Filipino craft beer has arrived in the Philippines! With breweries popping up all over, the craft beer revolution here is exploding with quality beer choices. Supply can be a problem, but seekers who can find these craft brews are well-rewarded with flavorful beers.
At AH, our go-to beertender is Beereaucracy Bar in the Obrero district of Davao City. We recently made the downtown run on a Tuesday evening and came away with a baker’s dozen (that’s 13) Filipino craft-brewed beers to try. Six of those beers came from The Cebruery in Cebu City.
A Word About “Bottle Conditioning”
Unlike a lot of commercial brewers, many craft brewers use a process called “bottle conditioning” to make bubbles in their beers. They add a small amount of yeast and sugar to each bottle. The yeast feeding on the sugar makes carbonation. It’s the same method used to make bubbles in champagne.
The process also adds extra flavor to the beer but it can create some sediment in the bottle. This sediment looks weird, but it’s harmless.
I thought sediment was only present in some German styles of beer. So when I poured out The Cebruery’s Boracay Blonde Ale and noticed black flecks in the head, I thought that dirt had somehow gotten inside the glass. Or worse, that it was in the beer. I scooped the flecks out and continued drinking. When I held the glass up, I also noticed that some “stuff” had settled to the bottom.
I sent a message to The Cebruery website via their website, asking the brew master what I was seeing. In about an hour, L. Taylor Hendricks wrote me back with a very detailed explanation of his process. He explained, in part:
We “reintroduce” some of that cone material [from the beer fermenter cone – ed.] in to every bottled batch (a fraction of a mL per bottle) to ensure there’s yeast in every bottle […] Using this yeast from the cone–which is otherwise perfectly acclimated to the beer in question–does, I think, have the aesthetically undesirable effect of reintroducing small amounts of that other material that has settled out over time–hop particulates and powder, coagulated proteins bound to the kettle fining agents we use (carageenan, mainly), and heavier long chain glycosides and organic compounds.
I appreciate Mr. Hendricks’ quick and thorough reply. I think we all know that customer service can be hard to get here in the Philippines but I got a fast, pleasant reply to my concerns. +1 to The Cebruery for that!
Let’s Drink Already!
Boracay Blonde Ale is 4.1% alcohol by volume (ABV) and poured a deep, cloudy gold with a high, white head that resolved to a finger’s-width band. It left lots of lacing on the glass. It had a grapefruit-y aroma with a bit of malt. A light pomelo flavor dominates this beer. Good mouthfeel, neither heavier nor lighter than expected. The finish is crisp and slightly bitter.
Being from Seattle, I’ve had a ton of blonde ales that disappoint. BBA does not disappoint. That this one is named for a classic Philippines destination island, Boracay, suits it perfectly. It just tasted Filipino. I wished that I had a plate of Ginisang Tahong to pair with it. It would have been perfect.
Dumaguete Dubbel is a rich, golden brown beer that clocks in at 7.2% ABV. It poured an off-cream colored head that resolved slowly and flattened out. Fruits and malt dominated the aroma with a light caramel note.
The first sip brought a complex parade of flavors: hard candy, dried dark fruits, dark sugar, sour vanilla, some high citrus notes at the end and a finish that lingered with a bit of anise. Dry in the mouth, the bitterness was soft and pleasant.
This was one of the most complex Filipino craft beer choices we brought home. The flavors make you want to savor each sip and, at 7.1% ABV, drinking it slowly is probably a good idea!
Chocolate Hills Porter is 6.1% ABV and poured an incredible tight, cream tan head that took what seemed like hours to resolve. If you’ve ever seen a Guinness Stout draft pulled, you’ve probably seen the bartender set the glass down and walk away to allow the head to resolve. CHP is reminiscent of that. I love Guinness and just thinking about having something to compare with it had me drooling while the head was s-l-o-w-l-y resolving.
Tons of lacing was left over once the head receded. The beer had a malty, hoppy aroma. Toffee, caramel and other dark sugar aromas were also present.
The first sip was an, “Oh, wow!” moment. A thick, milky mouthfeel was followed by a conga line of flavors: dark chocolate, black strap molasses, creme brulee, and smokey wood fire notes. The finish was surprisingly crisp and slightly bitter. The bitter crispness was very pleasant – the kind that gets your mouth salivating which also helps draw out the finish and remind you that there’s still a nearly full glass to drink yet.
The Cebruery’s Chocolate Hills Porter is simply one of the best beers I’ve tasted.
More Filipino Craft Beer To Come
In Part 2 of this series, I’ll finish up the beers I tasted from The Cebruery, include two from Nipa Brew and add a couple from Fat Pauly’s. Thanks for sticking with me through this adventure in brews. If you have any thoughts on Filipino craft beer, leave a comment and keep supporting Filipino craft beer!
Disclaimer (also known as the “Cover Your Butt” section)
- I’m not an expert. I’m not a professional taster, chef, gourmand or brew master.
- I recognize that taste is subjective and what I don’t like, you may enjoy. These are my opinions. Let’s drink, not fight.
- I did not and do not receive any compensation or consideration from anyone for tasting or blogging about anything.
- I bought all of the beers I tasted at retail prices.