From high-end and high up at LeVel33 to down and dirty, hot and sweaty hawker centers. This is the perfect counter, showing Singapore as a city of duality, of epic modern skyscrapers and old underground markets, of five-star steak and five-dollar dim sum. The leveler is the hawker center. Sprawling, busy, loud food halls of flashing hot woks with the full stockpot of cuisines—Malay, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Indonesian. You go in and find a seat at a small plastic table, then pick your food from the dozens of stalls—it’s served quickly on plastic plates with throwaway chopsticks. It’s the great Singaporean food experience, and the growing influence of craft beer in the country has made its way, via the smart stuff, and down to these hawker centers.
Smith Street Taps, Singapore Hawker Food Meets Craft Beer Photo Gallery
In the Chinatown Complex there are three beer bars and many, many food stalls. Smith Street Taps (335 Smith Street, Chinatown Complex, Singapore 050335) have a dozen beers on draft, mostly from USA, Australia, and the UK, though there’s an occasional local brew (look out for Brewlander, which are made in Cambodia by Singaporean John Wei who then brings them back home and sells them locally—they’re some of the best beers in the country). This place is a local beer institution: Singapore’s local craft beer bar, with tables and chairs set outside like the food stalls, where you can just drink or bring whatever food you like to go with the brews. The Good Beer Company, a few yards away, is a bottle store with USA and European brews, and you can open a bottle and drink it with your food. Also nearby is On Tap, with the beers “homebrewed” locally. There were around eight beers on tap when I was there, though the quality varied from bad to barely okay.
The beers are expensive—some cost the same as four plates of food—but this is a country that’s pummeled with extraordinarily high taxes on beer and even a cold can of Tiger will have you roaring with surprise at the price. Overlook the cost because the brilliance of the hawker and beer experience is in putting excellent craft beers with everyday food; in a dichotomous way, it elevates the new complexities of craft beer to that understandable everyman place, a reversal of smart beer bars serving burgers, and it’s bringing it to where everyone meets and eats. This experience is uniquely of Singapore and it’s a fun flipside to the fine dining of LeVeL33.
Good beer, on draft, with great street food all around.
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