Beach Brews: The Verdict
Well,while we did not end up going to Cebu for the weekend, we did manage to find ourselves on another beach for a day trip. So on Sunday morning, we drove north to the Westnuk Beach, located inside the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in Morong, Bataan. Don’t worry, there was never any nuclear activity that took place, so I don’t think I’ve evolved into a mutant just yet.
In my opinion, the beach we visited was the cleanest and most serene out of those within a three-hour drive of Manila. The ocean was placid that day, although the waves from the West Philippine Sea (not the South China Sea) can at times be strong enough to surf on. We’d visited this Westnuk before for our Project Development and Finance Law class, as a closing activity to a field trip to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant itself. Luckily, aside from one other small group that arrived later on, we had the beach to ourselves.
Thus, I took the opportunity to share some craft beers purchased from the Global Beer Exchange Bottle Shop with my friends. I picked these out specifically because I felt that they would be a perfect when sipped by the sea. I asked my companions TM, PC and PD to taste the beers with me, and choose which one they enjoyed the most. Despite the limitation of using plastic cups to taste the beers, the sampling was a success! Well, for the most part at least. While TM and PC were excited to try my so-called “condescending” beers (their words, not mine), PD adamantly refused (with one small exception) – being calorie and beer-belly conscious. While I gave in this time, it must be noted that I literally have Jehovah’s Witness in my bloodline, and I will not give up until I convert non-believers.
I’ll deviate from my usual prosaic descriptions in favor of a numerical rating. The criteria are the same as the usual Beer Advocate-based rating system that I occasionally used. However, the beers will be examined under the condition that they are sipped at the beach, in the heat of the Philippine summer sun (albeit in November)
Appearance: the beer has to look refreshing. Just as people enjoy “umbrella cocktails” in different colors, a beachside beer must be like a mirage, appearing to the thirstiest as heaven on earth.
Aroma: The bouquet has to match the summer and the sun. It has to bring back memories of childhood vacations, road trips, the ocean.
Mouthfeel: Drinkability is key. Thus, light to medium bodied beers are preferred as they are much easier to enjoy given the situation. Carbonation is also a good thing, but not a must.
Taste: The most important criterion, or is it? When one is perspiring under the heat of the sun and dying for a drink – any drink, does taste still matter? I am a craft beer drinker! Of course it does. I would sooner drink seawater than a lite beer.
Gordon Biersche SummerBrau: This was beautifully carbonated and effervescent. Based on Kolsch, the weapon of choice for beating the summer heat in Cologne, Germany, The SummerBrau was refreshing and crisp, with a herbal nose. Flavor-wise, though, this was a little on the bland side, with nothing much to go for other than more herbal nuances and slight bitterness. Understandable, given that too much would be too draining on the palate for a summer session beer. We began with this beer, and everyone enjoyed it.
Appearance: 5. Aroma: 3.5. Mouthfeel: 5. Taste: 3.5.
Next up was everyone’s favorite witbier, Hitachino Nest White Ale. I’ve always professed my adoration for this beer, but drinking this in the summer-like heat just made me love it all the more. The orange notes came out much more profoundly than I was used to, which I was pleasantly surprised with. It literally glowed in the sunlight – quite fitting for a beer drunk at a nuclear power plant. Of course, the Hitachino owl probably just felt right at home, having flown all the way from nuclear-powered Tokyo. Literally, this beer made me go, “wow,” despite my already knowing what to expect. You can’t get that with mass market brews. This was PC’s choice of the day, and he was doubly proud when he found out that this beer is also heavily favored by the “rich and the conyo.”
Appearance: 5. Aroma: 4. Mouthfeel: 4.5. Taste: 5.
Oh, my dear Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. I’m ashamed to admit that I did not enjoy you as much under these hostile sunstroke-friendly conditions. While there would not be a contest in the first place if all these beers were enjoyed under more neutral circumstances, the heat really gave the Sculpin a handicap because of its bitterness. Everyone enjoyed the citrus aroma, even PD. I heard comments that it smelled like iced tea though, which I consider a compliment given that a fruity bouquet was not one that they would expect in a beer. In the end, I found the Sculpin a little bit too nectary and bitter (Blasphemy! I know!) too be enjoyed under the sun. Nevertheless, with the odds stacked highly against its favor, the Sculpin still put up a valiant effort.
At this point we were no longer drinking under a hut, but by the shoreline itself. I also made sure that adequate time was given before and after drinking the Sculpin to give our palates a break from the hops.
Appearance: 4. Aroma: 5. Mouthfeel: 4. Taste: 4.5.
Victory Prima Pils was only recently featured, and it was what drove me to really make the effort to bring craft beer to the beach. This was another big winner, getting TM’s vote. I found the nose had a bit more pine and grass notes than the Sculpin. TM’s comments were also the same as mine: that this was like the Sculpin as well in terms of flavor, but not as forward with the bitterness, and much more light and drinkable. My hunch that this was pretty much an IPA made for the beach turned out to be correct.
Appearance: 4. Aroma: 4.5. Mouthfeel: 5. Taste: 5.
The Winner: I agree with PC and TM that the Hitachino Nest White Ale and the Victory Prima Pils came out ahead. In the end, as it always does, it becomes a manner of preference. I’ve always been a hophead, so I would give the very slight edge to the Prima Pils. I would of course, prefer to alternate between the above four instead, but when push comes to shove, I’ll end up sipping the Prima Pils as I lounge on the sand, listening to the waves all day.
If only I could have gotten my hands on it, the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier would also probably have fared well (despite the logistical nightmare of packing a weizen glass). What other beach brews would you suggest?