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Craft Beers: An Expat’s Perspective

November 4, 2010

In the current issue of Expat Newspaper, Timothy Jay Ibay featured Global Beer Exchange, THE source for craft brew in the Philippines. Below is a sneak peak at a blog chanced upon by Expat from beer enthusiast Gregg Evans, detailing his longtime Philippine brew odyssey:

Philippine Beer Scene, Then and Now: One Foreigner’s Experience

I lived in the Philippines for 16 years (1988-2004), and during that time, finding craft beer was next to impossible.  That was a real problem for me, because I don’t like pilsner/pilsen and seemingly everyone in the Philippines was perfectly satisfied with what I could hardly stand.  Don’t get me wrong.  San Miguel is one of the best pilsners in the world, but if you don’t like pilsner, having the best in the world hardly matters.  Oh, I’ll have one on ice after 18 holes on a hot day at Riviera, but I’d just as soon have a diet soda.

Back in the days before microbrew started showing up in Manila, about all you could do for something better than San Mig Pale was Cerveza Negra or Guinness.  For a Guinness in a decent pub atmosphere, I could always go to Murphy’s in Legaspi Village or to the Prince of Wales at Greenbelt, but that was about as good as it got for many years.
I remember when Planet Beer opened on Makati Avenue in Bel Air.  I was living in Bicol at the time and only got up to Manila every other month or so, but knowing that good beer would be available when I visited Manila was very exciting.  I took Joey Bautista to Planet Beer on my first visit.  The beer list was impressively long, but the prices were ridiculously high.  I think they were bringing it in a six-pack or two at a time, so supply was low, demand was high and prices were crazy.  A 12 oz. bottle of Red Hook ESB was going to cost me P400 – about $16 at the time, if I remember right – and when I ordered one, Joey just about had a conniption over the price.  He didn’t understand my love of beer.  Actually, the Red Hook was relatively inexpensive: a bottle of Chimay would have been P1,500!

I was shocked when the waiter at Planet Beer told me they didn’t have a cold Red Hook and asked if I would like a San Mig instead!  Instead? Granted, there isn’t really that much flavor difference between a Red Hook ESB and a San Miguel Pale, but if a customer is willing to pay P400 for a beer, no waiter in his right mind would divert the customer to a P35 beer instead!  He should have said, “I’ll put two Red Hooks in the freezer for you and you can enjoy a Cerveza Negra, compliments of the house, while you wait for the ESB to chill.”  Unfortunately, but maybe not surprisingly, Planet Beer’s existence was short-lived.

I remember when a few microbreweries were attempted in Manila back in the ‘90’s.  There was that one – Ironhorse, was it? – over at Crossing (Shaw/EDSA).  I tried it a few times, but it really wasn’t very enjoyable.  Hardly anyone in the place was ever actually drinking the brewed-on-premises stuff, and for good reason.  I hate to think that people formed their impression of microbrew from what they drank at that place.  I have to salute those who tried to make a go of it there – at least they gave it a shot – but somehow the brewing just never clicked.

Read on at Gregg’s blog or learn more about Global Beer Exchange on Facebook
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