The 1st Philippine Home Brewers Throwdown
It was the last day of a long January and the best way to wrap up the first month of 2013. For the first home brewers meet up of the year, Mario McDermott and Aldous Bee staged what will go down in the history books as the 1st Philippine Home Brewers Throwdown. Inspired by the Bobby Flay Food Network show, these two brewers went head to head in a blind-tasting challenge. Scorecards were provided to all who wanted to taste and judge.
As Mark Dacascos would say in another Food Network show, “let the battle begin!” The theme for their beers was to use Belgian yeast and local panocha, so I guess an Iron Chef secret ingredient reference isn’t that far off, after all. Mario went with a Belgian India pale ale, while Aldous’ recipe was for a dubbel.
The judges make their decision. Without totaling the numerical scores, it was Mario who won the vote, with five votes for, four against, and one draw (5-4-1). Personally, I ended up voting for Aldous’ beer. Although Mario’s won the aroma battle by far, and was more intense flavor-wise, I found the Bee’s beer more on the easy-drinking side. And like I said, it was a long month, and sometimes, easy drinking is what one is after.
Kudos to Aldous for stepping up to the plate and challenging Mario, one of the more experienced brewers we have — and more than holding his own at that. Being a good sport, he opened a few bottles after the judging of another beer he brewed for the rest of the Bottle Shop patrons to try. Or perhaps he was trying to goad them into changing their votes.
Of course, the Philippine home brewing community is small and closely-knit, so there’s no bad blood here. A bit of trash talk went around, for sure, though. As I always say, why shed blood, when you could have shared beer. (Actually, I never say that. I just made that up.)
Also pouring that night were a bottle of Firestone Walker XVI Anniversary Ale, a blend of barrel aged beers, and quite a behemoth at 13% abv. It tasted closer to rum or whisky with the woody notes, and the alcohol was definitely present. Guineu Rocaters was a Spanish-made craft beer. I managed just a tiny sip, and wasn’t able to take any mental or written tasting notes. It wasn’t anything special, but it wasn’t bad either. I remember malt flavor being the most noticeable.
Norwegian visitor (well he’s here half the time, it seems) Rhum, shared with us a couple bottles of his home-brewed IPAs, which I feel were the best home-brewed IPAs I’ve tried. Maybe it’s his access to better hops up in Norway, but this was really good, and on par with anything an American brewer will throw at you.
Jim also opened a bottle of Fat Pauly’s Smoked Mocha Porter from Iligan City. The smokiness was definitely there, but the soy sauce notes from the porter were too pronounced. The bar to beat is still set by Stone’s Smoked Porter, but for a local, microbrewed effort, this was laudable.
Finally, one of the highlights of the night was Russian River Redemption brought by lawyer/blogger Concon. Redemption was a blonde ale from a brewery that needs no introduction. I found out later on that it’s a bottle-fermented Belgian-style blonde ale, although my expectation and mentality was that this was a sour ale. Either way, I didn’t find it too sour, with just a hint of yeasty tartness that was not only tolerable, but delicious. I haven’t learned to really appreciate sour beers yet, mostly because of the difficulty in sourcing them. I thought that I had taken a small step towards a greater appreciation with the Redemption, only to find out that it wasn’t a sour ale after all. Regardless, that was another well-crafted beer from the masters at Russian River.
All in all, that was a good night at the Bottle Shop, with tons of new, limited and homemade brews pouring freely. I hope the throwdowns between brewers become a monthly event.