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If you’re a craft beer enthusiast in Malaysia, you might be familiar with Farmer’s Bar, or at least one of their three outlets around the Klang Valley.

Farmer’s Bar was founded by enthuasiasts themselves, Mok Yii Chek and Mei Ling. Childhood friends from Port Dickson, the two actually are serial entrepreneurs.

The duo is behind the Everest Group of Companies, which has businesses in various industries such as IT, solar, dentistry, media, engineering, oil & gas, and property development.

But Farmer’s Bar is one venture particularly close to the heart of Mok, who is an avid traveller and lover of beer. He shared candidly with Vulcan Post that he started drinking the beverage at a young age.

“Let’s not say when,” he chuckled.

Having been to many countries around the world and tasting some of the world’s best beers, he noticed a lack of beer varieties back home in Malaysia. Commercial beers in Malaysia mainly comprise lagers, stouts, and not much else.

Image Credit: Farmer’s Bar

“There are so many, many, many more varieties and taste of beers that people are missing out,” he expressed. “Did you know that beers can be sour, sweet, spicy, bitter, hazy, fruity, chocolatey, piney, flowery… and the list is endless!”

Driven by the desire to popularise different kinds of beer, Mok and Mei Ying launched Farmer’s Bar in October 2018, beginning with a retail store in Cyberjaya.

Pioneering craft beer

Back then, craft beers in Malaysia were only known by a small group of people, typically those who studied or travelled abroad.

With that in mind, there hadn’t been any purveyors of craft beer online, either. Thus, as they launched the physical store, Farmer’s Bar also looked into ecommerce. They now claim to be the first online craft beer store in Malaysia.

“As of today, we distribute beers to over 80 bars, cafes, restaurants, hotels, and grocers in Malaysia,” Mok elaborated.

Farmer’s Bar carries beers from all over the world from all sorts of breweries.

“Some breweries produce for their own local consumptions in small batches as craft brewers only and hence we can’t get our hands on them,” Mok said. “We are grateful for those breweries that are willing to export to Malaysia.”

Image Credit: Farmer’s Bar

The import process takes approximately three to six months, the founder said. A chunk of this duration is spent on the large amount of paperwork involved.

Localising each outlet

Initially, Farmer’s Bar only sold beer.

However, listening to their customers, the team realised that there was a demand for food. Most Malaysians are foodies, after all.

Instead of just introducing the same menu across the board, though, Farmer’s Bar offers its patrons something new and unique at each outlet.

Mok explained that this is because the local crowd at each location is different, so the team decided to just go with the flow.

Image Credit: Farmer’s Bar

“At Puchong, the Chinese crowd prefers ‘dai chao’—local hawker style food,” Mok explained.

He continued, “At Subang Parade, the young energetic crowd loves Western, yakitori, and Japanese food. At Avenue K, the surrounding working office crowd is looking for a quick and good set lunch.”

To cater to the different crowds, business partners are necessary. For one, the Subang Parade outlet works with RyoRi Kitchen to create a relevant menu for the audience there.

Meanwhile, the Avenue K location is helmed by an award-winning chef, Chef Fifi Leong.

Chef Fifi and her team / Image Credit: Farmer’s Bar

At Subang Parade, Farmer’s Bar also houses Double Dough Artisan, which is managed and owned by Emilyn, the founder of Puchong café Bistro Monologue.

Looking up each of the locations, you’ll also notice that they sport different aesthetics, providing customers with unique experience at every location.

Surmounting challenges

Although Farmer’s Bar started out in a barren craft beer landscape, the culture has grown to become more and more popular with the masses over the years.

Mok shared that this is a good thing, and he’s glad that there are many other places serving craft beer in the Klang Valley.

“Many (I think almost all of them) are our good friends,” he added. “Quite a number of them work with us on distributing beers we import.”

Image Credit: Farmer’s Bar

In fact, Farmer’s Bar often collaborates with other players on beer launches and other events.

Rather than competition amongst different craft beer brands, Mok shared that the challenge is more about the big-picture longevity of an F&B business.

“Failure rates for the F&B industry are higher than any other industries out there,” he said. “Especially during COVID, I believe many other businesses including ours stuttered.”

He revealed that he and Mei Leng had to dig into their personal savings to continue paying rental, bills, and salary. Thankfully, they were supported by their suppliers who extended their payment terms during the difficult time.

The silver lining at the time, though, was the fact that Farmer’s Bar had established its ecommerce arm by then.

Still, not all is sunshine and rainbows. For one, the first-ever Farmer’s Bar in Cyberjaya had to close down, along with the Kota Damansara branch.

However, the latter is not due to underperforming business, but rather because the owners wished to take back the space for redevelopment.

“A hell lot of challenges indeed,” Mok mused. “But the passion for craft beers keeps us going.”

And that passion will likely keep them going for years to come.

  • Learn more about Farmer’s Bar here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Farmer’s Bar

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)