Events and Brews at the Global Beer Exchange Bottle Shop

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The newly-opened Global Beer Exchange Bottle Shop at the Tritan Ventures Building in Paseo de Magallanes is easily the best place to go right now for good craft beer. It’s got a cozy atmosphere, a good crowd (quality and quantity-wise) pretty much every night, and of course, some of the best brews available in  Manila. You can visit on a regular day for an impromptu happy hour, or drop by during special tasting events.

Most recently, on 12-12-12, there was a tasting of Stone’s Vertical Epic Ales. These were Belgian-style strong ales released every year since 2002 with the aim of tasting them all on the same night, 12-12-12. We only had the 2010 and 2011 batches here in the Philippines, though. The 10-10-10 was brewed with Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. On the other hand, 11-11-11  was brewed with Anaheim chilies and cinnamon. It’s interesting that Stone Brewing, which is known for beers that are best enjoyed when fresh, brewed ales meant to be aged. While these drinks weren’t exactly my cup of tea (bottle of beer?), I’ve always appreciated how craft brewers such as Stone continually challenge themselves and experiment with flavors. Generally, those present at the Bottle Shop that night favored the white wine-beer 10-10-10 over the surprisingly mild 11-11-11.

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While 12-12-12 was a once in a lifetime tasting, there are more regular events held at the bottle shop. As can be seen above, we see local craft brewer Mario McDermott rocking out on his bagpipes at the monthly Philippine craft brewers’ meetup for November. Everyone’s a friend here, and welcome to share their talents, stories, and of course, their beers. It’s a great way to increase one’s knowledge and appreciation of their favorite libation. Below are a few of the world-class brews I’ve tasted since the shop opened.

Stone x Bear Republic x Fat Head’s TBA stands for Texas Brown Ale. It claims to be insanely hopped, and indeed it is. Nice bread and caramel with a lasting hoppy end. Very enjoyable. This is a limited collaboration release, so get it while it’s still available.

The Stone 16th Anniversary IPA is by no means a bad beer. It achieves what it aims for, which is to integrate lemon flavors into an India Pale Ale. However, in my opinion, an already citrusy IPA doesn’t need any more. I’m sure there are people who enjoy this though, and this will definitely whoop the butts of the poor excuses for a “lemon beer” that certain breweries make. But in the end, I found the lemon notes too strong, and almost medicinal. In retrospect, I didn’t enjoy Stone’s 15th Anniversary Escondidian Black IPA as much as I would have, either – and again, not because it was a bad beer. I guess their Anniversary releases are just too creative for my relatively simple tastes.

I haven’t been the biggest fan of Gordon Biersch‘s craft beer lineup, mostly because it favors traditional German styles which tend to focus more on the malted barley, and of course, use European hops. Their Braumeister Selekt Imperial Pilsner Brau (IPB) is a solid pilsener though, strongly malted but still well-balanced. That it is sold in 750-ml bottles emphasizes just how high the IPB stands over lesser lagers.

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The Gordon Biersch Weizen Eisbock is another special edition Braumeister Selekt. Weizen means wheat, of course; Eis means ice (as the beer is frozen during the brew process in order to remove excess water, resulting in higher alcohol content), and Bock is a malt-heavy German lager. This was again, a cut above many other Gordon Biersch lagers. It may not be complex as Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock, which is probably the closest in style available locally, but this was stronger (being an eisbock) and much more drinkable.

Global Beer Exchange also carries some of beer’s big brother, sake, from Kiuchi Brewery, makers of everyone’s favorite Hitachino Nest White Ale. Like beer, sake is brewed, not distilled. However, instead of using malted barley, the Japanese use polished rice. The different “grades” of sake are also based on how polished the rice used in brewing is. GBEx brought in four productsfrom Kiuchi’s Kikusakari sake brand, with prices ranging from P1,000 to P4,000.  This bottle of Junmaishu is the least pricey of the bunch, but according to the Azazel of Alcohol; the Lucifer of Libations; the Satan of Sake; and the Beelzebub of Beer, this one more than holds its own against other more expensive bottles available at local retailers. That’s a testament to the quality of the Kiuchi brand. The revered sushi legend Jiro Uno refers to himself and his students as shokunin, or craftsmen. The same can be said for Kiuchi and the growing number of craft beverage producers across the world.

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Finally, one of the best things about the Bottle Shop is that you can bring in your own food, or order from one of several affiliated restaurants from Paseo de Magallanes. This makes for unlimited combinations of beer and food pairings! If you can imagine it, you can just as easily turn it into reality here. For instance, the photograph above is of a Brothers Cheeseburger from Brothers Burger, topped with some of the famous Chorizo Sisig from Kublai’s Rock, and paired with Anderson Valley Hop Ottin IPA.

As an advocate of the craft beer revolution in the Philippines, I hope I’ve enticed some new people to come to the Bottle Shop and taste some real beer with us. The next big event will be the La Fin du Monde tasting party, where the end of the world will be celebrated with the eponymous beer that’s one of the best in the world, as well. Save the date, 20-12-2012, and let’s greet the end of the Mayan calendar in style!

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