PETALING JAYA, July 22 — Fancy a Weißbier with a fruity flavour? How about something spicy or floral in your booze? At The Great Beer Bar in Damansara Uptown, you can have it all: From an Australian brew of Weißbier (German wheat beer) with a touch of watermelon to a Scottish cider enhanced with ginger or elderflower.
The Great Beer Bar is a craft beer haven, the brainchild of Kennhyn Ang, he of Ales & Lagers fame, and Yan Phoa, a former customer turned friend. The bar is a long-awaited expansion of the Ales & Lagers concept, albeit with a fully-equipped kitchen and draft beer.
“The Great Beer Bar is a more comfortable space compared to Ales & Lagers,” says Ang. “At the same time, we’re maintaining the same price for the bottles selection. Also, it’s an open bar concept — hopefully someday, customers will have the confidence to pour their own beer.”
I had heard of two teams taking turns to man the kitchen on different days. On the day we dropped by, it was the Coolinary Ronins, the good folks behind Daikanyama and formerly Izakaya Shuraku, who were in charge.
Given the work involved in sourcing and bringing in unique craft beers, Ang is relieved to hand over the food duties to others. “It has been a blessing . We don’t know how to run a kitchen. Having Curbside Cantina and the Coolinary Ronins on board makes it easier for us and allows us to switch menus to offer different types of food all the time. This is in line with our beer selection which is always changing as well.”
Certainly the regulars are not complaining about getting bored with either the beer or food choices. The Coolinary Ronins serves up an array of “bar bites” such as the mushroom tacos and sweet potato fries. The popular Jar Noodles is basically moreish rice noodles and broth served in a glass jar, with the choice of Japanese, Korean or Thai flavours.
Ang recommends pairing the beef ribs with bourbon BBQ sauce, with their barrel aged beer. He says, “I had collaborated with the Coolinary Ronins for a couple of Foodbeerlicious events at Ales & Lagers. I found them easy to work with. They always have lots of creative ideas for the food. This current menu is from the All-American Weekend (to commemorate the American independence day on the fourth of July). Who knows what they’ll come up with for next weekend?”
The affable beer aficionado hopes to use more local flavours and ingredients for their bar snacks. “We’ll use more interesting cuts of meat and Malaysian spices. Rather then just having fries or burgers, we’ll slowly introduce more local bites and fine-tune the food to match our beers.”
Ang admits that many customers are still unused to their food selection, which can be quite adventurous for some. Expect items such as deep-fried chicken leg skin, duck lap cheong (waxed sausage), ox tongue, salsa with cincalok (Malaccan fermented shrimp) and chicken gizzards.
“Put it this way, we don’t believe in playing it safe. We are trying to create new tastes and textures while bringing back forgotten flavours. Some of our customers don’t even know what cincalok is, which surprises us. Hence our efforts to incorporate more local rempah (spices) and ingredients to re-introduce them to the public.”
Ultimately, The Great Beer Bar is meant to be a no-frills bar where customers may share a table, meet new friends, and start new conversations. Ang explains, “This is why we have hardly any music here and there is no television (unlike other bars).”
Many may deem beer drinking as a part of Western culture but if Ang and his team have their way, it will soon be one enjoyed with a foodie twist, a very Malaysian one. After all, what’s more Malaysian than our shared love of good food?
The Great Beer Bar
86 Jalan SS 21/62, Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Open daily 3pm-12am
Tel: 03-7731 5946