Thanks to the emergence of the latest social culture that lauds the non-mainstream and the smaller enterprises, the Philippines is witnessing the entry of more rooted, more personalized products and services into the market that simply challenges a consumer’s way of buying things. Armed with readily available information, consumers should nowadays think and appreciate before they purchase something, putting the premium on the process rather than just the goods.
One that’s been gaining some momentum because of this is the craft beer industry, and at the helm is Juan Brew, founded in 2014 by Alexander Lietz, who began in the business as a distributor of raw ingredients to Philippine-based breweries.
“I would like to think that because we started doing that two years ago, the number of craft beer breweries that have started to pop up has just been incredible,” Lietz shares. “I mean we’ve tripled or quadrupled in size from like six breweries in 2014, to about 23 breweries in 2016. Most of those guys are clients, so we’re helping them out, teaching them, and troubleshooting them.”
And while Lietz is quick to dismiss the notion that Juan Brew is a pioneer in craft beer-making in the country, he does take pride in how his brewery produces beer a little more unconventionally, a little more thoughtfully, if you will. “We’re the pioneers in the Philippines and perhaps the first in Southeast Asia for brewing with 100% solar energy, 100% renewable energy.”
“We brew using an electric system, which is not the traditional gas system that many of the local [breweries] use here,” Lietz adds. “And in that sense it’s a lot cleaner; we don’t have any fumes that are inside the brewery. It’s safer for our people.”
But perhaps the biggest difference between Juan Brew and other local and foreign beer breweries is how they built their own equipment.
“All the tanks, all the bottle fillers, all that stuff we built ourselves. It was designed initially by me, and then I had an illustrator do a 3D model of it, and then I had a team of welders who originally worked on some dairy tanks abroad—OFWs—come in and build the tanks here, on-site,” he explains, highlighting the fact that when you buy a Juan Brew beer, you are not only helping the environment, you are also supporting local ingenuity.
Hearing this is enough to make one think there is more to Pinoy beer than the brand that inspired “Sabado nights.” And there really is. Here Lietz lists to EXPLORE PHILIPPINES some tips on how even average Juans can better taste and enjoy local craft beers.
1. Know the Local Craft Beer Situation
“I would say [the Philippine craft beer culture] is still the Wild West of beer brewing. That’s what I tell everyone. America has over 4,500 craft breweries. We have 23. So there’s a very big difference as far as experience and quality is concerned. I would say also that as far as alcohol consumption is concerned, we should be more experts on making Gin. The Philippines is actually the largest consumer of gin in the world; we consume 1.6 liters per capita of gin per year. For beer, we are nowhere near.”
2. Understand the Difference Between Brand and Style
“If you know what you’re drinking, you know what to expect. Never call a beer by the brand. Always by the style.”
3. Thou Shall Not Drink Straight from the Bottle
“There are times restaurants serve beer directly out of the bottle, or they serve beer in a glass with ice, or they just use the wrong glass altogether. The glass and the way they serve the beer and the temperature it’s served at absolutely has an effect on the taste of the beer. Aroma really adds to the taste of food or beverage, so the glass that’s used to drink the beer influences how the aroma projects itself to your nose.”
4. Thou Shall Not Put Ice on Your Craft Beer
“Whilst I am not someone to ruin how you like to enjoy your beer, consider the hard work that the brewmaster puts into making a beer taste just right. As such, do not take it into your own hands and add ice because that’s not how the beer’s supposed to be enjoyed. If you don’t like it, find one that tastes perfect right out of the bottle: that’s the fun of it!”
5. Serve Beer Responsibly
“Look at how the beer style is supposed to be served. Some beer styles are supposed to be served at 10 degrees. Some are supposed to be served warm, at 15 to 20 degrees to really get the full flavor. No beer is ever supposed to be served below zero. Ever. The reason that it’s done is because the beer tastes so bad that it tastes best when your mouth is completely numb and you can’t really taste how the beer is supposed to taste.”
6. Anyone Can Brew
“Beer-making kits come with a pack of ingredients. It comes with one-gallon of fermenting jug, some hoses, and what’s called an airlock, and that’s actually all you need to get started. Everything else, you already have in your kitchen. I’m saying that’s the way to get started. You can also just make beer with things already lying around the house if you’ve done it before. So if you have a five-gallon for water, you can use that as a fermenting container. You can use a hose as an airlock. So it just takes someone to do a bit of research online: ‘how to start beer brewing with stuff around the house.’ You can really start overnight.”
7. Know the Beer Benefits
“It is healthier to consume craft beer. You have less of a hangover the next day because everything is completely organic, all the ingredients are completely organic. We do not use any extenders, like rice or corn or sugarcane, which most of the larger breweries use to save money. We don’t put any preservatives.”
8. Remember that Life Is Too Short
“Be aware that life is short, [and] that you should treasure it. Live life to the fullest. Travel, eat good food, and drink good beer. Life is too short to drink crappy beer.
9. Craft Beer Brewing is a Revolution
“It’s taking something that is perceived a certain way and reintroducing it back to the same consumers as something else. Beer in the last fifty years has turned from an artisanal product into a large-scale industrial consumer product. And that means we have this general notion that beer is a cheap man’s drink. A lot of people think that beer is what the students and what the young professionals [drink], while wine is what the connoisseurs drink, because it’s better appreciated. That’s absolutely not the case. There are probably more varieties of beer than there are [of] wine. So we want to promote the concept that beer can be appreciated just as well as wine.
10. Grow the Craft Beer Community
“We’d like to put up a brew pub, where we can feature our beers and where we can have brewing seminars—teach people about brewing beer there. And also, where we can have a home brew shop, like a physical store, where people can walk in and purchase brewing ingredients and equipment.”
Juan Brew, located at Lietz Industrial Complex, Edison Avenue (P. Leviste), KM 14 SLEX, Parañaque City, only accommodates walk-in customers with online orders or with appointment. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to schedule an appointment. Visit www.juanbrew.com, www.facebook.com/juanbrew, and www.instagram.com/juanbrew for more details.
This article was first published in Explore Philippines Magazine Issue 13 with title “Cheers for Beers!”
Photography by Ian Francisco