Ever tried Katipunan Beer?
MANILA, Philippines - "Citrusy, sweet with a slight bitter kick."
That's how beer brewer Raffy Taruc describes the taste of Katipunan Beer, the new ale in town sparking a revolution in more ways than one.
Katipunan Beer, bottled by urban legends (like the one that claims it is the thesis project of a UP student) and requested from bars among those "in the know," has already opened up the possibilities of craft beer appreciation in the Philippines.
Craft beer is defined as beer from small, independent breweries with limited production and employing traditional brewing techniques.
Katipunan Beer, instead of being rice or corn-based like cheaper beers with massive distribution, uses malt and tops grown in North America and Canada.
They've had to import their malt because barley, the base ingredient for malt, doesn't grow in rainy Philippines. Like other cereal grains, barley needs 13 to 14 hours of sunlight.
These ingredients make Katipunan Beer heavy on the wallet, one bottle costing P150 though some bars sell it for as much as P300.
The beer project
With its blood-red "K" logo and vintage image of a barong-wearing Don, it's easy to associate Katipunan Beer with the ilustrado movement of Spanish-era Philippines.
But Katipunan Beer's origin is more contemporary than that.
The idea for Katipunan Beer was uncorked by 4 Ateneo High School classmates who met in 1998.
Even after high school, Brett Lim, Miguel Buling, Raffy Taruc, and Kiyo Miura continued to meet up in their favorite hangout, Katipunan Avenue.
The idea for brewing their own beer was just "one of those drunken conversations," says Lim.
They thought of a name and concept but had no idea how to make beer. When Lim moved to Singapore, he bought a brewing kit then brought it home where it gathered dust for 3 years.
Then one day, Taruc bought a book on beer-brewing online. He gathered the rest of the gang in his apartment and they began brewing.
Where is his apartment? In Burgundy Place, right smack in the heart of Katipunan Avenue, of course.
"We brewed it. We produced 6 bottles. That was October of 2011 and it wasn't great beer but we loved it, we loved the process," Lim recalls.
"We continued to experiment. Katipunan was the place. If we weren't brewing in Raffy's apartment we were in Kiyo's house which was on Xavierville, still along Katipunan."
Then they started bringing it to parties, improving the taste based on feedback from friends who tried it.
At a 4th of July party, they sold out a whole case of their beer but mostly to friends. Then a complete stranger came by.
"I still remember that feeling when a stranger picked it up, drank it, looked at it and told his friends. We were watching from the second floor. We thought, 'Oh my gosh, ito na! Maybe we have something here.'"
From small pots and water dispensers in Taruc's kitchen to larger containers in Kiyo's garage, Katipunan Beer is now brewed in a spacious warehouse in Pasig (incidentally near a distribution warehouse of San Miguel Brewery).
They supply beer to bars around the metro including Route 196 in Katipunan Avenue, Ritual in Makati, Global Beer Exchange Bottle Shop in Makati and more.
Craft beer revolution
Despite the hefty price tag, Lim says the response to their beer has been very positive.
"People say it's very different. They know they're not drinking the usual stuff. They like that it's full-flavored. You can taste the sweetness, you can smell it. It hits you differently."
Taruc, the chief brewer of the bunch, recommends ways to best enjoy Katipunan Beer:
1. Drink it in a glass to allow the aroma to come out.
2. Don't put ice because it dilutes the flavor.
3. Don't serve it below zero because the temperature numbs your taste buds.
But despite the hint of subversiveness in their product's packaging, the Katipunan Beer founders aren't out to disrupt the system or displace local mainstream beers.
"The truth is, there's a time and place for other beers. I mean, we don't drink our beer exclusively because we can't afford it," says Buling.
"We want to sell it on good quality and our use of the best ingredients. It's a good beer, period," says Lim.
Their earnest hope is for Katipunan Beer to spark interest among Pinoy drinkers for local craft beer.
Craft beer is gaining headway in the United States, Australia, Japan, and South Africa, but not yet here in the Philippines.
"We notice it's happening in a lot of places but not yet here. Local is actually a pretty important factor to beer and brewing because it's fresh and beer doesn't travel too well," observes Buling.
Which is why when it comes to other local craft breweries, the atmosphere is more cooperative than cut-throat.
"Any attention toward craft beer is good for us. If you get to try one craft brewery, you'll want to taste all," says Taruc.
But that doesn't make Katipunan Beer any less competitive. The dynamic group is already working on new flavors and partnerships to surprise patrons.
In September, they're launching beer mixed with coffee, the product of a collaboration with a local craft coffee company.
They're also working on a special edition of beer with dalandan, a followup to Katipunan Beer with castañas which they unveiled last Christmas.
Soon enough, they may achieve their long-standing dream: to serve their beer from kegs.
The buzz Katipunan Beer continues to generate makes one thing certain: there's always space in the bar for a good beer. - Rappler.com
Want to serve Katipunan Beer? Contact them through their Facebook page