I’m not an expert on brewing beer, but one thing’s for sure, I love drinking it. Like most Filipinos, my love for beer started at a very young age. After I took my first gulp from a cold bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen, I was in love…and pleasantly buzzed.
Beer has become a part of our lives. How can it not be? We have a century-old brewery that produces some of the best beer in the world. After work, a trek to the nearest bar for a couple of happy hour mugs with the colleagues (five thirsty na!) has become routine. Weekend getaways are not complete without a case (or three!) of beer. Most especially during beach trips, where a chilled bottle of beer is a requisite during a sunset session.
Proof that Pinoys love their beer so much is the recent craft beer explosion. Local craft breweries have been popping up, not only in Manila, but in other provinces as well, like Sagada, Baguio, Cebu, and Bacolod, to name a few.
The newest member of the craft beer community is Engkanto Brewery. Engkanto is the passion project of Ian Paradies. “After moving back to Manila from Jakarta, where I was assigned for work, I wanted to pursue my own thing,” Ian explains. What started as a joke about dreaming of owning a brewery or distillery one day became a reality for the former transportation and logistics executive. “Never in a million years did I believe it would become a reality. Plus, I felt there was an opportunity in the market for a new craft beer that’s more affordable, ” he adds. And yes, part of Ian’s job description is ‘drink beer all day.’
What sets Engkanto apart from other craft brewers? The recipes were developed specifically to cater to the local palate, using the four traditional main ingredients of beer: water, malted grain, hops, and yeast. The bit we’re most excited about “we also pursued a model that allows us to sell our high-quality beers at very reasonable prices,” Ian shares.
Engkanto is currently brewing five flagship beers: lager, blonde ale, pale ale, IPA, and double IPA. The lager (photo below) is a light, crisp beer that’s apt for any occasion or time of day (beer for breakfast, anyone?). Its amber hue can fool anyone into thinking it’s juice. And just like juice, it’s got that same refreshing quality as the non-alcoholic beverage.
Their lager, which takes more time and effort to brew, is perfect for our tropical weather. Crisp and light in alcohol content with a hint of citrus notes, the blonde ale is extremely easy to drink. This makes it the right beer to have with lunch or dinner. It’s suitable for those that don’t like the taste of beer and the heavy feeling most beers often impart. My favorite, the pale ale, is the most well-rounded of the lot. Full and balanced when it comes to body and mouth feel, it’s an easy beer to drink, yet packs a punch in terms of alcohol. Pair the pale ale with wings or pizza and you’ve got a match made in beer heaven. The most traditional ale is the IPA, the poster child for most craft breweries. Engkanto’s IPA has that distinct piney flavor and bitterness that beer is often associated with, but because it was concocted for our local taste, the bitterness is controlled. A bit more complex and with a stronger alcohol content (8.5% ABV), the double IPA captures the full flavor of the hops that were used in brewing it. Hopheads will enjoy the complex, earthy aroma and flavor from this one. “It’s often referred to as the traydor beer because it’s so smooth yet extremely strong. You won’t feel the strength until you’ve had a few,” Ian spills.
Apart from the five varieties Engkanto currently offers, there’s the occasional seasonal brew like the dalandan ale, a crisp beer with a distinct citrus-dalandan taste, and the stout, a dark, caramel-like beer with deep, intense flavors and a hint of chocolate and coffee. I imagine the stout would be fantastic coupled with a slice of dark chocolate cake.
Right now, you can find Engkanto in a few establishments but this is quickly changing as more restaurants and bars are including Engkanto in their drink lineup. Then, late this year they launch a larger brewing facility in Carmona, Cavite that will focus on bottling the brewery’s flagship beers. Now that’s definitely something to look forward to! So before you say, “not another craft beer.” I urge you to try this magical beer and be completely enchanted and possibly drunk after you’ve had a few pints.
You can find Engkanto in the following establishments: Donosti, Belle & Dragon, Hooch, Cu Chi, Batala Bar, Howzat, Señor Pollo, The Bottle Shop, Boiler Room, The Smoking Joint, Balay Dako and 3 Guys & A Grill.