Summer Beers (make me feel fine)
We’re approaching the end of the Philippine summer, with its unbearable heat compounding the ever-present traffic gridlocks. Luckily, local craft brewers Great Islands Craft Brewery and Katipunan Craft Ales have come out with refreshing seasonal releases made especially to beat the heat.
The first beer to come out, towards the end of April, was an ultra-limited one-night-only release from Great Islands Craft Brewery, whose brewmaster Allan “Baldis” Agala is seen in the background of the photo above. 7107 Wheat Ale is a German-style weizenbock inspired by the Philippine archipelago itself. This displayed all the proper attributes of a weizenbock, and could probably already be considered a doppelbock. It was strongly malted and well-carbonated, with touches of coffee at the beginning and dried dark fruits and berries as it warmed up. Mouthfeel was appropriately syrupy, which lent the doppelbock feel. It wasn’t the best beer for the weather given its relative thickness, but the carbonation did well to add to the drinkability.
Who says puns are dead? Katipunan Craft Ales released their wittily named Summer Down the Road, a German kolsch-style ale inspired by long road trips with friends with the windows down and the wind in your hair… and of course, the “e-pun-ymous” Barry Manilow videoke classic. This beer is easier to find given the growing number of retailers and bars carrying Katipunan Craft, but the stocks are sure to be long gone even before school starts again.
When I first tried Summer Down the Road, it was after a more than two hours driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic, during which my car overheated, followed by a short but cramped and hot MRT ride and the humid walk from the Magallanes Station to Global Beer Exchange’s Bottle Shop. Needless to say, I was tired, parched, royally p’d off, and most of all, melting in the summer night heat. Summer Down the Road was just light enough without being watery, refreshingly carbonated. It tasted more like a lighter-bodied hefeweizen to me than a kolsch, which probably turned out for the better. The travel I took to get to try this brew wasn’t the road trip I had in mind, though. But it was worth it. Another hit in the works for the boys of Katipunan Craft. When it comes to fellow Ateneo High School alumni, A2002 may have achieved a three-peat in topping the Bar exam, but B2002 blazed a trail for craft brewing. I’ve gotta be more impressed with the latter, notwithstanding my high school section.
The second limited release from Great Islands was their Halo-halo ale, made with the whole array of traditional ingredients composing the classic Filipino dessert. This was described as an “Indigenous Filipino Style Refreshment Ale”, made with “Garbanzos, White Beans, Red Kaong, Nata de Coco, Macapuno, Langka, Halayang Ube, Red Mongo, Pinipig, Leche Flan Syrup and Saba”.
I wasn’t able to make it to the event itself, but I heard that the bottles sold out pretty quickly. Luckily, I was able to sneak in a small taste of the samples a week before. Given my few sips of this, I picked up on the complexity of having a variety of additional ingredients involved in the brewing process. However, given that this was in liquid form — and homogenous for the most part — I felt that it lost what I always enjoyed to be the best part of eating halo-halo: being able to pick out a different ingredient and flavor with every bite. I’d say this would be better not just drunk on its own, but paired with your favorite Filipino dessert. Don’t make the mistake of pouring this beer over crushed ice, though.
Just this week, Great Islands put out its third small batch beer of the summer, Brownman Ale. It’s a double dry-hopped, 70 IBU, 6.1% ABV brown IPA. I’d actually written about this before — a collaboration between Great Islands’ Baldis and Norwegian/honorary Filipino craft brewer Rhum Bretsen. Baldis graciously gifted me a yet-to-be-labeled bottle to try, so I decided to skip the limited release event. With a couple weeks more of bottle-conditioning, the hops had mellowed just a bit from how it tasted when I had originally tried it after only a week of fermentation. Having an entire bottle for myself allowed me to enjoy the strong frothy head from a straight pour and appreciate what was a more full body than the usual IPA, made much more prominent by the summer heat. Great stuff, as usual, but made even better by the fresh hops.
*Disclosure: Obviously, these guys are friends of mine, but it doesn’t change the fact that they make good beer. For the doubtful, I suggest attending one of the releases and deciding for oneself.