Beer Hour
Grace Lim 
It may be called The Great Beer Bar, but tap beer is poured from a wall, not at a bar

Taps Beer Bar in Desa Parkciy’s Plaza Arkadia is one of the first full-fledged craft beer bars in the country. In a world where lagers and commercial beers reign supreme, the family-run outlet wanted to make a difference. Aaron Lim, one of five cousins who founded the bar, revealed that they were disappointed by the lack of beer variety and wanted to do something about it.

The family is well-travelled and always enjoyed the different types of beers around the world. Two cousins currently reside in Australia while the remaining three are in Kuala Lumpur.

“The craft beer scene in Australia, for example, started a lot earlier than here. It was a dream of ours to run a bar, and when we came across craft beer, we decided to give it a try. That’s how we got started in 2011,” he explains.

So what is craft beer? “In general, craft beer is made by micro-breweries. Some people brew the beer in their own garages, using only natural ingredients so the beer is fresher. The downside is that it is only good for a short period of time. These breweries also tend to be quite experimental by adding flavours or mixing with different ingredients,” Lim elaborated.

Due to the rising popularity of craft beer, some of these home-based breweries have expanded. Nevertheless, Taps like working with micro-breweries. “We try to taste most of it ourselves but we also go by reputation. We also refer to beer rating websites.”

Taps has 30 craft beer on tap and nearly 100 bottled beers. The tap beer is rotated every few weeks.

“There are always small breweries popping up, so much so that it’s hard to keep up! The idea behind this rotation is so that customers have something different all the time. For us, the best part is in discovering new beer and we want to recreate the same experience here,” Lim says.

During our visit, Taps had in stock mainly American and European beers as well as a selection from Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Denmark. There are also seasonal beers, such as spiced ones made for Christmas and Halloween.

“More craft beer bars are opening so it shows that the market is becoming more accepting. Even cafés and restaurants are starting to offer craft beer,” Lim notes.


In good company

For Ang Kenn Hyn, his love of beer led him to open The Great Beer Bar (TGBB) in 2015. Located in Damansara Uptown, it has since gained a loyal fan base.

“The concept is very straightforward. The bar is built like a café – the music is not too loud, it’s bright, and it’s a good place to chit-chat with friends. Our taps are not behind a bar but along the wall. So even though it’s a bar, it actually doesn’t have a bar,” Ang smiles.

In fact, when TGBB first opened, they sourced the beer from Taps. Ang says that he has a soft spot for India pale ale, and he brought in mainly these types of beer in the early days. He also worked closely with craft beer distributors in Singapore to bring in American craft beer.

“At the moment, the Americans like adding grapefruit and all kinds of berries. Craft breweries are quite playful when it comes to the ingredients,” Ang observes.

He is excited by the prospect of one day seeing Malaysians come up with their own craft beer. “Taiwanese beer contains Chinese herbs, red dates and chrysanthemum. The Japanese brew theirs with rice,” he muses.

A big challenge is awareness, and Malaysians are generally creatures of habit, sticking to what they already know. “Also many are into healthy eating and the idea of a beer belly may not be appealing,” he says.

TGBB has eight types of beer on tap and up to 80 bottled beers ranging from Belgian to Australian.

Ang declares that the most important thing to him is that his customers have a good time. “At the end of the day, it’s about the company and the enjoyment.”

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 278.