Passion for beer spawns Baguio brewery
BAGUIO CITY—Chris Ordas loved beer so much he learned how to brew his own in 2008 at the family’s garage in Canada, where his family migrated.
The Baguio-born Ordas operated a company that manufactured machinery in Canada, where he discovered that every brewery he visited during business trips was unique.
Fascinated by the variety of craft beer, he bought his own brewery in 2008, and took formal courses in California, the Czech Republic and Germany—home of the Oktoberfest, where people gather from every part of the world to guzzle barrels of ale and lager.
In 2011, Ordas decided that he could bring his own taste in beer back home to the Philippines, where homemade and special flavored brews have grown a niche market.
He said his dream came to fruition last year when the Baguio Craft Brewery opened to a curious and steadily growing crowd at an establishment on Marcos Highway here.
But this is not the common Baguio beer joint. Instead of crooning country singers, first-timers are drawn in by the scent of fresh malt.
Customers soon take in the sight of a large display of jars containing varieties of grains and hops. Then their eyes wander toward barrels from which flow 14 types of freshly brewed beer.
New customers won’t find themselves fumbling through the beverage selection.
“Because this is your first time in our establishment, we will give you a free taste of our products,” a cheerful employee would say to welcome guests.
The brewery’s employees are also on hand to provide them a little education about the science of beer making.
As they bring out small glasses of beer, the employees would explain that their servings are measured by ABV (average by volume), which is the alcohol content.
They also introduce customers to the International Bitterness Unit (IBU) of beer.
“The higher the number, the more bitter it tastes,” the employees say.
The 45-year-old Ordas said he intended to set up a brewery in Metro Manila, where the craft beer first drew attention.
But he and his partners were surprised by the response from Baguio beer drinkers, saying there were times when their supply ran out.
Ordas runs the Baguio Craft Brewery with Ryan Garcia, the owner of a medical supply company, who handles business development and the paperwork, and Alex Basa, an operations supervisor based in Canada, who supplies the brewery with ingredients like malted barley, yeast and hops.
Ordas met Garcia in the Philippines. He met Basa, a former customer, in Canada.
“Beer makes friends,” Ordas said.
He has handed down the recipe to a fourth partner, Baguio-based Francis Blanco, 35, who will also take charge of producing the brewery’s 14 popular flavors.
The selections were named after elements of Ifugao mythology. Order an ale, a lager, a wheat beer or a fruit beer and you get Pugaw, Kabunyan, Dalom, Lagud and Daya, which is how the brewery has named its so-called “mythic beers.”
Pugaw (an Indian pale ale), means “from the earth,” and is described by the company’s website as “rich, complex, and pleasantly bitter.” It is “a tribute to the soil where grains and hops grow.”
Kabunyan (the Cordilleran reference for a divine creator) is a “light, cloudy and inviting” wheat beer, named so as a “tribute to the sky realm in the region above.”
Dalom (an underworld deity) is a brown ale, while Lagud (deity of crops and harvest), a strawberry beer, is a “tribute to the realm of growth and vibrancy.”
The brewery also serves Daya (the Ifugao spirit of the forests, the rice terraces and the mountain streams), which is “a tribute to the realm of the endless mountain spring.”
Other beer flavors have fascinating labels: The Englishman, Ida, Ripe, Kraken, Message in a Bottle, Hop Attack, Rolling Fog, Key Wheat, Old Xabier 56, Zigzagger, Twin Peaks, Luscious Lychee, Pale! Pale! Pale! The gangs all here, Niyog Stout, and Stout Crusader.
These beers are differentiated by degrees of bitterness and alcohol content.
Ida, a raspberry-flavored beer, and Ripe, the beer that “tastes like passion fruit,” have become popular for the brewery’s female customers. Men seem to prefer the American pale ale.
The Baguio Craft Brewery has drawn its share of repeat customers, despite the stiff price of its beers.
A glass of fruit-flavored beer like Ripe costs P160, while freshly brewed ale costs between P170 and P180. A glass of triple-hopped Zigzagger sells for P230.
The brewery supplies beer kegs to Metro Manila beer establishments, as well as outlets in Boracay.
Ordas said the brewery would soon bottle its craft beer. The production process, he said, is not as easy as it sounds, and the brewery’s customers are taught that lesson, too.
They can peep through glass windows to see four fermenters processing the beer.
While the yeast gives flavor, the process requires the brewer to keep a steady hand and patience to get the right taste.
The process also requires absolute cleanliness, Ordas said.
“Beer is the hardest [beverage] to make. It is ruined by the smallest amount of dirt,” he said. “We create a personal experience [for our customers]. Our beers are not meant to be consumed immediately. This is not where you will get drunk. We want people to come here and just chill.”
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