Craft Beer in the Philippines – 2016 Edition

When I last posted about the state of Craft Beer in the Philippines, most bars were focused on import beers, many of which were from California. Though many of these imports are still available in Manila, the quality of beers brewed by small breweries has increased significantly. I still haven’t found any breweries offering full fledged tasting rooms or restaurants like the place I visited in Siem Reap but I am now much more optimistic for the future of craft beer in the Philippines. In this post I focus on Manila and Cebu, the two cities I visited during this trip. And specifically I focus on two drinking establishments, The Bottle Shop in BGC Mall in Manila, and Ilaputi Restaurant in Cebu where they have taps from Cebu based Turning Wheels Brewing. Some may have also read about Irie Gastropub, though they had closed temporarily and were not open when I visited though they do plan to re-open with even more taps.

Manila – The Bottle Shop

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The Bottle Shop in Manila has 15 taps and tons of selection of mostly Filipino craft beer with a few imports thrown in. Prices range from 250 pesos ($5) to 400 pesos ($8.50). The Bottle Shop felt like any other craft beer bar around and the servers were quite knowledgeable about the beers pouring such that they were able to give me an idea about the difference between the numerous IPAs on the board. While at the bar I drank 3 local beers, Katipunan Brewing’s Stout, Crow’s Brewing Mala Hierba IPA and De Puta Madre Double IPA.

Their solid lineup of bottles available.
Their solid lineup of bottles available.

Katipunan Stout was quite impressive and I wasn’t expecting to like it after having some fairly disappointing beers from them during a previous trip. But for a lighter alcohol stout this was quite tasty and could easily have come from any number of smaller craft breweries out of San Diego. It was complex and balanced with smooth mix of coffee and chocolate and plenty of roast. The Mala Hierba IPA from Crow’s Brewing was quite tasty with a dank piney nose and citrus forward taste while not being too bitter or too malty. This is a fantastically balanced IPA and you will have a hard time finding anything better in the Philippines.

I can't remember if this is the double IPA or the single IPA but based on how dark it is, it is probably the double IPA.
I can’t remember if this is the double IPA or the single IPA but based on how dark it is, it is probably the double IPA.

In comparison, the double IPA was slightly disappointing because it had a flavor closer to a barleywine and hints of apple came in at the back end. The double was much more malt forward and highly bitter with notes of grapefruit from the hops. I liked it when I first tasted it but after drinking half of my beer I wished I had ordered another Mala Hierba. The Bottle Shop has a solid selection of bottles of craft beer as well, with many imports and a few Filipino beers that didn’t make it on the list. This is for sure a must stop if you are in Manila and want something other than the local macro beers.

Cebu City – Ilaputi Restaurant
On tap at Ilaputi are all beers from Turning Wheels, a Cebu based brewery. I tried a flight that had two double IPAs, an IPA, and an Imperial Stout. The first double IPA was cloudy and unfiltered with citrus hops dominating and fruity undertones. It was the most bitter of the bunch and probably the closest to an IPA. I also found out later that this was the freshest of the bunch too. Though I could drink it, I didn’t find it as tasty as Crow’s IPA mentioned above.

Philippines Beer 2016 04

As you can see, many of these beers are really hazy.
As you can see, many of these beers are really hazy.

The IPA was malt forward and not as bitter, not very hoppy or impressive. The second double IPA was also quite cloudy and unfiltered with a strong bitterness and primarily citrus hops but it lacked the aromas that made the first double IPA so tasty. The Imperial Stout was fairly light body and was a primary mix of chocolate and roast but it also had the distinct flavor of pilsner malt, taking away from what might have been a tasty stout. It didn’t have enough body or flavor for the alcohol and compared with the Katipunan stout I had in Manila simply wasn’t close enough to style. Still, the first double IPA was tasty enough that I would want to go back if I was in town. I also was impressed by the presentation at Ilaputi with offering a flight of tasters on a flight board.

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Considering my last post suggested there was not much hope for where craft beer in the Philippines is headed, I am now excited for where Turning Wheels and Crow’s Brewing go from here because they are obviously talented brewers and have an idea of what hoppy beers should taste like. If I hadn’t been to manila that fresh double IPA would have been just the thing I needed to hit the spot. While I wouldn’t suggest going to the Philippines specifically to try their beers if you are in the area these places are certainly worth visiting. I should also note that another place nearby was serving two beers on tap from the Cebruery. I was even less impressed by their stout and blonde than anything else mentioned above. So Crow’s and Turning Wheels are the two ones to seek out if you end up in The Philippines.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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