Craft beer in Phnom Penh, Obama and Stuffed Frogs – interview with Neo Say Wee, Brewmaster at Himawaris Microbrewery
Ten years ago, when Singaporean Neo Say Wee studied Computer Science he developed a great interest that was shared by many of his peers, namely Beer. Neo interest went further than most, he had a hunger to discover the skills and craft man ship behind a great tasting beer.
…Not only to enjoy it as the final product but how all the ingredients builds up to the final taste, the importance of clean environment and tools, knowing how the micro-organisms works and are affected and of course the challenge in making good beer
Today Neo works at the award winning Brewerkz Restaurant & Microbrewery in Singapore as a professional brewer. In 2011 he got an invitation from a friend, Andrew Tay at Himawari Hotel, who asked him if he would like to setup a microbrewery here in Phnom Penh.
Microbrewery can be defined as a brewery that usually produces beer, also called Craft Beer, and is small, independent and traditional with limited production size.
Cambodia has many good local Lager beers but only a few microbreweries. When Neo accepted Andrews invitation he decided that he wanted to create a high quality ale microbrewery. He saw it as a big but exciting challenge.
Machines from China, Malt from Germany, Hops from New Zealand, Yeast from US and Belgium and uv-filtered Cambodian water with extra minerals
In November last year, Himawari Microbrewery opened it’s doors as Cambodia’s first and only microbrewery in a 5 star hotel.
The brewery is currently producing three craft beers; Honey Sap, Nelson Blonde, Gem & Jade.
A light tasting and low bitterness Blonde Ale with 4.5% alcohol. The Hops is important from New Zealand with the distinctive flavor and aromas of Nelson Sauvin hops… spicy food would work well with this beer.
Gem & Jade
A more robust and more bitter Ale with 5% alcohol. Pacific Gem & Pacific Jade “Alpha” hops are used and together with the malt to create stronger more complex mouthful beer, slightly toasty taste… that goes well with Burgers and BBQs
Himawaris Honey Ale – the Honey SAP is a light tasting and low bitterness Ale with up to 6% alcohol. Honey from the Tonle Sap and Mondulkiri is added and gives the beer a sweet taste…
…Honey Ales are globally having an upswing maybe somewhat thanks to The White House, as The White House is producing its own Honey Ale by the request of the President Obama
My own favorite is the Gem & Jade, as I like more bitter Ales”
but he also enjoys commercial beers when he can:
I often drink commercial beer for taste calibration, as it must be a reason why commercial beers do well.. Understanding the local beer culture and preference is important factor in creating a good local crafts beer
Special brew for Chinese New Year
Special brew for Chinese New Year, a Cider made of Apples Juice, Fresh Dragon Fruit, fermented with Champagne yeast
The microbrewery will be ready to start serving the Red Dragon Cider from 10th of February.
Neo also told us about a Cambodian specialty that he found very tasteful
Korng Kaib Bouk is something special, I have not seen it anywhere else, very delicious and I enjoy eating once and a while when I’m in Phnom Penh. It is charcoal cooked frog stuffed with minced pork, spices, garlic, chili, fish sauce and lemongrass. Very tasty.
It might not be found on the menu but they do have a full bar menu suited for the craft beers and for those who prefer a good cigar to a good beer there are Davidoff cigars too.
Himawari Micro Brewery is open daily, 12pm – 10.30pm.
Now in February there is a 30% happy hour discount between 5pm-7pm.
See address and more information here.
Hope to see you and let me know what you think about the beer! Cheers!
Your Phnom Penh interview with Neo Say Wee,