Located in the shining new alcove of South Beach Avenue, Alchemist Beer Lab is grabbing drinkers by the taste buds with their uniquely infused local brews. Sixteen lustrous glass towers form a kaleidoscope of tasty infusions steeling the attention of guests and forming a tasty centrepiece to the bar.
Claiming to be the world’s first beer infusion lab to host 16 state-of-the-art towers, Alchemist Beer Lab features two kinds of systems: one from Poland holding up to one-litre of beverage, and the other from the United States of America with a capacity of three-litres. What makes these towers special is that they are constantly pressurized with a charge of CO2, which assists with rapid infusion of any ingredients added to the beer, mead or cider. Soon to be switched out with the fourth generation, Alchemist Beer Lab will be the first in the region with the technology, and far ahead of the game with the “research” they have already carried out.
A tasting flight of four beers ($25 during happy hour, $35 after) is a great way to sample across the range. I’m personally not a huge beer drinker so find the cider infusions most appealing. Every week there’s at least one new addition to the infusions, but the Obama (stout with marshmallow, mint and vanilla) and the Honey Trap (mead with honey, lemongrass and ginger) have been so popular that they have remained on the menu from day one.
As the drinks begin to flow we hear stories of “working out the kinks,” and tales of the “Gandalf, bad-assed master brewer” Steve who is responsible for the craft brews used as the base of the infusions. Bar manager Barnaby oozes a bumper sense of fun, and chef John laughs with us, “Some of them have worked and some of them have been absolute disasters.” The team clearly loves what they do, and that happy vibe permeates the outlet with warmth and a mood of merrymaking.
Clearly poised to embrace the Alchemist team’s innovations, we try out a prototype that’s not yet on the menu. Chef’s house made ginger beer spiked with a generous shot of dark rum, a splash of sparkling water, a few drops of bitters and a slice of lime makes flawless tropical imbibement.
Just as the beer infusions are continuously evolving, so too is the food menu. At the time of opening, the offerings were predominantly tapas, but have since expanded to something heartier. Chef John Edwards describes the lab as, “An ideal after work location. The food is meant to be quick, accessible and reasonably priced. We want this to be a place that people consider as a local.” And so on to the food menu we roll.
Sticky Thai Chicken Wings ($10) have us sucking our fingers and licking our lips. There’s no elegant way to eat these other than with our hands. The mild curry marinade could easily hold its own, but the accompanying Vietnamese nuoc cham sauce and calamansi halves boost the flavours even more.
Ceviche of Sea Bass ($17) is unique with its tequila salsa de tigre. Backed up with lime hot sauce caviar (they take their infusions seriously!) and avocado, it all sits atop a rice paper appalam. The heat in the first two appetizers match well with icy cold infusions, especially the Honey Trap with its sweetness taming the heat.
Chef John Edwards is a specialist in meat (he is credited with bringing beef brisket to culinary acclaim on the island), so you can’t go wrong with anything meaty. The Cold Cuts (small $22) features an array of house made and imported cured artisan meats. Everything on today’s platter, apart from the sausage, is made in house: Iberico Spanish ham, Iberico chorizo sausage, chicken and black truffle ballotine topped with black cherry relish, duck liver parfait with calvados jelly, slices of green apple, pickled onion, toasted and dried baguette wafers make up an attractive spread atop a black slate. As hubby groans, “Mmm,” with the first bite of the parfait, John chuckles, “It’s really good for you. Half liver. Half butter.” “Mmm,” hubby affirms.
A clear favourite is the Crispy Ponzu Pork Belly ($15) with chili caramel, bulgogi aioli and kimchi slaw. The pork showcases each layer of fat, meat and skin done to perfection, but the sides merit earnest consideration too. The chili caramel is absolutely addictive, and the kimchi… well… beware Korean chefs, chef John has your days numbered!
Sugar Cured Wagyu ($22) is another original backed up with cubes of foie gras, mushrooms a la greque and black truffle cream. Slender wagyu circles are lined up down the middle of a rectangular platter with the mushrooms on top. The best way to eat these is to wrap up each slice with a piece of parfait and a hazelnut and pop the whole thing in your mouth.
And finally, what the chef is famous for and a don’t-miss item on the menu, the brisket. Smoked Wagyu Brisket Burger ($20) sits between a toasted buttery brioche bun and is packed with thick slices of beef, butter poached portobello mushrooms, watercress and enlivened with a slather of horseradish. The meat is smoked then soaked in a stock for between 12 to 15 hours, and is absolutely luscious. Never mind the burger, we can just fork up the meat and be content.
Crisp Duck Confit ($29) is a piece of food art served atop a Portobello mushroom tart. It’s topped with a black cherry relish and fresh chives, which complement the rich fatty meat. A drizzling of hoi sin jus and broad beans play both garnish and flavour booster.
Seared Wagyu Rump Cap ($39) is a picturesque display of scrumptiously seared beef slices, pink in the middle and caramelized on the rim. An almond-basil pistou seductively languishes across the fan of meat, and glazed baby vegetables with maple smoked bacon lies beside it. This secondary cut of meat showcases just how good the chef is. Few people we’ve come across truly know how to best cook all cuts of meat, but this New Zealand country boy clearly has it in his upbringing.
Burnt Butter Stout Cake ($14 single serve) is a delicious presentation (note: the photograph is of a sharing size serving for three) laid along a black slate. At first, I mistake the cake as being steamed, but chef reveals that the secret to the moistness is slow baking it with parchment on top. Caramelised apples, apple puree, salted walnuts, fresh fig quarters, coffee ice cream and a wonderful biscuit peanut brittle augment the taste, textures and visual arrangement.
On Thursday nights you can have a free flow of beef brisket sliders for a set price of $15. With today being Thursday, isn’t now as good a time as any to give Alchemist Beer Lab a shot (or pint if you so choose).
Reasons to visit: a unique beer infusion experience; great food at reasonable prices; happy vibe; don’t miss the Smoked Wagyu Brisket and the Crispy Ponzu Pork Belly.
Open Sun to Thurs: 4 pm – 1 am
Fri, Sat and Eve of Public Holidays: 4 pm – 2 am.
Snacks are served from 4 pm, and dinner begins at 6 pm.