Do you like stout? Yes? Amiril Hulaimin and Dinesh Bhavani have a thing or two for you. No? These two might change your mind.
Earlier this year, the beer geeks behind On Hangover Hill threw their inaugural event at Maxi Coffee Bar, where they introduced guests to a handful of dark beers like Bruery Terreux’s Black Tuesday Stout (which has a whopping 19.3% ABV) and a bourbon Barrel Aged Ten Fidy from Oskar Blues. The booze, paired with snacks such as homemade sourdough and brownies, are all rated four (out of five) and up on beer app Untappd.
Still in its infancy, On Hangover Hill (OHH) is a passion project looking to change the way you look and drink beer through curated tastings and its humble inventory of some of the most interesting brews we’ve ever seen. Ahead, the founders spill their mission, their favourite brews and what’s coming up from OHH.
How did On Hangover Hill start?
Amiril: On Hangover Hill is built on the belief that life shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Hangover might have negative connotations, but it’s always funny to hear how people got theirs when they share their stories.
Dinesh and I joked about starting a stout cult when we realised that his four fridges at home were filled with stouts that were ridiculously high in ABV that were all above 12%. He thought, what better way to make people drink the dark kool aid?
Dinesh: I’ve been making friends in the craft beer scene for about five years. I’ve always been known as the guy that drinks “good strong stuff” at my regular haunts. That sort of stuck. As more time passed, people paid more attention to what I would order or drink, so I just went with the “go-to stout guy”. People always assumed I was in the industry anyway. [Laughs] Then Amiril got converted from a cider drinking boy to now a stout behemoth himself. When Maxi Coffee Bar provided us the opportunity to preach, we thought we’ll see where this goes.
Ami and I share similar love for music and pop culture references so OHH was sort of an ode to Melancholy Hill. The name is also a tribute to Maxi at Ann Siang Hill for giving us a starting point.
What do you hope to do with On Hangover Hill?
Dinesh: I think while craft beer is currently in its golden era and literally exploding in Singapore, there’s also a whole lot of misconceptions about drinking beer itself. We wish to showcase certain nuances of craft brews and how different styles can completely warp how you look and experience beer.
You can taste beer the way you would in a wine or whiskey tasting. People are still unaware that beer too can be sexy and sophisticated. The other aspect that made me fall in love with craft beer is the generous community we have in Singapore. When I first started drinking, the concept of bottleshare was new and strange. But now it’s become a weekly activity I look forward to. Trying a bunch of really rare and cool beers with like-minded individuals over snacks and sharing stories? That’s a weekend well spent, I’d say. I think people would really enjoy having bottleshares or tasting sessions that allow them to connect with people and with what’s in their glass.
Amiril: Also, we don’t follow a course syllabus when we plan for our event. Our Black Tuesday session had a thematic element to it and we crafted it in a way that people can approach bottleshare sessions. Our next aim is to educate how versatile stouts can be and how you can arrange the different adjuncts to get the most satisfying feeling for your heart, body and soul.
You both have day jobs. What do you do?
Amiril: During the day, I do digital marketing in the music industry and sometimes I feel like I’m leading the life of Hannah Montana with this day and night split persona. It’s truly the best of both worlds. Right now, I’m trying to influence my colleagues to accept sessionable beers during lunch meetings.
Dinesh: I’m a design engineer for a German Tunnel Boring Machine Manufacturer. Quite a mouthful, isn’t it? One of my notable accomplishments includes converting most of the management to drink craft beer and be known as the “I drank this unique beer I must tell Dinesh about it” guy.
How do you source your beers and food?
Dinesh: Beer sourcing can be very tricky. It requires an extensive knowledge of the market including what’s new, what’s readily available as well as what are people casually drinking. We want to avoid bringing in “casual” craft beers. Everything you get from us will be something you will remember.
A starting point to source beers is to build a network of relationships and actually maintain those relationships. As a lot of the beers are rare and at some points extremely limited, it helps to know the right person or just be lucky at times with the timing of when the beers are being released.
Food is easy. Ami and I both are extremely picky with food and, again, we have a lot of friends who are curious just like us about beer, so we’re able to partner with them to bring good food pairings. This way we can also introduce great food that otherwise remains under the radar.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
Amiril: We have been pretty lucky in logistics. For me, the biggest challenge was on the event day itself. We both don’t have an events background and we ran into a couple of hiccups during the set-up.
