Starting a brewery is difficult in the best of times; opening one in the midst of a virus pandemic can seem downright suicidal. But Clive Tan, founder of Singapore’s latest craft beer brewery Sunbird Brewing Company, sees opportunity and hope amidst the doom and gloom.
Sunbird Brewing Company is the latest to join the burgeoning local craft brewing industry, which recently also saw new entrants Alive Brewing and Wild Brew. Founded this year by 29-year old Clive Tan, the Mandai-based brewery will be starting off with a capacity of five hectolitres across a full-grain, three-vessel system. Sunbird currently offers a range of four beers – the ‘Fly in Light’ Pale Ale, ‘Birds of Paradise’ White IPA, ‘ Eclipse of the Sun’ Scottish Ale, and ‘Fluff Up’ Belgian Witbier.
“Our range of beers are inspired by creativity and approachability. We are influenced to craft ‘everyday beer’ that appeals to both seasoned and new consumers,” shares Clive Tan, who is head brewer and director at Sunbird Brewing Company. Tan previously cut his teeth brewing at brewery pioneers Archipelago Brewery and Brewerkz, as well as now-defunct small craft operation Innocence Brewing.
But Sunbird couldn’t join Singapore’s highly-competitive beer scene at a worse time, with a raging coronavirus pandemic that has forced pretty much every watering hole to be closed for on-premise business. That is, while breweries can brew, no one is drinking beer at bars until Singapore’s circuit breaker measures are eased.
So why did Sunbird decide to open up during this very challenging period for F&B businesses? “The launch of Sunbird brewing company was in fact planned about a year ago,” Tan shares. “We were motivated to go ahead in this difficult period as we want to provide a sense of opportunity and hopefulness to beer lovers, the craft community, and at large young entrepreneurs.”
No thanks to the ongoing pandemic the new brewery has already seen massive order cancellations from its channel partners even before it’s officially launched. Sunbird was supposed to have officially been launched this month, but even the big launch party that was planned had to be moved to being a virtual one instead. It currently sells its beers online, delivering freshly tapped beers from brewery to consumer’s doorsteps.
Tan says that one of the biggest challenges that Sunbird will face – like every other business – will be the new normal post COVID-19. “We cannot rely on past trends and best practices to predict what consumers want. Instead, we have to listen and involve our consumers to determine what this ‘new norm’ is in order to effectively adapt our products and operations that will be relevant.”
“We (have) to be agile in adapting to changes in the market, and have the freedom to produce true-to-style craft beers that are sustainable and can make an impact in Singapore and Asia,” adds Tan.
He also sees the Singapore’s brewery scene as a cohesive – rather than a competitive – one, as evidenced by the recent #SGCraftTogether initiative. Sunbird Brewing Company is one of the Singapore breweries participating in the collaboration effort which sees local breweries make each other’s beers available in mixed cases on their online stores.
Not many know that the Crimson Sunbird is the national bird of Singapore. The brilliantly red-hued tropical is what Singapore’s newest craft beer brewery is named after. Perhaps like that the country it’s based in, Sunbird Brewing Company will similar soar amidst a time of adversity during their founding.