CRUISING FOR BREWS
MetroHIM, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2008
Originally titled BREWS KO:
NOTES FROM AN ADVOCATE
RENATO REDENTOR CONSTANTINO
I’m a beer hunter, and I’ve been on the happy hunt for over two decades.
I’ve come across many of the weirdest beer creations ever created and I’ve also sampled some of the most beautiful, deliriously fascinating brews ever crafted in the modern world.
Have you ever tasted beer made from ampalaya? What about rose beer or green beer infused with spirulina? Ever had hemp beer? Beer made from chocolate or bananas? Have you ever tried ale of such exquisite quality that it can only be described as liquid cake giving off perfumes of cinnamon and clove?
It’s a magical world.
When I think of fine beers, I turn full-fledged Catholic and think of the great Trappiste beer Rochefort 10, brewed in St. Remy, Belgium. I think of the ancient brewing tradition of Ethiopia and Mongozo Brewery’s organic line, such as Quinua Beer. I think of Kinshimasamune’s Kyoto Hanamachi, a dry alt-beer, and I think of Brouwerij ‘t IJ’s great Amsterdam bio-triple Zatte. These are beers of love, but mind you there are legions more out there waiting to be experienced.
Oftentimes we judge beer for confused reasons. I’m a beer nut but I tell you it’s not always about aroma or flavor; sometimes it’s just the sense of place or time that a brew engenders. Beer Laos, for instance, tastes dismal until the Mekong is in sight. Then there are memory beers such as San Miguel Brewery’s unparalleled Pale Pilsen.
There’s more to life than just tea-like lager but you need to know where the right Philippine menu or grocery shelf is. Here’s a couple that can give you a head start. I chose the outlets based on their accessibility and I selected better beers that I felt were representative of certain styles - think of them as baselines, which means quality can only go up.
Beer from Belgium at Unimart. Belgium has thousands of different beer brands. More importantly, it has a vibrant microbrewery tradition. At Unimart (Greenhills Shopping Center, San Juan), you can get both. Go for Leffe Brune, but if you can’t find it, look for Leffe Blonde. Feel happier, however, if you come across the Trappiste beer Chimay Red, which sometimes pops up at the grocery.
The Leffe brand originated from the Abbey of Leffe brewery, which dates back to 1240, but the multinational giant InBev now owns it. Some consider the industrial lager Stella Artois (also owned by InBev) to be the representative Belgian beer, but any self-respecting Belgian would gag immediately upon hearing this. With its roasted, caramel flavors, fruity aromas and smooth finish, Leffe Brune is a good start. At 6.50%, this beer will deliver the basic complexities that you can’t find in Southeast Asian beers. On the other hand, if you see Chimay on the shelf, grab one and feel blessed. There are only six genuine Trappiste breweries left in the world, they are all from Belgium, and all of them are excellent, though Chimay, which the Cistercian Trappist monks have been brewing since 1862, is to me the least excellent among the Trappiste beers. I find Chimay Blue (alc. 9%) the most complex. Unfortunately, I think only Chimay Red is sold in the Philippines, Chimay beers are top-fermented, re-fermented in the bottle and are not pasteurized. At 7%, Chimay Red has a creamy head and delicate plum-like scent with the right amount of bitterness, which is what distinguishes it from the more common Leffe brands.
Go ‘German’ at Santi’s Deli. Every now and then, this celebrated deli carries the bottles of two brands. One is the fine Erdinger Weissbier, a 5.30% wheat beer that’s actually more Bavarian than German. The other is Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier (5.50%).
To be clear, “hefe” means yeast, and “weizen” means wheat. To be even more clear, both Erdinger Weissbier and Paulaner’s Hefe-Weissbiers are cloudy, and that’s what makes them great. Erdinger is a nice wheat beer that is predictably cloudy and with the right tartness. Erdinger Weissbier is not the best wheat beer by far but check it out. It will be a revealing experience. The same is true with Paulaner’s Hefe-Wiessbier, the dunkel (dark) version (5.30%) of which Santi’s sometimes imports.
Check out Czech beer at Grappa’s. And finally, try out the micro-brewed beer by Pivo Praha in Grappa’s. The branch I used to favor, particularly for its service, was the one in Morato, which has since closed down. But visit the branch in Greenbelt and order the weizen on draught for a taste of really fresh wheat beer. Also on draught is the dark version, which I find too cloying and thin, and the lager which is watery. #