marshal in the PLA. The lady in her early 30s is the younger sister of a China lady who runs the tour agency, and she hosted a dinner on behalf of her elder sister to entertain our tour group in a restaurant in Haikou, the capital city of Hainan. Over dinner, she was trying to belittle Singaporeans, boasting that wealthy people liked her were aplenty in China, and Singaporeans were nowhere compared to them. She also criticised that Singapore investment in Hainan was a pittance. Just as she was still bragging away, I noticed our Anchor beer being served at the dinner. I waved the bottle in front of her, informing her that beer which was extremely popular in Hainan was a Singapore investment there.
During an official trip to Pagolog, Philippines, I chanced upon a locally produced beer called Red Horse at a pub near the hotel where I stayed. It is a very strong beer brewed by the world famous San Miguel Brewery, and it is comparable to the Carlsberg Special Brew. My Filipino companion and I each finished three large bottles, and plus a cocktail drink for a female friend, the bill came to about 600 pesos, less than S$40. The beer was really strong in alcoholic content, and when I returned to my hotel room I was immediately knocked off.
In Dec 2016, I went on a trip to Finland and Norway with my wife and got the chance to savor their beer. In Norway, I had the honor of drinking the World’s Northernmost brew – the Mack beer. Though the temperature there was at sub-zero, I still loved consuming it icily chilled, with an alluring flavor and lingering smoothness. In Finland, I was treated to two varieties of beer – the Karhu, the Bear beer which the local affectionately named it, and the Sahti Beer which I drank in a pub in a hotel in Helsinki on the eve of New Year. The beer Sakti which seems to taste closer to Carlsberg has a robust kick and a fruity flavor.
Sadly speaking, up to today, I still cannot differentiate the difference between lager and pilsner beer. However, it has come to my knowledge that Tiger is larger while its rival Carlsberg is Pilsner.
By Anthony Leong