The Rise of Craft Beer in Manila

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Craft beer has one thing working against it: economics.

A P280 bottle of beer becomes a solid argument for big business in a country that has most consumers asking the price of whatever product before getting any other information.

Yes, that pricey bottle bears a cool, striking label and there’s nothing wrong with the taste. But a more than 200% price difference from regular beer is a sobering thought—especially when half your paycheck pays for the madness that is this government.

But What is Craft Beer?

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Craft beer is beer made by a small brewery. But small is relative in that US small brewers can produce six million barrels while a small brewer in the country can make seven million bottles from multiple operations.

There are smaller local craft brewers making fewer than seven million bottles; the Professor’s Brew only makes a small batch making the chemistry teacher’s signature flavors (Chocolate Chili Porter) available only to a few; Sikatuna Brewery has a home brew set up, and so is Alamat Craft Brew, which produces a limited batch.

Beyond the scale, craft breweries are distinct for their innovation. The varieties surpass the typical brews. The usual ingredients of malt or barley, yeast, hops, and water are flavored with oatmeal cookie, mangosteen, puto bumbong, coconut, and mushroom, which is what I’ve tried.

How to Choose Your Craft

Reishi Mushroom was actually not bad. I was hoping to taste more of the reishi mushroom, instead, I got a pretty decent tasting craft beer with none of the mushroom flavor. It wasn’t too bitter, but it wasn’t all that strong at 5.5% ABV (Alcohol by Volume).

If you want the stronger stuff, you’ll want to get a higher ABV, which could soar to 20%.

I’ve only sampled a few bottles of craft beer because it’s not exactly cheap; the pale ale (ABV 5%, IBU 35) and IPA (ABV 6.8%, IBU 70) from Joe’s Brew have enough kick and flavor in them. If you don’t like bitter beer, check the IBU (International Bitterness Unit); the higher it is, the more bitter it gets.

There is one other craft beer I had at the Wholesome Table, but I forgot the brewer. All I know is that it was smooth and light, probably a pilsner owing to its pale color. It may have been Pivo Praha because I remember the brewery’s in Makati. That beer is perfect for drinking at mid-day and well into dinner, and you’ll still feel just a little right, maybe just a tad fancy having run up a bill that’s over a thousand on beer alone.

So Many Beer, Such Tiny Liver

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If you’re not familiar, there are only two types of beer: lager (made from bottom-fermenting yeast at 45 to 55-degree Farenheit) and ale (the oldest of beers, and made from top-fermenting yeast at 65 to 75-degree Farenheit), my preference.

Under ales, you’ve got your pale ale (made from barley and malt), brown ale, porter, and stouts (roasted malt or barley with a creamy top and dark, thick body).

Under lager, you’ve got your pale lager (lighter taste), pilsner, light lager, and dark lager (full bodied, with a bit of a hoppy flavor).

So what of the other types you see, with names like “blonde” and “IPA?” Those are just what brewers refer to as styles. A blonde beer is lighter in color, and crisper in taste, an IPA (India Pale Ale) has more hops (which means it’s more bitter) than your regular pale ale. It has more hops because, back in the day, the Brits wanted it to remain fresh when it arrived to soldiers in India.

99 Bottles vs. Pricey Bottles

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So is it worth it grabbing a bottle from craft brewers? Should you stick to your reliable P60 or so bottle (because more is merrier)? I tend to lean more toward the latter. I’m just cheap that way. If I want something stronger, I’m skipping the beer and hopping straight for bourbon or scotch.

Considering that the most popular imported beer bottles are more affordable than craft beer varieties, it’s understandable for most people to choose the former. You forget national pride when it’s making you bleed cash. And yet, the industry is growing.

Philippine Craft Beer Community shares that there are now 36 local breweries in the country. It’s not looking like this movement is going to wane or stop, as bars, restaurants, and weekend markets feature a number of craft beer styles from different breweries.

Whether you choose to hold onto your San Miguel favorites, it’s not a bad idea to sample a couple of bottles from Joe’s Brew or Pivo Praha or The Professor’s Brew (if you can get your hands on it). Just remember your IBUs and ABVs, and pair it with the right food.

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