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A crafty kind of Oktoberfest

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Sep 29, 2022 5:00 am Updated Sep 30, 2022 2:03 pm

You know what they say: once you taste a good craft beer, it’s hard to go back to pale imitations.

So just as October rolls in, Newport World Resorts turns to that most convival of German exports — Oktoberfest — as a reason to celebrate great local craft beers, great local beer munchies and great local music. They’re calling it “October Fiesta,” gathering 13 leading craft brews in one spot. We got a preview taste of ales from local breweries Katipunan Craft Ales and Boondocks Brewing Co. for the three-day event which opens tomorrow, Sept. 30, till Oct. 2 at The Plaza, 2F, Newport Mall.

As an appetizer, Boondocks’ Fred Calope and Katipunan’s Jazel Paraiso led us through four craft ales — Boondocks’ Wheat and Strong Ale, and Katipunan’s Golden and Pale Ale — working our way through their tasting notes and strengths, and sharing about the growing craft beer culture in the Philippines.

Brews news: (From left) Newport World Resorts director for Corporate Communications Joee Guilas, Newport World Resorts executive sous chef Lito Sumayop, Philippine Craft Beer Community president and El Deposito's Jun Flores, Philippine Craft Beer Community organizer Cherry Genato, Katipunan Craft Beer's Jazel Paraiso, Crows Beverage Ventures' Melanie Nahoman Tan, Boondocks Brewing Co's Fred Calope, and Drink It Now Pare's Richard Ng

Proof of this is the 13 leading local brews on display at The Plaza. From Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, you can sample well-crafted premium beers from Greshbrew, Beer Bunny, Weekend Craft Ales, Crows Beverage Ventures, NTL Craft Beer, Sagada Cellar Door, Drink It Now Pare, Elias Wicked Ales & Spirits, El Deposito Brewery, Nipa Brewery and Engkanto Brewery, as well as Katipunan and Boondocks. Of course, there will be bar chow in the offing, including sizzling sisig, grilled sausages and tinapa nachos.

When you think about it, Munich’s Oktoberfest probably evolved from craft beer. Europe has a tradition of small brewers and public gatherings to taste the wares, and the Philippines does as well — it’s just been under the radar. With breweries like those featured at October Fiesta, that is slowly changing and evolving.

“Craft breweries all over the world have come back to looking at what the local market is like,” says Calope. “You put up a small little brewery that's catered to the neighborhood or a bit larger area, and then you really concentrate on the locality, what raw materials it provides. So it's meant to be a more fresh, intimate experience with beer.” And from small numbers come great tastes.

The whole point of drinking beer, for Calope and Paraiso, is enjoyment of the flavors, and food is meant to enhance that experience.

Paraiso recalls her first local craft beer experience — a wheat ale proferred by an uncle — and how it led to exploring just how good local, small-yield beers could be. She explains that, to be called “craft beer,” the brews must be made in traditional ways, from 100-percent pure malts, hops, yeast and water, with no artificial extenders, and with production below six millions barrels per year. Plus they’re privately owned, so there’s a real sense of community and supporting local businesses.

We try Katipunan’s flagship beer, the Pale Ale. The amber color is meant to reflect “the color of our skin,” says Jazel, and even the alcohol by volume (ABV) of 6.12% is meant to “pay homage to the date of Independence Day.” Its flavorful citrus and caramel notes are well balanced, and there’s a wonderful aroma to it.

For Calope, it was college abroad in the US that introduced him to great beers. When he couldn’t afford them anymore, he tried making his own “crappy” home brew, and when he returned to the Philippines as a lawyer, his friends said, “Didn't you used to make crappy beer? Why don't you make it here at home?”

“It turns out that it wasn't so crappy anymore,” Calope says. We sample the Boondocks Strong Ale, a dark, Belgian-style brew with a great mouthfeel that won a bronze award at last year's Asia Beer Championship. With a high 8.5% ABV, this is a beer that stands up well to sisig and sausages.

Visit October Fiesta to sample great craft ales from 13 local breweries at The Plaza, Newport World Resorts from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.

The whole point of drinking beer, for Calope and Paraiso, is enjoyment of the flavors, and food is meant to enhance that experience. As Newport World Resorts director for Corporate Communications Joee Guilas put it, for their fourth staging of October Fiesta, “There are three pillars to Oktoberfest: first of course, is a lot of drinking; second is a lot of eating and feasting; and third is a lot of merrymaking… So, since our mission is creating world-class experiences with a Filipino touch, we use the word ‘fiesta,’ which is inherent to Filipino culture.”

Visit The Plaza at Newport World Resorts for three nights starting this Friday, and sample one craft beer each for P250, or get both a Katipunan and a Boondocks craft ale plus an El Calle Food and Music Hall Bar Chow Sampler plus a free raffle ticket to win special prizes for P1,200.

And since it’s all being held inside El Calle Food & Music Hall, expect a lineup of popular music acts performing throughout the three-day affair. On Friday, Sept. 30 there’s Donna Moreno, Hello Ceasar and Dom Rodriguez starting at 5 p.m. until 11 p.m.; on Saturday, Oct. 1, there’s Musica, Rox Puno and Cass; and Sunday, Oct. 2 concludes with Alex Arias, Junno and Tiara Shaye.

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Visit The Plaza at Newport World Resorts this Friday or contact Archli Enriquez (0917-8239602), Kenneth Navoa (0917-8079387) and Jefferson Dererizo (0917-6589378) for tickets. Visit www.newportworldresorts.com.