The Black Pig, Alabang (and Holgate Brewhouse’s Ales)

A weekend in Alabang meant that I could not but visit Black Pig. Thus, under the self-serving pretense of a post-Valentine’s Day date, I dragged my beautiful significant other, A., to this charcuterie restaurant-bar that was known not only for awesome meat dishes and craft beers on tap, but also for having well thought out vegetarian options.

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Every meal starts with a basket of gorgeous looking and tasting breads accompanied by a large pat of butter and some olive oil. We were also given a couple of complimentary pasta choux. We had an outside couch to ourselves, and chose to order drinks first while we waited for a table to open up so that it was easier to eat.  A. ordered the Black Pig Sangria, which she enjoyed, but I found too sweet (well, I find almost everything too sweet). On the other hand…

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I ordered a large glass of their Local Hefeweizen. It’s an admirable effort, on par with the more run-of-the-mill unfiltered wheat beers like Paulaner, Oettinger and Erdinger. The banana and clove esters were there on the nose, but not as prominent on the taste buds. The carbonation and body were just as a hefeweizen’s should be: bubbly, medium-bodied and refreshing. It’s no Weihenstephaner, or even a Franziskaner, but it’s definitely worth ordering, as it costs much less than the more common but overpriced draft-pulled Paulaner and tastes pretty much the same. I tried asking the waiter who brews their beer, but he just described it as delivered from a “supplier”. (Edit: Apparently, this may or may not be sourced from Bravo/Pivo Praha Microbrewery, according to my home brewer source.)

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We also ordered a pot of fried pickles to start with, and as a side to our entrees. Crunchy, sour and salty, this paired nicely with the bubbly hefeweizen, but there were more matches to test out:

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I ordered the Black Pig Beer Flight: small pours fresh from the taps (around 3-4 oz each) of the Local Hefeweizen, and a trio of Australian Craft Beers from Holgate Brewery: Mount Macedon Pale Ale, Extra Special Bitter, Road Trip India Pale Ale (left to right). I thought that the beer flight would have all Holgate brews, but I didn’t read the menu properly. If I had known that the hefeweizen would be included in the flight, I would have skipped the full glass and just ordered more IPAs. The ESB was the only beer in the flight that I was trying for the first time, and it was a good take on the classic English style:  not too carbonated, with a sublime bitterness that is more subtle than that provided by the Northwestern hop varieties behind West Coast IPAs. I enjoyed this with the fried pickles even more than I did the hefeweizen.

I’ve tried Holgate’s ales before at the Bottle Shop in Magallanes, but any photos and write ups have been lost in my 2013 sea of backlog. Nevertheless, I’ll interject with a few delayed photos:

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Mt. Macedon Pale Ale is one of the most interesting I’ve had in a long time. It has an amazing floral boquet, which makes its taste seem a little disappointing as the nose doesn’t translate much to the flavor. Nevertheless, this is a unique American-style pale ale that one should not miss.

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Road Trip is a very agreeable and easy to drink IPA with prominent aroma hops and just enough bitterness,making it a decent enough substitute while waiting for the West Coast hop bombs to come back to our shores. It is interesting enough for the less biased enthusiast, but for heavy hopheads, its bitterness may be lacking.

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Temptress Chocolate Porter is only available bottled at the Global Beer Exchange Bottle Shop. Despite my biases towards hoppy beers, I enjoyed this a lot. It wasn’t too sweet, with more of a dark chocolate and mocha maltiness rounded out by a robust porter thickness.

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A ordered the poached egg and mushroom puree, parmesan & crunchy soldiers, which was hearty but not too filling.  It was a lot of fun to eat, as one can get away with “playing” with their food by breaking the egg yolk, dipping the soldiers in and painting around to get a bit of everything, then taking a bite. Of course, I had to try some of her food, which richness was aptly cut through by the hefeweizen.

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My main course was the oven-baked local pork belly and bone marrow, served with french beans, baby carrots and mashed potato, with a sliver of apple and applesauce. I appreciate how they emphasized that it was local pork they were using. Most restaurants will try to hide this fact, as if it were an embarrassment, while highlighting that they use “U.S. beef” (not saying that the grade is merely “Choice”), or “Wagyu” (which is actually locally raised Kitayama from Bukidnon). In a restaurant that prides itself on its porcine products, proclaiming that a dish is locally sourced is a testament to the quality of the ingredient. Upon tasting this dish, one will see that the pride Black Pig takes in its pork is well-deserved.

This was the perfect plate, appealing to all the senses. The crisp skin and melt-in-your-mouth, fork-tender fat were served separately from the likewise crisped-up lean meat. The bone marrow was a unique preparation, appearing to have been finished in the broiler to give it a bit of crunch around the edges while still remaining juicy. It’s also interesting to note that the shank here was quite thin, perhaps from a calf, rather than your fully-grown bulalo cow. I alternated between spreading this on some of the bread and eating it with a mouthful of the pork belly and vegetables. Individually, all the elements tasted great, but together, everything went beautifully. The symphony of flavors visualized in the movie Ratatouille comes to mind. The interplay was made even more interesting by finishing a bite with a sip of the Road Trip IPA.  

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We were too full for dessert (unfortunate, as I’ve heard some good things), but I couldn’t leave without having the Hopinator Double IPA. IPAs, and the double/imperial varieties at that, aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (or glass of beer), but those that do enjoy these styles usually do so because of the almost ridiculous bitterness of these beers.  The Hopinator, as the name implies, was a big beer – comparable to a less alcoholic barleywine, even – which was quite enjoyable, although I personally prefer my imperial IPAs to swing on the aggressively bitter side. This was much more balanced, with a prominent malt base counteracting the hops.

Black Pig had excellent food and a great beer selection that I’ll definitely come back for – again and again. Self-proclaimed “gastropubs” and “cerveserias” in central Metro Manila that serve middling, uncreative, uninspired food and mediocre but overpriced beers are a dime a dozen. To have a truly memorable experience, one must head south to Alabang. Hopefully the coming traffic apocalypse won’t prevent me for making regular pilgrimages to Black Pig.

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