After spending most of 2013 in South Africa where craft beer is multiplying at a rate of knots, coming to South East Asia was a hard and dry awakening.
Singapore is arguably the epicentre of S.E.A.’s craft beer explosion, but other than that it becomes a mission to find craft beer. A mission I like…
Ultimate (the sport involving a flying disc) was how I got connected with craft beer in the 1st place (Brewerkz is a sponsor in Singapore), so with every Ultimate tournament the second thing I always think about is craft beer. This weekend past the Manila Spirits tournament was held in Manila, presenting the perfect opportunity to go early and check out the craft beer scene.
Doing a quick search in Google revealed painfully little about craft beer in the Philippines so I had to sit down and comb through forums, old blogs, random tweets and more than a few Facebook pages to find a trace of Philippines craft beer. In the end I stumbled upon The Global Beer Exchange and after that discovered Katipunan Craft Ales more.
Since this blog was originally posted in Nov 2013, things have changed considerably in the Philippines. To simply things a bit, you can either use the map below to click for more info, or go to the list of craft breweries in the Philippines.
Global Beer Exchange
I was based in Makati, Manila’s tourist central. A staunch supporter of Google Local, I searched Google Maps for Global Beer Exchange’s location. It pointed me in the direction of a location about 1.7km away. Walkable, I argued foolishly in the midday sun, only to discover a vacant plot. Another, more anxious search on Google Maps revealed a place called The Bottle Shop, which turned out to be the tap and tasting room for Global Beer Exchange. And it was 4.3km back again in the direction I came from.
Again, opting to walk (have to earn those beer calories), I stumbled into Manila’s beer nirvana an hour later and was eagerly welcomed by Jim Araneta, Global Beer Exchange’s proprietor and oracle of all things craft in the Philippines.
“Not much of a home-brewing scene,” was the needle with which Jim popped the bubble that represented my hopes of finding home-brewing supplies. Apparently, in the very young Philippines home-brewing scene, brewers import their stock directly and for themselves. But behind him was a wall filled with craft beer.
Of course, my attention was attracted by the local shelf on which were displayed the beers from 3 Philippines craft breweries.
Katipunan Craft Ales
Established in 2011, Katipunan appears, in my very limited experience, to be the most organised of the Philippines craft breweries as their products are most widely available. It also seemed to be the only local brewery Filipino bartenders have heard of, if in fact they’ve heard of craft beer at all – which many haven’t.
Katipunan literally means “association” and is steeped in history related to the revolution and the Philippines independence from Spain. I also drove past buildings with references to Katipunan that left me thinking it might also be a town or area outside Manila. In any case, Katipunan’s Indeo Pale Ale is the only local brew that was available on draught, both here in Global Beer Exchange and another establishment I visited called Burgers & Brewskies.
I eagerly gulped down a mug, the exact price of which I’m unsure of, but was likely around 160 Pesos (R37) for roughly 330ml.
My 1st impression of it was something reminiscent of a Storm Brewing ale (made in Bali, Indonesia) – a distinctive taste, ever so slightly astringent, tasting a bit of metal that I always thought had something to do with Storm Brewing bottle caps. Apparently it could be down to something over: over-milling, over-steeping, over-PH perhaps.
It was, nevertheless drinkable, especially in my parched state and in the euphoria caused by actually discovering Philippines craft beer. As far as I remember Katipunan Craft Ales only produces Indio Pale Ale.
Bob’s Restaurant / Bogsbrew / Bog’s Brewery
Only a little information is available about Bogsbrew on the internet and frankly I’m a little confused as to whether it’s called Bob’s, Bogs’, Bogsbrew or Primo. Either way, it says “all Grain Beer Brewed only in Negros Island” on the label.
On their Facebook page a photo reveals that their ingredients might also include “malted barley, organic rice, corn, Negros Island muscovado sugar, wild bee honey, flavor and aroma hops, sugar adjunct, yeast and natural mountain spring water”. In the spirit of ‘craft beer’ I assumed all these ingredients were to enhance the flavour.
I had a go at the Kawayan Ale. “The Tagalog word for Bamboo,” Jim said of the word kawayan. It had an interesting taste, although having read what their beers might include, the apparent dryness might have been down to the sugars and not the bamboo, as I originally thought.
Still, it was pleasantly drinkable and in the heat of the Manila midday was quite refreshing.
Fat Pauly’s Hand-crafted Ales & Lagers
Fat Pauly’s appears to have the widest range of Philippine craft beers. With 5 well-branded, distinct and distinctive bottles on the shelf at Global Beer Exchange (and more by the looks of their Facebook page), I thought they really should be more well-known than they are.
But with only a Facebook page easily discovered on the internet, information about them is much too scarce for craft beer aficionados to discover in a jiffy. Of themselves they say “Fat Pauly’s Hand-crafted Ales & Lagers is a proud Philippine brand that makes fresh home-brewed beers using both the finest imported brew grade malt and some local indigenous ingredients such as Timoga Spring waters, and wild Putyukan Honey.”
I started with Fat Pauly’s Smoked Mocha Porter. It didn’t disappoint.
The smokiness is very prominent and every sip demands a pause to ponder the experience. Full bodied and rich in aroma and flavour, I took a good half hour to savour Fat Pauly’s Smoked Mocha Porter. So slowly, in fact, that Jim wondered out loud if perhaps it was too much for me on the hot Manila afternoon.
I also had a go at Fat Pauly’s Rose D’ Hibiscus, a little fruity, a lot flowery, but very refreshing weiss – a perhaps-not-so-educated guess about the beer’s style in the absence of anything more indicative on the label.
Other Philippines Breweries
Of course, while researching more details for this article, I discovered that there are in deed more breweries in the Philippines than I had the pleasure of discovering. For those and more, check the map above or head on over to the Philippines list of brewers.