The beer train from the Anchor Brewery

30 10 2017

A wonderful set of photographs popped up On a Little Street in Singapore last week. The photographs were posted by Lies Strijker-Klaij and includes several of the old Anchor Brewery at which Mrs Strijker’s husband, the photographer, headed its Brewhouse and Bottling Hall in the 1960s as an employee of Heineken. The set of the brewery includes several rare photographs of the railway siding and the bonded store that was sited across Alexandra Road (where IKEA stands today), as well as an overhead conveyor bridge that was used to convey beer across to the store. Together with the brewery, the bridge was a longtime landmark in the area.

An aerial view showing the brewery, the bridge , the bonded store, and the railway siding (photo: Th. A. Strijker).

The brewery, occupied the spot where Anchorpoint (the shopping mall) and the Anchorage (a condominium) stands today. It was one of two breweries along a partly industrialised Alexandra Road, the other brewery being the Malayan Breweries Limited (MBL), a venture between Fraser and Neave (F&N) and Heineken. The Anchor Brewery, producing Anchor Beer, began as a $1 million venture by the Dutch East Indies based Archipel Brouwerij Compagnie named the Archipelago Brewery Company (ABC) on 4 November 1933. As a rival to MBL, which produced Tiger Beer, it entered into a five-year pooling agreement in March 1938.  The agreement, secured for it a 40% share of the beer market and 70% of the stout market in Malaya, with the intention that it was to eventually be extended to the breweries’ other markets in Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and China.

The bridge to the bonded store over Alexandra Road, 1969, decorated for the 150th Anniversary of the founding of modern Singapore  (photo: Th. A. Strijker).

A turn of events in Europe just one and a half years later would lead to MBL’s acquisition of ABC. Britain had declared war with Germany following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. ABC, which Germany’s Beck’s Brewery had an interest in, was then abandoned by its German management team and found itself in the hands of the government, who decided to keep the brewery running under their care before putting it up for sale in 1940. MBL submitted the winning bid and set up a subsidiary – the Archipelago Brewery Company (1941) – to run the brewery in 1941.  It wasn’t to be long however before another turn of events – the Japanese invasion and occupation – saw the brewery’s operators change hands once again when Dai Nippon, the producer of Asahi Beer in Japan, was asked to operate the brewery from late 1942.

The bonded store and a train leaving it (photo: Th. A. Strijker).

MBL returned to running the breweries after the war and it was in this post-war period in 1949 when the conveyor bridge, built 6 metres above Alexandra Road, was added along with a bonded storehouse (where IKEA is today). A private railway siding, connected the store with a pre-existing industrial branch line that connected with the main line across Jalan Bukit Merah. The industrial line was in use until the early 1980s, after which it was dismantled. The brewery closed in 1990 when MBL’s brewing operations were relocated to a new factory in Tuas and together with its iconic conveyor bridge and its store, were demolished in 1993 – except for a Arts and Crafts movement inspired house along Alexandra Road – the former residence of the brew master. The conservation building, now used as a restaurant, along with several hints of the former brewery found in the names of the mall and condominium that has replaced it (and also the ABC Brickworks Food Centre), are all that now remains of a brewery that introduced to Singapore what became until the 1980s at least, its favourite beer.

A loaded train leaving the siding (photo: Th. A. Strijker).

366A Alexandra Road – another Arts and Crafts styled house in the brewery compound – in which Mr and Mrs Strijker lived in (photo: Th. A. Strijker)  

The former Brewmaster’s House – conserved in 1993.


Frothy black substance seen floating on top off Tuas

3 09 2010

Off Tuas Road that is … at the Asia Pacific Breweries (APB). The folks there who are responsible for bringing Guinness to Singapore, were kind enough to organise an inaugural meet up for fans of the liquid black gold. The fans were treated to a tour of the brewery (not that Guinness is brewed there … we were told that the Guinness we get here is in fact brewed in the Emerald Isle, Ireland, and is actually not black as it appears to the naked eye, but a rather dark shade of ruby red, during the course of the evening). It was certainly a night not to forget, as following the tour of the brewery, there was still time to indulge in a few pints of the glorious ruby red stuff at the Tiger Tavern next door.

The Tiger Tavern at APB in Tuas.

Beer delivery in the good old days ... surely there couldn't have been enough beer to go around!

Having had the opportunity to visit breweries and distilleries which always seem to be dominated by the copper kettles and vats, I guess the visit to the brewery wasn’t remarkable in itself, but there still something that I learnt in the process … that while we take things standing up, the Dutch seem more laid back in taking things lying down: Heineken is fermented in a horizontal tank whereas most other beers are fermented in a vertical tank.

While we take things standing up ....

The Dutch seem more inclined towards a more laid back approach ... Heineken is fermented in horizontal tanks.

Another thing I learnt that evening once was that Guinness was in many ways lighter than lager … first by having less calories than lager … and also that it is actually a less dense liquid and can be made to float on lager by a skilled bartender … what the Guinness folks call a “Black and White” – also referred to as a “Black and Tan” more generically. A spoon is used in the process to tap the Guinness into half a glass of lager … a process made to look easy by the skilled bartender who in no time at all, produced a pint of what was certainly a sight to behold: Black liquid floating on gold.

Making a Guinness Black and White ...

Easy does it ...

Voilà! The frothy black substance floating on top of a little more than half a glass of lager.

Of course the evening wouldn’t have been complete without some fun … some lucky people walked home with the much coveted new Guinness Pint Glass which is being introduced this September and several other prizes by providing correct answers to questions posed by the Guinness Team and also with some creative attempts as downing a pint of Guinness ….

Getting creative at downing a pint of Guinness!

Oh, and I did learn one more thing … that beer doesn’t cause a “beer belly” as is commonly thought … it does however increase one’s appetite … so I guess there’s only one thing left to blame – too much of the other good stuff, food, which the folks at APB were kind enough to provide an excellent spread of for the evening to complement the Guinness. I understand that they would be organising more events like this … and it is certainly worth to keep your eyes and ears wide open for a really good time.

Saying goodbye ...