Brewfest Manila Part II

Edit: Apparently there are two Brewfests. One is Brewfest MNL. The other is Brewfest PH. This was the second event organized by Brewfest MNL, the first being held in Le Pavilion last year. Admission was a reasonable Php 100, which also allowed entry to the bazaar next door. Money was exchanged at the entrance for non-refundable chits.

Most of the local craft breweries were represented, aside from some notable omissions. Katipunan Craft, for one, has been relatively quiet of late. Also, I was hoping to bump into the guys of Baguio Craft Brewery and Craftpoint, but for some reason or another, they were no longer there on Sunday, when I went. Great Islands was active for the first event, but did not put up their own booth this time. However, they did have some bottles of their Christmas release, Puto Bumbong Ale.

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Joe’s Brew has expanded their line from the hoppy Fish Rider Pale Ale and Sierra Madre Wheat, they now also have a solid IPA in 34th pursuit, and a malt-heavy double IPA, Sun Sweeper. They have some beautifully-painted label art as well.

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Nipa Brew has grown from their solitary Tropic Haze wheat beer to a lineup of four regular brews, as well as bottling some experimental “home brews”. More on them very soon, though.

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Juan Brew has just added a Bavarian Wheat beer to their flagship pale ale as well. Their Pale Ale is pretty good for a new-ish brewery, and represents the style well. Their claims to fame are being the only solar-powered craft brewery in the country and being one of the first craft breweries to start canning their beers (Baguio started canning at around the same time, if I’m not mistaken, and I’m not sure which of the two started first).

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Crazy Carabao Brewery is based in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, if I’m not mistaken. I was previously able to try their Exit Wounds IPA, but it was much more of a malty English style as opposed to the Californian iteration that I prefer. Their Kalinga Kolsch (after the summer beer of Cologne, Germany) is amazing, though: bright, refreshing and flavorful. As far as I know, CCB is the only local brewer churning out this style.

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Pedro Brewcrafters is another Laguna-based brewery, operating out of San Pedro (oh…). Some of the people behind it are the same people behind Mr. Delicious’ tasty meats and sandwiches and Smoky Bastard beer stall at Hole in the Wall in Century City Mall. Their Endless Summer Wheat is an more roasted, smokier take on the classic style, or maybe that’s just my appetite for Mr. Delicious sandwich calling. Their Elementary English Ale is a nice introduction to craft beer as well – an easy drinking, biscuity ESB.

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The Bottle Shop carried a selection of beers from different local breweries, namely the aforementioned Great Islands, Palaweño, The Cebruery, Crow’s Craft, and newcomer Alamat.

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I’m glad that Crows Craft has ramped up its production. Its insane De Puta Madre Double XX IPA is a hop grenade as usual. What came as a pleasant surprise was its Mala Hierba, which I was only able to try for the first time. While it was not as potent as DPM, it was much more balanced and accompanied by the pleasant flavour and aroma reminiscent of fresh herbs, grass and pine. As with all of Crows’ beers, hops are the star, and the liberal, almost gratuitous use of which justifies their relatively high prices. Brewer Mari also loves pumping out merchandise, and customers who bought both Crows beers available at Brewfest got a free bottle opener and lighter.

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Alamat was easily the Rookie of the Year, coming out of nowhere with a batch of crazy tasty brews. A runaway favourite was their Kapre Roasted IPA. My sources inform me that the person behind this is the sneaky superhero of the local craft beer scene, The Bier Ranger. A casual perusal of his Instagram account and that of the Alamat corroborates this claim. Kudos on a delicious entry into the craft beer world!

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Cebruery has become Global Beer Exchanges exclusive Cebu-based partner and collaborator. They are also responsible for the different GBEx collabs, featuring the birds-flipping visage of the latter’s Head Honcho Jim. They make some solid IPAs for their collaborations, as well as a variety of Belgian-style brews from the accessible Boracay Blonde, featured above, to a number of Beatles-inspired funky geuze and farmhouse ales.  Interestingly, Cebruemaster Taylor noted that here in Manila, the IPAs and pale ales are more popular, but in Cebu, the funky, fruity and sour beers are much more popular. Every place, every person, really has their own preferred style, and that’s what makes craft beer so much fun. With such a diverse lineup, it is indeed true to say that Cebruery crafts a beer for each person’s taste.

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Interestingly, SunStar Cebu has come up with a “best craft brewery in Cebu” tag despite only having three in the province as far as I know of. Their award went to The Cebruery, but personally, I believe that it is not only too soon, for such an award, but that it is also inappropriate. Turning Wheels has a strong chance at the title as well. (Incidentally, the other brewery I know of is Desert Fathers, a biblical-themed brewery which products have not yet made their way up north). While Turning Wheels may not possess the variety that Cebruery has, they have a small but solid core lineup, and what they brew, they brew exceptionally. Luckily for me, what head brewer Michael focuses on are mainly India Pale Ales. West Coast-style IPAs. Double IPAs. Wheat IPAs. They also have a hoppy stout. So yes, these guys are right up my alley, and all of their beers are on par with the best I’ve tried from California and Oregon. Hopefully they’ll expand their presence here in Manila.

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The Brewery is the latest venture of the Distillery/Black Olive/etc. group (and I’ve been told that my former Supervising Lawyer at the Office of Legal Aid is a co-owner as well), which finally came out with a craft brewery of their own (a clue about which I overheard at Sage Bar in Makati Shangri-La back in December 2014). I only had a couple of tasters of their special releases, as I had been warned that their IPA was not the hoppy sort that I favor, and I generally don’t buy craft lagers when I can get a craft ale instead, since I find that bottom fermented, cold-storage lagers don’t carry as much depth of flavor as top/warmer fermenting ales. Nevertheless, their Jasmine Citra Lager was nice and refreshing, as was their Sampaloka (not sure if this is a lager or an ale), infused with tamarind and lemongrass. These would definitely be perfect for hot summers by the beach.

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There were a number of food purveyors as well. The aforementioned Mr. Delicious was present, of course, but I decided to try the buns from Bao MNL. They have some addicting stuff in the style of Momofuku and Ippudo’s pork buns. There were some non-beer brewed beverages too, such as cold brew coffee and ginger ale, but of course, I went for the beer.

It was good, clean fun for the entire family, as indeed I dragged everyone with me, including my ten-month old daughter. I wasn’t the only one with the same idea. The good thing with the craft beer community is that everyone is so friendly, people are more well-mannered, and everything contributed to a greatly enjoyable atmosphere and experience. More power to the organisers of Brewfest! I can’t wait for the next one.

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