Thankfully, we had the best crew support from our friends and they were the real MVPs in carrying us through the night, — from organising the crowds and managing the bar — so we can do our thing and highlight the centrepiece of the night: The Black Tuesday event.
Dinesh: The biggest challenge for me operationally would be trying not to be too intimidating for a craft beer event. People are slowly warming up to the fact that great beer comes at a premium. However, a lot of people are hesitant about spending as they are not well acquainted with the beer scene. That is what we are trying to change.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions surrounding beer?
Amiril: There’s so many aspects that I want to share. I think beers get too much of a negative rep in that they are empty calories. It’s not empty calories if you enjoy the full flavour profile.
Calories are like flavour points: the higher the number, the better they taste. How can you resist a stout that tastes like ondeh-ondeh or peanut butter?
At our events, we want to make sure that you get to filter out the flavour profiles that you like in a stout or in an IPA.
Dinesh: That beer is extremely bloating. That beer is smelly, beer will make you fat (have you seen me?). It’s an indulgence like most things, but we strive to teach that you can have your cake and eat it too. In moderation. Share your happy calories. If it helps, Ami and I are both fitness freaks.
You started On Hangover Hill spotlighting stout — why?
Dinesh: I can’t say I have tried a lot of different beers, only about three thousand or so… You can have great IPAs. Fantastic IPAs, even. But it’s almost always the stouts that have the ability to truly blow your mind and make you go, “Wow, how did they do this?” or “How does this taste exactly like that dessert?”
With the vast variety of flavours you can get from a stout, there really is something for everyone. It just takes discovering.
What more can we expect from On Hangover Hill?
Dinesh: We are extremely excited to use our first event as a springboard to do more events. People can expect more of the same style of curated tastings. What we can tell you is the beers will keep getting better. They are in for a treat. We are very thematic and we try to plan a curated tasting menu that people will love. In the meantime, follow us @onhangoverhill on Instagram or Facebook!
Amiril: Our next lineup is pretty crazy.
How can I buy the beers?
Amiril: We are not a bottle shop yet but if you fell in love with the beers at our event(a), you can get what we currently have in stock and drop us a message on Instagram. We update our Untappd list regularly of our offerings here.
Dinesh: Like what my partner has mentioned, we are not a retail shop. We create experiences for people. It’s all too easy to buy a damn good beer if you have the financial muscle and drink at home. But where’s the fun in that? There’s a level of satisfaction you get from sharing a special beer with someone and talking about it. That being said, we will definitely have select beers for sale from time to time that would otherwise not be available here. You can be the first to know from following us on Instagram or Facebook!
Tell us about the mind-blowing beers you’ve ever tasted.
Amiril: I’m a sucker for sweet things and most of the Untappd ratings I gave a 5 for were meads. Garagiste Meadery makes absolutely world class meads — tannic and fruity, sweet but balanced, and rich with complexity. They make this peanut butter series called Reboog Vitis and sometimes I wish that breakfast alcoholic PB & J is allowed in normal settings.
Continuing the theme of sweet things on the lips, I fell in love with this gula melaka coconut stout from Corporate Ladder Brewing. It’s like drinking kuih lopes. Perhaps, our crowd can prepare for this sweet onslaught at our next event in May.
Also, Burger Bar New York used to regularly carry fun sours from Cascade Brewing or Bruery Terreux that made me want to pucker my lips every time.
Dinesh: I love strong pastry stouts. One of the best stouts I’ve had in recent times was by Horus Aged Ales, a brewery specialising in barrel-aged stouts. Imagine taking a vanilla custard and aging it with hints of bourbon on the palate, with a heaping of crushed hazelnuts and the scent toasted coconut that fills the entire room. It’s creamy and thick yet balanced enough.
Besides stouts, a well-made mead is a sure-fire way to end a beer sharing session with your friends. Garagiste Meadery makes some exceptional ones. My favourite so far is the Drop Bear. A mead that is literal grape juice (made with Shiraz grapes). It’s sweet but balanced due to the aging in french oak. Oh, there was also one that was aged in Madeira sherry casks that was just delectable, but I digress.
Keep an eye out for these beers, you may soon find them near you!
(Main and featured image: Bruery Terreux/Facebook; all other images: On Hangover Hill)