Daniel Ong “Almost Died” Drinking Post-Divorce, But Now Happy With A New Craft Beer Line With Allan Wu
The drinking buddies launch their own Brewlander line of artisanal craft beer next week. Only one of them guzzled alcohol to get through a divorce and says he’s “torn and tattered second-hand goods now, like a Louis Vuitton bag with a scratch”.
Strange but true: TV host Allan Wu and former radio DJ Daniel Ong now co-own a craft beer line. Called Brewlander, the Cambodia-brewed craft beer will be sold in selected bars and shops locally. You may already know Daniel Ong, 41, as the ex-radio jock-turned-F&B towkay of cupcake chain Twelve Cupcakes (which he has since sold to an Indian tea company for S$2.5 million following his recent divorce to former Miss Universe Singapore and Cupcakes co-owner Jaime Teo), as well as restaurant-bars Rookery and Mischief. The self-proclaimed huge fan of craft beer says, “When I opened Mischief and Rookery, I was exposed to even more craft beers around the world. So when I met local award-winning brewer John Wei, I thought, why not create our own beer? He needed funding and I’m an entrepreneur who sees opportunities in everything. John does the brewing and I tie the business elements together. But we realised we needed extra marketing muscle, so we roped in Allan as a spokesperson and shareholder ’cos he’s a passionate dude who loves craft beer and we’re good friends.”
Daniel at a rented beer brewery in Phnom Penh, where small batches of Brewlander beers are made monthly.
Allan, 44, jokes: “At first I thought, wow, did they name it after me since I’m known as @wulander on Instagram?” But Daniel says it’s named after their business partner John who is nicknamed ‘Brewlander’ and comes up with the recipes for their craft beers brewed in a Phnom Penh brewery. He explains, “We chose Cambodia as it was the most cost-friendly around the region, but their facilities are as good as the breweries in Belgium. We’re doing something called ‘gypsy brewing’, where we brew our own beer recipes using other people’s facilities. Once our brand is established, we are planning to open our own brewery.”
Daniel with his Brewlander line of beers, which includes four brews named after four different emotions.
Brewlander currently offers four types of beer named after four emotions as Daniel says, “When people gather to drink beer, it’s always about emotions”. ‘Hope’ is a malty summer ale ($8.50 for a 330ml bottle), ‘Pride’ a citrusy saison (pale ale, $8.50), ‘Love’, the American-style fruity wild IPA (India Pale Ale, $9.90), and Courage, a hoppy, fruity double IPA (characterised by higher alcohol by volume (ABV) range, $10.90). They are currently stocked at 12 local bars and specialty shops, including Daniel’s Mischief and Rookery. It is also distributed in Taiwan, Hongkong and Cambodia.
The 'Love' wild IPA beer from Brewlander, which Allan says is his favourite. "I’m not a huge fan of the usual lager, I like something with more body 'cos it goes better with food."
Other than F&B, Daniel has also been keeping busy training as a budding motivational speaker. “I turn my life story into a one-hour talk where I tell people about how somebody with only ‘O’ levels qualifications like myself who came from a rat-poor background built Twelve Cupcakes from nothing. I recently went to a few schools to give talks and saw the fire in the students. If I could inspire people to think out of the box, my life would be well lived. Ever since I became single, I’ve a lot of time. In the past people know me as the family guy, but I guess things have changed and I’ve to move on.”
So what about the rumours that he has a new girlfriend now? “I’m not in a relationship, I’m meeting people,” Daniel says coyly. “I’ve gone on a few dates over the past few months, does that count? I don’t use Tinder, but I meet people at parties or who’re friends of friends. I’m quite friendly.” However, Daniel does not deny it when we ask if he was seeing someone. He simply says: “I’d rather not answer now ’cos everything is very unstable. We’re not there yet. I just got out of a divorce. Don’t want to scare people off, you know? (Laughs) I’m torn and tattered second-hand goods now, like a Louis Vuitton bag with a scratch. Worthless lah. (Laughs) Who’d want a 41-year-old divorcee? If someone wants to accept me, that’s great. I’m definitely apprehensive about dating [after the divorce], which is why I’m taking things slow. If I’m in a relationship, I will definitely keep you in the loop. It'd be like, 'Dan is getting married!'”
The serial entrepreneur has also been tight-lipped about the dissolution of his 11-year marriage to Jaime Teo, 39, since the couple announced it on their respective Instagram accounts last December. They have a six-year-old daughter, Renee. But Daniel divulges to us: “Even though Jaime and I divorced only last August, it had been over one year in the making. Initially, I was devastated and didn’t understand why life threw me this curveball. I almost died last year, drinking myself into a really bad state. I drank till I blacked out once or twice. But I told myself to snap out of it for Renee. I realised you can’t force things. So in my own way, I found another level of happiness. I’m thankful to Jaime for letting me become a new Daniel, Version 2.0! I lost some weight and found renewed determination to live life, despite my sadness. Jaime and I are cordial and are great parents to Renee. The happy photos on Instagram are not a lie! Being lonely sucks, so it definitely helps to have a beer line of my own. I can say ‘cheers’ to myself and to my friends. (Laughs)”
As for hunky Allan… boss of a homegrown craft beer brand? “A lot of people think I’m a total health nut and don’t drink alcohol,” Allan laughs. “But I do like a nice cold glass of beer a couple of times a week after I come home from work and want to wind down. It’s all about moderation. I don’t drink a lot, especially if I’ve filming the next day or a long day with my kids,” Allan chirps energetically to us over the phone, right after he had completed an hour-long swim. “If anything, I hope people might be pleasantly surprised and think, ‘Wow, this guy is part of a craft beer company and looks like that.’ (Laughs) I found Daniel's idea [of starting a craft beer company together] interesting. But I don’t rely on alcohol to help me through depression or hard times. I just like the taste of it. When I was going through my separation [with actress and ex-wife Wong Li-Lin], I worked out a lot instead. Drinking is more of a social thing!”
Brewlander is available at selected restaurants and retailers including Mischief, #01-10/12 Esplanade Mall, 8 Raffles Ave, S039802. Tel: 6532-0106 and Thirsty Craft Beer Shop, three outlets including #02-34 Liang Court Shopping Centre, 177 River Valley Rd, S179030. Tel: 8307-1995. www.brewlander.com