Where I go for Craft Beer
Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Allow me, then, to present a totally biased article about where I like to go to enjoy craft beer. Beer is a beverage that can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways — as a partner to good food, as a way to de-stress after a tiring workday, to enjoy while socializing or bonding with friends or family, and even (at least in my opinion) quietly enjoyed alone while allowing my soul to catch up with my body. That said, despite the growing number of establishments serving craft beer in Metro Manila, and my admitted lack of mobility nowadays, I tend to favor certain places.
Also, since I’m not a real “foodie blogger” nor do I make any money out of these already shameless plugs of places I patronize, I will make no effort to provide the addresses, websites or phone numbers of the places listed below.
If you want awesome food – Black Pig
The Black Pig in Alabang would be a go-to destination for its food alone. They offer hearty, creative and flavorful dishes at a more than reasonable value. Despite the porcine leanings that may be connoted by the name, the menu is expansive and interesting enough to cater even to vegetarians (mind you, I didn’t say “healthy eaters”). I’d only been here once, a whole year ago (with change) but enjoyed a fantastic meal nonetheless. Since visiting, they not only expanded their menu with a constant introduction of new dishes and experiments, but have begun to offer some new brews as well. This is one of the few places in the metro with a steady supply of fresh beer from the US West Coast, particularly the Lagunitas, Bear Republic lines. If you are a hophead like me, and enjoy food as much as I do, then this restaurant would be worth multiple visits. Regrettably for me, Alabang is a long drive from Quezon City, and I definitely do not condone drunk driving. I often salivate at the thought of coming back here, though. This summer, a mini road trip is definitely in the pipeline.
For after-work happy hour – Big Bad Wolf
Those working in Bonifacio Global City have it easy, as from their offices, they could easily walk to a decent pub after work to kick back and try to lose all their pent-up stress. While there are many options in the area, my favorite for stopping by for a quick drink would be Big Bad Wolf in Burgos Circle. They have a good selection of local craft beer from the usual suspects – Katipunan, Craftpoint, and Fat Pauly’s, among others – served on tap or in bottles. If they see you settling for a boring bucket of beer, the staff will even walk up and offer you tasting portions of what their draft brews. The menu is a quirky lineup of pub grub, but if you want to play it safe, you can’t go wrong with their wings. Also in Burgos Circle is Burgers and Brewskies, which has a lineup of heart attack-inducing burgers and is the only place to try 7107 Brewery‘s home brew. Given the choice, though, I prefer the more laid-back atmosphere, warmer lights and abundant space at Big Bad Wolf for helping me ease the burden of a long day.
If you’re after local craft or group dinners – Perfect Pint
For groups getting together, whether friends or family, I would definitely recommend The Perfect Pint, also in Bonifacio Global City. They specialize in local craft beer, and only local craft beer, and they regularly organize beer and food pairing dishes and events – the first such establishment that I am aware of to do either. They brew their own stuff, on occasion, and the IPA I tried was definitely the best new beer I tasted at Drink Up Philippines last year. The food is also quite good, with a menu of your usual western pub fare and Pinoy pulutan favorites developed by celebrity Chef Gene Gonzalez, if I’m not mistaken. I enjoyed their “Kapal Muks,” or crispy pig face. It’s also one of the more common launching grounds for new brews, and they have quite a few theme or promo nights. If you want to introduce a group to craft beer, or want such an introduction yourself without feeling intimidated or whatnot, this is definitely one of the ways to do so.
If you want rare beers and good music – The Bottle Shop
As anyone who has read this blog before would know, I’m here a lot. But let me justify why I’m here a lot with a reason other than the perfectly obvious or what has already been written countless times before. I don’t like party music, I can’t understand EDM, and am closer to my thirty than to twenty. The Bottle Shop has the occasional 80’s night, on which I find the music much more enjoyable than what is usually played in other bars or pubs. You will also find the occasional 90s rock star jamming. As far as I know, this is the only place which offers such a “retro” musical selection with their craft beer, which I prefer over an EDM rave (is “rave” the right term?) with macro beer that would cost just as much a bottle of craft beer, or even your party pill of choice. This is also the only place to get some rare and obscure beers that one would not otherwise be able to find in the Philippines. Beer Geeks call them Moby Dicks or white whales, after the eponymous novel. I also refer to them as Holy Grales (heh).
And yes, there is the company I enjoy, with the beer I enjoy.
Watch out for: Hole in the Wall
Hole in the Wall in Century City Mall will be opening a craft beer bar/kiosk/stand/station/booth (???) soon. Mr. Delicious, known for its wonderful deli-style sandwiches with mountains of cured meat, is also going to launch Pedro Brewcrafters, one of several new craft microbrewers ready to break out. They will also be carrying other craft beer brands. Even as early as now, one can order a local brew like the Katipunan Craft Signal No. 1 Stout that I enjoyed with Mr. Delicious’ unparalleled pastrami sandwich. What I love about the craft beer industry, not just here but in any country, is that all the brewers are more than willing to help each other out. Because of that cooperation, I will be able to enjoy my favorite local brews with my choice of ginormous deli meat sandwiches, fried chicken, pho, shawarma, San Francisco Chinatown-style Chinese, girl scout cookies, and even green smoothies. (Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.) With this ingenious concept, the possibilities are endless.
Bonus: if you BYOB – Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza
I tend to not have any photos of food from Gino’s because it always gets picked at, and not too soon after, wiped out, once it is laid on the table. The above-depicted beers, however, are proof that you can bring your own libations in, free of corkage, as long as they’re in reasonable amounts and you’re not too rowdy. We have tried this in both their Salcedo and Katipunan branches without even the need to ask ahead (We brought in just one or two beers shared by a small group). As far as I know, Gino’s was even a testing (tasting?) ground for Katipunan Craft when the latter were still perfecting their signature Indio. Nothing pairs better with beer than pizza, and I’m lucky that whenever a friend brings a beer over Gino’s pizza and fantastic homemade cheeses (I recommend SMEGG, the BOMB, and the Bacon & Gouda pizzas and anything with their burrata and spicy honey), it’s a nice, hoppy IPA. Heady Topper was a Holy Grail/Moby Dick beer for me, and while fantastic, made me realize that my palate may have cooled a bit towards the style (at least when I got to try these beers back in July of last year). After tasting so many of the best of its class, the differences between those at the top tend to be minor, and to focus on each and every nuance and minutiae would be verging on nitpicking rather than enjoyment.
For creative Filipino food – Locavore. Right now, the craft beer selection is limited, but this place merits its own write up on the basis of its food alone, which I hope to get around to soon.
For not quite craft (depending on who you ask), but nonetheless an authentic German experience – Brotzeit. Again, a separate entry, also long overdue, shall follow.
For those in the Northern Metro – Barley Gastropub. I’m including this here even if they were all out of craft beer when I visited, because the food was quite excellent. I think they ought to have new stocks by now, and hopefully, regularly.
And well, I most often enjoy craft beer at home, so for retail beer to take home at wholesale prices, there’s always Gilmore Wines and Spirits.