Juice.ph’s Battle Beer and August Home Brew Night

The wonderful people from Juice.ph staged their Battle Beer event late last August, with over 35 beers being rated and compared over three days. I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest judge, meaning that I didn’t have to compete with the dozens of other hopefuls who joined their Facebook contest. Well, on second thought, it’s a tough job, judging beers, so I don’t consider myself that lucky (riiight). I was on deck for their second day, which focused more on European brews. Joining the Juice Team were beer moguls Jim Araneta of Global Beer Exchange and Mags Villafuerte of Gilmore Wines and Spirits, local brewer Raffy Taruc of Katipunan Craft Ales, and Juice contest winner Ann, who wowed with her beer bong skills, and runner-up Mike, who promised that he wouldn’t spit, but swallow.

Round 1: Heineken v. Paulaner Premium Pils

This was a battle between pale lagers. Mags – who probably knows more about European beers at his age than any other person in the country – was quick to point out that this wasn’t a straight up battle of styles. Heineken of course, is a premium European pale lager from the Netherlands, while Paulaner Premium Pils is a traditional German Pilsner. I didn’t much enjoy either, but Heineken’s corn notes really put me off. At least the Pils had some bread and grain that made it more drinkable. Although Heineken claims to not include adjuncts to its recipe, I’ve only tasted that much corn in a beer in Estrella Galicia 1906 Reserva Especial, which at least admitted to it on the label. Most of the judges went for the Pils, which had a cleaner, more crisp taste.

Round 2: Hoegaarden v. Paulaner Hefe-weissbier 

This was a battle of wheat beers. Hoegaarden is a Belgian style witbier, which is brewed with coriander and orange peel. Paulaner’s is a hefeweizen, or an unfiltered wheat beer, which yeast is known to give banana and clove notes. Both are true to the traditional recipes particular to their styles, and are easily available in mass markets. However, while true-to-form, they aren’t the best of their class. Hitachino Nest’s White Ale easily blows Hoegaarden out of the water, while one can pick up a number of superior hefeweizens to Paulaners, such as Franziskaner or Kapuziner (that’s not even counting Weihenstephaner, which is sadly not locally available). In the end, I noted that this was a choice between apples and oranges, or rather, bananas and oranges. I ended up giving my vote to Hoegaarden, but it was a tough call to make. I guess the sun and the poolside atmosphere made me lean towards the citrus. The judges were more evenly decided here, but if I recall right, majority gave the nod to Paulaner again.


Round 3: La Trappe Dubbel v. Kwak 

I personally felt that this was a loaded contest. I’d tried La Trappe Dubbel, from the only Norwegian Dutch brewery before, and its gulaman nose really kept me from appreciating the beer. It was the first time for me to try Pauwel Kwak, from Brouwerij Bosteels, which was a Belgian strong brown ale. The latter had a more complex dark fruit, fig, and caramel taste than the cloying dark sugar of the La Trappe. I also felt like the Dubbel tasted more boozy despite having lower alcohol-by-volume, which Raffy also found. While there was a good split between the judges, more of them probably didn’t enjoy drinking gulaman growing up either. Kwak won this round.

 

Round 4: Westmalle Tripel v. Golden Monkey v. La Fin du Monde 

This Tripel Threat match was the toughest – ergo, most enjoyable – contest of the afternoon. Trappist brewery Westmalle from Belgium went head to head to head with Victory’s Golden Monkey from Pennsylvania and Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde from Quebec. I’ve overcome my initial frustrations with appreciating Tripels since I began this blog, and it’s now one of my favorite beer styles. If one were to drink each separately, the nuances between them would not be as easily noticeable as when compared side by side. All three were stellar examples of the traditional tripel – spicy, yeasty, a bit fruity, very complex, strongly carbonated, crisp and with a well-masked alcohol content around 9.5%. The differences were immediately apparent – Westmalle was surprisingly hoppy and dry, Golden Monkey was fruity and slightly sweet, while La Fin du Monde tasted spicy and yeasty. All three received first place votes. Golden Monkey placed third, with Westmalle second and La Fin du Monde eking out the win. I found it a photo finish between Westmalle and La Fin du Monde, with the Golden Monkey a close, but clear third. I know that on another day I could easily have gone the other way with my choice, but in the end, I gave my vote to Westmalle, maybe out of nostalgia, or as a way to make up for those aforementioned frustrations appreciating that style. Most likely, I think it was because I hadn’t had an India Pale Ale in the longest time and I had a severe craving for hops.

Round 5: Trappistes Rochefort 10 and Delirium Tremens 

The last round wasn’t a “battle” because the two styles were too distinct to compare. We just had these as Rochefort 10 was a quadrupel while Delirium Tremens was a strong Belgian golden ale. I’ve always loved Rochefort’s beers with their complex flavors, and I was an immediate apologist for it, as several found it much too boozy and intense. I compared the taste to coffee spiked with brandy or sherry, which was echoed by some other judges. Quads are really sipping beers, not session beers. One is enjoyed over the span of an evening, rather than shotgunned and beer-bonged.

Delirium Tremens was a pleasant surprise for me. It’s in the same family as Duvel, but I found it much more complex and enjoyable, especially because it was more dry than its more famous sibling. It’s now easily my favorite strong blond ale, and I’ll be sure to get more of this and its salad dressing-like bottle and pink elephant logo soon.

All in all, the Dutch beers fared pretty poorly, the Germans churned out some solid stuff, and the Belgian brews were just inspired. Many thanks to Juice.ph for having me over! It was a blast, and I hope to be able to do all this again. Their feature should be out next month, so watch out for it.

Along with the Juice gang, the usual hopheads then proceeded to L’Incontro for the month’s homebrewers meeting. The star of the night was Great Islands Craft Beer’s Chili Beer, which is the most intense chili beer I’ve tried – much more than the Cerveza Habanero I got to try, or even Rogue’s Chipotle Ale. Both green and red chili iterations (left and right, above) were poured. This was like drinking hot sauce, but better. Coming from someone like me whose capsaicin tolerance has grown to the point that most spicy food disappoints, this is a good thing.

The night was capped with a bottle of Pliny the Elder, only around a month old, generously shared by Concon with the homebrewers. They all loved it, and I think it stood up to the hype. Home brewing and Pliny the Elder… such a pairing sounds vaguely familiar.

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