…Shouldn’t stay in Baguio.
Before I alarm some of the friends I went to Baguio with (I promise I won’t talk about your seven levels of inebriation in this article), let me explain.
Apart from the fact that it is really and truly the ultimate summer capital of the Philippines (yes, there is a place in our tropical archipelago that goes below 20C!), Baguio is also one of the finest places in the Philippines to go for a major food trip.
I can go on and on about how amazing and fresh the vegetables are (we were lucky to have sampled them straight from the farm!), or how yummy Good Shepherd Ube is (any Pinoy child of the 80s has been dragged to the convent kicking and screaming, only to be sated by a spoonful of their legendary strawberry jam)… But this being a drink blog, I would like to highlight (nay, capitalise) on my ultimate Baguio discovery: Baguio Craft Brewery. It’s the first craft beer brewery in the city, with the brewing equipment in plain sight, a variety of IPAs, dark beers, fruit beers, and great food to pair them with. The brewers (with a reputation of intense attention to detail coupled with an incomparable fun-loving vibe) are always on hand to share this experience (and their amazing passion).
I have heard about these legendary craftsmen ages ago through one of my chef friends, and since then, I made it a mission to take a trip there myself when I had the opportunity.
I finally had my chance over a week ago when a group of my chef and foodie friends decided to go up to Baguio to explore farms, which included a trip to the brewery.
After climbing up to the restaurant, basking in the spectacular view, and enjoying the borderline Rastafarian music (the duo could do a mean acoustic Bob Marley), I was thrilled to meet Chris Ordas, self-proclaimed “Thirst Prevention Officer and Chief Executioner” of Baguio Craft Brewery (his vibe and ultra-unique facial hair, a requirement for the upper echelons of the brewery’s organization, is perfect for his “occupation”).
It seems like I’m writing so much about the people behind the BCB, but it’s impossible to separate them from their beer… Their restaurant/tasting room/brewery alone just resonated with their vibe and friendship. That’s how they got started in the first place: a group of self-proclaimed “raging alcoholics” decided to brew perfect beer in Chris’ garage in Canada (which included Arnold Miguel, Head Brewer and “Ex Moonshiner”; and Alex Basa, “Head Receiver”… Best occupations ever IMHO). In 2013, armed with fervour, mad brewing skills, and the belief that there was a lack of beer choices in the Philippines, Chris, Arnold, and Alex quit their jobs and put up The Tasting Room at Baguio Craft Brewery.
Some of my favourites (according to classification):
- Dark Beers
- Kraken – A Baltic Porter with sweet, malty notes and hints of roasted coffee and toffee (which, after a couple pints, made me want to cry, “Unleash the Kraken!”… No? #nerdhumor)
- Stout Crusader – A beautiful, rich, heavenly, creamy Russian Stout that I ended up treating as a dessert and a bartender/chef friend used to make a fun beer cocktail
- IPAs (India Pale Ale)
- Pugaw – A wordplay on Ifugao (a mountainous landlocked area in our Nothern Cordilleras and home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site the Rice Terraces), this is a “beginner’s trek” into IPAs (and an excellent showcase on what the Ifugao people are all about: earthy and richly complex).
- Message in a Bottle – An intense black IPA with an excellent roast
- Hop Attack – A beautiful Double IPA with an elegant bitterness that definitely begs for food
- Fruit Beers (note: unlike some brewers who make fruit beers by injecting fruit syrup to their beer, BCB uses the actual fruits during the secondary fermentation, hence they end up with the essence of the fruit infused in the beer instead of a crude, slap-in-the-face fruit flavored beer)
- Lagud (Strawberry) – Because Baguio is famous for their strawberries. Think strawberry cream in beer form (yum!)
- Ripe (Passion Fruit) – A sharp, tangy fruit beer excellent with greasy bar chow
- Keywheat (Kiwi) – I’ve never had Kiwi beer before but I am a big fan of the fruit… So, kiwi? Check. Beer? Check. Happy.
- Other Beers:
- Rolling Fog – I admit to having a predilection for German wheat beer, but the subtlety and elegance of Rolling Fog just blew me away.
- Englishman in New York – An American Pale Ale with caramel notes seamlessly blended with herbal undertones (a favorite of a friend of mine, he kept insisting I try it… “This will change your life”, he said. It did)
Don’t take my word for it. Baguio Craft Brewery is located in the RKC Building, 120 Marcos Highway, KM 4 Baguio City.
After partying it up with these perfect craft beers, I highly recommend indulging in some of Baguio’s renowned strawberries in their spirit form. It’s sweet and packs a mean punch.
The following day, it is imperative to sober up with some coffee. Baguio has a wide selection of affordable coffee… I had to take home bags of Irish Cream, Arabica, and Civet Cat coffee beans. It’s also worth noting that John Hay (the best place to get a cottage for the ultimate Baguio trip) actually grows their coffee beans. I also had to get the turmeric tea I found on the way up to Good Shepherd (after all that beer, I needed a healthy ANYTHING).
When all is said, drunk, and done in Baguio, it is imperative to stop in for a quick brunch in Choco-Late de Batirol garden restaurant. It’s the ultimate “morning after” place. They have interesting items on their menu (tocinong kalabaw was quite adventurous), but they’re legendary for their traditional hot chocolate. It’s thick, rich, and so artisanal that the texture is still grainy, it redefines “hug in a mug”.
Whether it’s a gastronomic, alcoholic, or foodie adventure, Baguio has a lot to offer. Whatever people are after, there are many options that are a far cry from the Baguio of the 80s (with an excellent TPLEX that cut down the once 8-plus hour trek to about 3.5 on a good day). Note to self: Make another trip, stat! Cheers!