Craft Beer in the Philippines: Pampanga Craft Beer Festival and Breweries
It’s a hot day in the Philippines. Sweat is running down your temples, even though you have retreated to the shade of the palm trees a while ago. The salty breeze from the ocean only helps so much to cool you down. Should you jump back into the crystal clear water or order a beer? You start to fantasize about a crisp and hoppy IPA. Fruity, maybe with a local twist, like mango or kalamansi? But when your waiter brings you the menu, you are brought back to reality. San Miguel light or Pilsen are your only options. You sigh and order a Pilsen. Then you pull out your phone and ask Siri: «Where can I find Craft Beer in the Philippines?»
Craft Beer in the Philippines?
I know. The Philippines are hardly the first place that comes to mind when you think about beer. In the past, you pretty much had 5 choices for beer: San Miguel light (a light lager), San Miguel Premium (lager with a strong barley flavor), San Miguel Pilsen (light lager with a hint of hops, my favorite of the San Miguel beers), Red Horse (strong lager, best enjoyed ice cold from the bottle) and Cerveza Negra (dark lager, sweet and roasted flavors. I loved this beer, but is was a wee bit heavy and sweet for the hot temperatures) and guess what? They are all made by San Miguel Brewing, which has a market share of over 95%.
During my recent trip to the Philippines, I found that to my surprise, there is quite a thriving craft beer and brewery scene in the Philippines. Microbreweries and brew pubs are popping up all over the islands and the interest in craft beer is on the rise. Yes, is it still in its beginning stages.
For now, mainly tourists, expats and the affluent upper-middle class in Manila tend to be the main target market for the specialty beers. A craft beer in the Philippines is about 2-4 times more expensive than a San Miguel. Filipinos love beer, but many also want a cheap buzz. That is why in each case of Red Horse (8% ABV), they hide a bottle of Lucky Horse, which has 12% ABV as a marketing gimmick. So microbreweries need to strike a balance between producing a high-quality product using expensive imported ingredients and keeping the cost of the beer low enough to make it affordable for the market. Despite those entry barriers, the love for craft beer is spreading like wild fire in the Philippines.
A common flavor profile seems to be fruity and light, with more of a malty/sweet preference over extremely bitter and hoppy beers. The Philippines are known to mix and combine flavors from all around the world and yet making it their own when it comes to food, so I am excited to see what direction they will take with their craft beers.
Aside from Manila, the Pampanga region in Central Luzon is a hot spot for craft beer in the Philippines. The Pampanga tourism board was so kind to invite me on a tour of the region and its breweries. If you are heading to Manila, take a little detour up north and check out this beautiful region. They are known for their amazing food and the great beers they have up there.
Angeles City Craft Beer Festival
If you happen to be in Central Luzon in the beginning of December, you are very lucky. The first Angeles City Craft Beer Festival is taking place from December 2-4 at Marquee Mall in Angeles City. It howcases 15 Filipino Craft Beer Breweries and over 100 of their best brews. Enjoy local and international foods, listen to some Jazz and sample some great craft beers. They even offer brewing seminars, so you can learn how to get your home-brew started, if that interests you. Sounds like a perfect weekend to me, don’t you think? Craft Beer in the Philippines is really a hot trend and if you like to try new things, you should go check out this craft beer festival.
Ted Lerner, the craft beer loving genius behind the Angeles City Craft Beer festival, has been craving good beer since he left the United States 21 years ago. When he discovered a few craft beer breweries in Angeles City and learned more about the slowly growing micro brewery scene in his adopted home country, he decided to boost this trend and introduce craft beer to the wider masses. Ted is organizing the first Angeles City Craft Beer Festival, which will be the largest Craft Beer festival in the Philippines this year.
“I absolutely love beer but for years I’ve been terminally bored with drinking beer in the Philippines because of the sheer lack of variety. But this has all started to change as the craft beer revolution which has swept the world has started to kick in here. There are small breweries popping up in every part of the Philippines and these folks are producing some quality beers. I’ve had the chance to taste a lot of them in the last few months while putting this festival together and I get more impressed each and every day.” Ted Lerner
One thing is for sure: You won’t be terminally bored when you attend the Angeles City Craft Beer Festival and get to try over 100 local Filipino brews. Take a look at their website for a full list of all breweries and like their Facebook page for more event details!
Pampanga Craft Beer Breweries
Pinatubo Craft Beer
A German Brewery making German Beer in the middle of the Philippines? You didn’t have to ask me twice if I wanted to check this place out. Located in Angeles City, Pinatubo Brewing makes a set of German beers, following the German Purity Law of 1516.
The Pinatubo beers have a typical German flavor profile: Easy to drink, malty and with a low hop profile. The Golden Nectar Pilsner is their bestseller. It is a nice, dry beer with a round flavor profile that goes down well on a hot day in a tropical climate. Their Twister Ale has a very fruity aroma with a hint of pineapple. If you like hoppier beers, the Brainstorm IPA is your best bet. It has a nice piney aroma, but with 38 IBU’s, it is still below the usual threshold for IPAs. I would call it a perfect «Beginner-IPA», and it has the advantage that it won’t wreck your palate if you want to try some other beers after that.
If you like German beers, give Pinatubo Craft Beer a try and make sure you go hungry. Their Jägerschnitzel (pan-fried pork chop with a mushroom gravy and homemade noodles) is the best I’ve had outside of Germany! Absolutely delish and the portions are huge!
The Laughing Carabao Brewery
The Laughing Carabao Brewery just started about 4 months ago and is already making waves in the local beer community. As the first brewery in Tarlac, Robert – the owner and head brewer – fell in love with Craft Beer and home brewing, when living abroad in Japan. When he returned to the Philippines, he decided to start his own brewery in his hometown of Tarlac, just a bit north of Pampanga in Tarlac Province.
As an engineer, he has come up with a very interesting and unique fermentation solution: his fermentation takes place in corny kegs stored in temperature controlled freezers. This makes his sanitation easy and keeps the electricity bill low. Pretty genius, don’t you think?
Currently, they produce two beers and I was impressed by the quality and taste: The White Mango Ale is a light and fruity ale with a pleasant bitterness. You can smell the fruitiness, paired a light hoppy aroma. It is refreshing and well carbonated, brings in the local flavors and is simply a great beer. Their second beer is the Iniruban Pale Ale, a rice based Pale with a full body and nice aroma. This beer has a rather complex flavor profile, combining a sweetness reminiscent of sticky rice and the smoky, bitter finish of a Pale Ale. Not an easy tasks to bring these flavors together, but this beer does a good job!
I love where this brewery is going, putting such a high value on quality standards and using local ingredients. Can’t wait to see what they come up with next!
And both of these Pampangan breweries will be at the Angeles City Craft Beer Festival. Two more reasons for you to check out this event and learn more about Craft Beer in the Philippines!
Craft Beer in the Philippines is really starting to take off and I can’t wait to see how it develops. I have a few more breweries and beers to share with you that I discovered during my trip around this amazing country, so stay tuned.
A special thanks to EUROTEL for inviting me to stay at their Angeles City location.
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