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Joseph Barratt believes in the power of stories

How the Mutant Communications founder-CEO combined savvy branding and a knack for spotting trends to run a successful brewery – and now a bottled cocktail business.

In under a decade, Singapore has grown from being one of the worst places to drink alcohol in the world – with high taxes and few options – to one of the best. Against those odds, we’ve nurtured a brilliant, competitive drinks scene.

Even then, we’re still “scraping the tip of the iceberg”, shares Joseph Barratt, founder-CEO of Trouble Brewing, citing how craft beer only occupies one per cent of all beer sales in Singapore. This is why Trouble Brewing offers premium brews although he’s reluctant to position the sessionable – or lighter-styled – beers as being craft. “A lot of the craft beers brewed here lean towards heavily-hopped, high- alcohol styles that don’t suit the weather.”

(Related: Bars in Singapore: where to drink natural wine)

While Trouble Brewing started in 2017 to brew personalised, white-label beers for businesses, direct sales to F&B soon overtook its capacity. Today, it has about 150 accounts and a brewery that produces 60,000 litres of beer a month.

Besides the brewery, Barratt also recently launched Temple Street Cocktails, a line of bottled, ready-to-drink cocktails created with Proof & Company creative director Jason Williams. What ties all his drinks ventures is the ability to tell a good story – something that should come quite naturally to Barratt, given his background in journalism – and the fact that he’s been running Mutant Communications for the past nine years.

Naming is important to Barratt. Each Trouble Brewing beer label has a story behind it. Its Stolen Boat summer ale, for example, was inspired by Barratt and his wife breaking onto a boat (in New Zealand, he stresses) while on a date years ago. Temple Street cocktails, meanwhile, was named after the first office location of his communications agency. “A good story has to invoke an emotion or reaction. Authenticity might be a buzzword, but it’s also true. If you’re forcing something that isn’t genuine, consumers can sense that – especially from a small brand.”

(Related: Decarbonating with Lion Brewery Co)