This Malaysian-made craft beer is ready to soar


There’s a new craft beer in town, and it’s made in Malaysia by Malaysians, for Malaysians. – Photos: MICHAEL CHEANG/The Star

Have you ever wondered what a Malaysian-made craft beer would taste like? Well, wonder no more, as there is finally an actual, proper Malaysian-brewed craft beer in town.

Currently available at the newly opened Tap Room at Bamboo Hills in Kuala Lumpur, Paperkite is a new craft beer range that is 100% brewed in Malaysia by Malaysians.

One of the people behind this new beer is none other than Alvin Lim, a well-known figure in the Malaysian craft beer scene, having co-founded Taps Beer Bar, one of the first specialist craft beer bars in the country, back in 2012.

According to him, the idea for Paperkite came about around four years ago, when a group of investors approached him with the project.

“They had a brewery in place and the license was sorted out. They just needed someone to head the team and lead this project,” he recalled. “Back then, we were just discussing how to go about doing it, and nothing was set in stone yet.”

Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and everything got derailed for two and a half years. But once things opened up again, they got back on track, and Lim actively started working on the project about 10 months ago.

The first thing he did was to put together a brewing team, which currently consists of himself, and two other brewers who are equally passionate about brewing beer.

“Then we had to test the system out, as we had to find out the best way to use it. We started doing R&D with whatever ingredients we had on hand and came up with a Belgian-style witbier and a pale ale,” Lim said. “And because we had to work with whatever we had at the time, we did everything by hand, including grinding the coriander seeds needed for the witbier using a teacup in a bowl! That’s what we had at the time,” he said.

Lim said the idea behind Paperkite is to create a Malaysian-made craft beer that we could be proud of. Lim said the idea behind Paperkite is to create a Malaysian-made craft beer that we could be proud of.

The three brewers also went for training courses under the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in Britain, and then to Japan to train in a brewery called Ise Kadoya.

“Our brew leader actually has training experience in New Bristol Brewing Company (in Britain), so we learnt a lot from him as well,” Lim said.

The name Paperkite came about when the three brewers were talking about their past experiences. “Back when we were kids, before there were YouTube tutorials, we would make paper kites from trial and error. You would keep trying and trying until you got it right,” Lim said.

“It’s very much like the way we started this brewery – it was all trial and error, and we tried and tried until we got it right.”

The right styles

After all that training and testing, it was time to get to work. The first thing they needed to do was to decide what styles of beer to make.

Lim said they did several experiments with various styles of beer before settling on their first few core expressions.

“One thing we found out with our sample tests was that many people are still a bit apprehensive about IPAs. If it was too hop-forward, people couldn’t really accept it,” he said.

The Paperkite Copper Ale is a very drinkable English bitters-style ale.The Paperkite Copper Ale is a very drinkable English bitters-style ale.“So we started out with the more well-known styles of beer in Malaysia – a red ale, a stout, and a lager. But we didn’t want to do a lager first, because that would be the same as everybody else.”

The first two beers that Paperkite has released are the Copper Ale and the Oatmeal Stout.

The Copper Ale is a pretty tasty English Bitters-styled ale, which is a very easy-drinking, balanced session beer, but not too easy like a lager. Malty in the entry, you get light hoppy bitterness and nuttiness on the nose and palate as well. It also has a nice medium body, and an easy yet malty finish.

“With craft beers, you always start with a ‘safe’ beer, one that won’t catch you by surprise. And for us, the Copper Ale is that beer,” said Lim.

“People seem to like it because it didn’t have an overwhelming flavour at the back, or too strong a hop aroma. It was caramel-ish and honey-ish, and people were very surprised by the product.”

If you like a heavier flavour to your beers, then the Oatmeal Stout is for you. A very drinkable stout, it has a slightly bitter start, like black coffee mocha, with a medium light body. There’s malt and cereal on the palate, dark cocoa nib and a malty finish.

“We did a stout because it is one of the most known styles in Malaysia. We increased the roasted level, and got some chocolate flavours from it, and we were quite happy with it,” said Lim.

While deciding on what beers to release first, the team also had to take into account the cost of making the beers, in order to make their beers more affordable and accessible.

One of the first beers made by Paperkite is this Oatmeal Stout – stouts are one of the better-known styles of beer in Malaysia.One of the first beers made by Paperkite is this Oatmeal Stout – stouts are one of the better-known styles of beer in Malaysia.“If we want to be in the market with the right target market, we had to look at the cost of each style. Hops being the most expensive ingredients, we decided that these two were the right styles to introduce a Malaysian craft beer into the market,” he said, adding that there will be more styles to come in the future, with an IPA, XPA, wheat beer and a pilsner in the pipeline.

Lim also said that there is a plan to include more experimental styles in the future as well.

“The idea is also that we want to incorporate Malaysian grown products. For instance, we can use pineapple, cocoa, and other herbs of spices that are found in Malaysia. We could even make a pandan beer! We will still keep a good core of beers, but we will have more seasonal and experimental stuff as well.”

While Paperkite is only available at Tap Room for now, Lim would like to see it in other craft beer bars as well in the future.

“But we don’t want to start distributing it only to find out we don’t have enough to distribute. So our immediate goal now is to keep it consistent and maintain the quality of the beer,” he added.

Having been in the craft beer industry for more than 12 years, Lim reckons this is the perfect time to launch a Malaysian craft beer.

According to him, when Taps Beer Bar first started in 2012, 99% of the customers were expatriates. But since then, the craft beer scene in Malaysia has grown steadily, with more and more craft beer outlets opening and more suppliers bringing in different brands and styles of beers.

“We also saw a shift in demographics in terms of people coming to the bar – there were a lot more Malaysians willing to spend a bit more for craft beer,” he said, adding that he used to get requests for a “Malaysian craft beer” all the time.

“We used to get a lot of tourists and expatriates asking for a Malaysia-made craft beer, and we didn’t have one. But now we have Paperkite, an affordable Malaysian-made craft beer that people can introduce their friends to!”

Michael Cheang wonders what a pandan beer would actually taste like. Follow him on Facebook (fb.com/mytipsyturvy) and Instagram (@MyTipsyTurvy).

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