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PEOPLE STORIES: A MASTER CHEF & MASTER BREWER
PUBLISHED on: 24 Jun, 2023

A video interview series showcasing the passions and pursuits of today’s multi-hyphenates. We open with our first feature: Ivan and Eng Kuang Yeo of local brewery The 1925 Brewing Co.

Co-founded by brothers Ivan and Eng Kuang (E.K), The 1925 Brewing Co. is a brand steeped in familial heritage. Founded in 2013, the brewery gets its namesake from the birth year of the Yeo family patriarch. Watch the full interview below.

Ivan heads the kitchen at their restaurant-cum-tap room Blue Smoke, named 2019’s best craft beer bar by SG Magazine, while Eng Kuang (E.K) takes charge of crafting & brewing their signature beer collections at their central brewery in Mandai, producing flavours such as their locally inspired, bestselling Liang Teh Lager and Kaya Toast Stout.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Thanks for having us at Blue Smoke! Tell us how The 1925 Brewing Co. was founded.
E.K: It was founded by me, my brother and my uncle nine years ago. All three of us, we actually like to create stuff. My brother is a chef, my uncle was the original brewmaster, and as for me, I took over as the brewmaster and choose to use beer as the medium to showcase my creativity.

Our common denominator is my grandfather, who was born in the year 1925 – hence the name of our brewery.

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Why beer? Do all of you love to drink?
E.K:
It just so happens that the drinks that we like to drink happen to have alcohol in it.

What is the inspiration behind your creations?
Ivan: 
1925 and Blue Smoke itself is inspired entirely by our memories and the history of my family. The [beer] bottles, down to the labels, the ideas… it’s mostly stuff that we experienced while we were children. 

Our aunties and uncles were so good in the kitchen. They were so creative with food and beverage in general, so I think this gives us a lot of content to tap on when we come up with the kind of brews we work on. I don’t think 1925 or Blue Smoke can be what it is today without the family.

And how did Blue Smoke come about?
Ivan:
Blue Smoke is an Asian grill and smokehouse that uses the techniques of grilling and smoking to bring out the flavours of different parts of Asia.

These foods are designed to complement and accentuate the flavours of the craft beers that my brother brews at the 1925 Brewing Co.

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E.K, we heard that it was a pivotal decision that made you the brewmaster of 1925.
In my previous life, I was an auditor. I was actually an auditor at KPMG for 12 years. When we started out 1925, I was straddling between both 1925 and my job as an auditor. As the business grew, it came to a point where I had to make the hard decision to choose – and naturally of course I chose 1925.

As my uncle [the original brewmaster] was catching on with age, he was not able to spend so much time at the brewery as there's quite a bit of physical labour involved. And that was how I came in [to become the brewmaster].

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Ivan, you've been a musician, designer, CFO, artist, and now – executive chef at Blue Smoke. How did that happen?
During our time [as musicians], we've been to many, many restaurants. We saw how restaurants shouldn't be run, and so I thought since we're in a position where we can change something... when I first started out, it was really about wanting to be a restauranteur.

Somehow, the situation changed. I had to take on the role, put on the apron and go into the kitchen. It was supposed to be a 2 week stint just to resolve some manpower issues, but 2 weeks became 2 months, 2 months became 2 years, and 2 years is now a decade, and I’m still here today helming the kitchens.

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You've been called a multi-hyphenate by many. How are you able to build so many passions and pursuits?
In all honest opinion I never thought that I was special. Everybody else that I’ve spoken to – the only difference is that they’re a little bit more fearful about bringing out all these passions. I couldn't care less about what people think. I couldn’t care less whether I was allowed to do so or not.

It was really more of trying to use this passion in a more infectious manner, where I can actually share the energy and love for what I do with other people.

So do you think being a multi-hyphenate is a lifestyle for everyone?
I think everybody has those different layers. It’s whether or not they have the ability to freely express it. I think these are things that have always been there – just that the environment now encourages this behaviour to be more prevalent.

There are a lot more people now having the courage to step out and show how well they can bake, how well they can cook, how well they can draw and paint. 

People now have the time and ability to seize their dreams, to seize the day. And that I think is a beautiful thing to do.


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The 1925 Brewing Co. x TMW Maxwell: A Collaborative Brew

Tell us about the TMW Beers.
E.K:
This is the first time ever we're doing a beer for a [property] development project. What we did was really dive deep into Tanjong Pagar’s history, and we found out that it was a place with a lot of fruit plantations.

We decided to draw inspiration from that and create two fruity beers. One of them is a mango pale ale, and the other is a very fruity IPA. 

It's a combination of both the past, the present, and the future. The fruitiness and flavours would be the past [plantations], while the hoppiness, dryness, and that crispness – that’s the representation of the future, because that's really the trend [for beers] going forward.


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What's the key thing you want people to take away from this collaboration?
Ivan:
The first thing I wanted the beer to fulfil was that it had to be a little bit modern and sophisticated, but not to the point where it takes away the true nature of what the product is supposed to be like.

We have to have a product that’s synonymous with the people who are drinking it, as well as resonate with the people who like a property like that [TMW Maxwell], so I think most importantly these beers have to be something that people enjoy.

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The TMW Beers will be launching exclusively at the TMW Gallery and select distributors. 

Keen to learn more? Head on over to our Partners page.