By Dom Galeon
I’ve never heard of beer appreciation. Wine tasting and appreciation, sure, and maybe figuring out the nuances between different cocktails, or the finer flavors of scotch and whiskey. But beer? I thought I’ve learned everything there is to know about it from all the nights I’ve spent drinking with my barkada at a bar in BGC. Well, I was proven wrong when I attended a Beer Appreciation 101 event in Pasig, where local microbrewer Monkey Eagle served us their craft beers paired with dishes specially prepared by Privatus Private Dining chef and co-owner AJ Reyes.
“There’s a culture behind drinking,” said Ricardo “Rich” Lopa III, head of marketing and sales for Monkey Eagle Brewery. “I’m sure all of you can see the trend. It’s no longer just about drinking, now you enjoy your gin tonics, you enjoy your whiskey, you don’t just buy anything off the shelf. That’s what we try to bring with craft beer. We want people to know there’s a whole world of beer out there, and we try to make those quality craft beers.”
It all begins with the brewing, using the four most common ingredients to make beer—malt, hops, yeast, and water. When it comes to craft beer, it’s all about how these four ingredients mix to produce a wide range of tastes, from bitter to sweet and to bitter-sweet, as well as how much alcohol content a beer would have. Right now, Monkey Eagle’s craft beers come in four types, and each was paired with a dish Chef AJ concocted after tasting the beers. All Monkey Eagles’ four beers are ales, which means that they were fermented for a shorter period of time compared to lagers, the other kind of beer.
There’s the Saison Farmhouse Ale, served with Pork and Salmon Sinuglaw, which is Privatus’ version of the Filipino-Western ceviche of grilled pork and salmon belly tossed in picked vegetables, topped with pork and salmon crackling. It’s a combination that brought out the Saison’s robust flavor with a hint of fruitiness. Incidentally, the Saison is also Monkey Eagle’s most popular craft beer, their signature ale inspired by the original farmhouse ales of Belgium.
Next came the Blue Wheat American Pale Wheat Ale, a medium-bodied ale with a moderate hop bitterness and a little bit of fruitiness, making it an easy-drinking brew and a perfect pair for Chef AJ’s baked oysters, a Privatus classic dish of decadent baked Aklan oysters generously drizzled with luscious cheese.
The third combo featured the Burning Matt Pale Ale, named after an American brewer who helped setup Monkey Eagle’s first brewery and who was a fan of the annual Burning Man festival at Black Rock City, a temporary city setup in the Black Rock Desert of northwest Nevada. A smooth and tasty beer with a citrusy hop aroma and maltness, the Burning Matt paired perfectly with Privatus’ Radical Wagyu Sliders—grilled local wagyu patty topped with rich, flavorful crab fat sauce served inside artisanal squid ink buns.
Next, we were treated to a delicious pairing of Potion 28 India Pale Ale and Pickled Smoked Quail Eggs. This is my personal favorite, as the bitterness of the Potion 28 and its intense hop flavor coupled with a toasty malt presence in a medium-dry finish mixed fantastically with every bite of the smoky quail egg. You should try drinking the Potion 28 and then taking a sip of the sweet and sour brine the egg was aged in. You’d be in for a delightful treat, perfect for beers at lunch.
It’s interesting how Chef AJ came up with the dishes for each of the ales. His goal, he said, after trying out each of the craft beer, was to bring out the unique flavors of each one, while also retaining or even highlighting the taste of each dish.
In the middle of it all, we were reminded that there’s no right or wrong way of enjoying beer. You can gulp down the beers first and then take a bite of the dishes or you can do it the other way around. Just make sure you take more than just a sip of the craft beer, Monkey Eagle Brewery co-founder Noreen Lao told us. Unlike wine, beer isn’t meant to be taken in sips, she says, nor are you supposed to let it linger in your mouth longer than necessary. You enjoy the taste as you gulp it down.
Overall, having sampled Monkey Eagle’s craft beers and tasted Chef AJ’s delightful dishes, I could say that there is indeed more to beer drinking than just, well, drinking. And trying out locally-made craft beers is an interesting way of getting acquainted with this beer-drinking culture.
“Many people have a limited knowledge and understanding of craft beer and how it differs from commercial beers,” Rich said. “Through Beer Appreciation 101, we can reach out to people by educating them on the basics of craft beer, the brewing process, the different beer styles, and how each differs in taste, recipe, and the brewing process. We also want to change the notion that craft beers are stronger, more bitter, and more expensive versus commercial beers.”
As a final surprise, Monkey Eagle gave us a taste of a new brew they’re currently working on, which Chef AJ paired with a deluxe dessert from Privatus. I’m not going to spoil the surprise here, but I am going to tell you that this new brew reminded me of a local commercial beer favorite.
You should go and check out the next Beer Appreciation 101 sessions happening on July 7 and 28, 5 p.m., at the Privatus Private Dining in #8 F. Legaspi Street, Barangay Maybunga, Pasig.
Second photo courtesy of the official Monkey Eagle Instagram account.
This article was first published in Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.