Binjai Brew began as home-brewing adventure by three friends in their fourth year at university. The odd part about this home-brewing adventure is that it wasn’t done in a home, rather Abilash, Heetesh and Rahul decided it would be a good idea to brew beer in the pantry of their university dorm. Through the highs and lows, and for better and for worse, this is the Binjai Brew story. We invite you to be a part it.
With about $200 worth of equipment, and a further $80 of malt, hops and yeast, we took a head first dive into our first brew. Having just got back from spending a year in the U.S, and because we went off an American recipe, the amount of water we needed got lost in the unit conversions. Our first beer ended up being way more alcoholic than it was supposed to be. A second shot at the same recipe got us a beer that was at least drinkable. With that, we started exploring new styles of beer.
After our 3rd batch, we chanced upon a contest organised by the home-brew shop. It was an informal contest, and the proceeds were to be donated to charity. Given that the closing date was fast approaching, and there was only one style left to pick, we had to beg to join. After brewing our beer, we realised we didn’t have a keg to submit our beer in, and we promptly had to borrow one from a friend. Surprisingly, our beer managed to steal the hearts of those present on the day, and we won the title of most popular beer. We also made a lot of friends at the event, most of whom we are still in touch with.
About 8 months later and right around our 10th batch of beer, the professor in charge of our hostel somehow found out that we were brewing beer in the pantry. It was one of the things we figured might happen eventually, and we were partly surprised that we had managed to keep it going that long. We had an understanding if we were ever asked to stop, we would. Of course, at the time we were sad because we thought it was the end of a hobby that provided a creative outlet during a stressful year at university. Little did we know what was to follow.
Having thought our brewing days were behind us, we willingly agreed to an interview with our university’s student published newspaper, The Nanyang Chronicle. They published the story on their Facebook page on a Monday, and it blew up so much that, on Tuesday a mainstream Chinese language paper published a direct translation of their article. On Wednesday the Straits Times called us for a comment on the story they were going to run, and on Friday there was an article about us in the print version of the Straits Times. On the whole, we got a pretty favourable and sympathetic response which was a pleasant surprise, because, quite frankly, we were scared as hell of going to jail. With all the attention we got, we began to realise we could pursue this full time.
We had to put many things in place before we officially launched; what beers were we going to have, what would our brand look like, how would we package it. We could never be sure that we’d get everything right, but then again nobody can. So with bright-eyed confidence, we launched at a local craft beer bar. We were truly heartened at the turnout and the number of people who cared about us. The journey since then has been filled with amazing highs and crushing lows, but at every point, it has always been the reaction of others to our beer that has kept us going. If you’ve read this far, thank you for staying with us, and we hope you will continue to stay with us along the Binjai Brew journey.