Food, Food and Beverages, Travel, Wander

Be Kind to Beer


News alert: beer is not a thirst-quencher! This is one of the distressing discoveries I’ve made over my five years in the tropics. Keep in mind that I love beer and eagerly sample local brews and local honey wherever on this planet I happen to find myself.

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Iron Bark Brewery, Caversham Western Australia

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A great brew from Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

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meeting the brew master

It’s not been a conscious decision to cut down on my intake or anything, it’s just that the body demands more water (or the equivalent — I’ve developed an addiction to coconut water during my time in the Philippines) in a tropical setting than it does in a more temperate climate.

In some respects, this is a good thing: the garbage that (until quite recently) passes for beer in the Philippines is a fizzy version of what can only be described as cat piss. San Miguel products that pretend to be beer are at best the equivalent of Tiger, Carlsberg, Budweiser, and dozens of other unpleasant liquids that give beer a bad name simply because there are no guardians of the word beer. This sort of swill should be banned from describing itself as beer and reduced to presenting itself as a generic malt beverage.

All of this is to say that, when the taste buds are strong enough to prevail, a beer had best be damned good. I’m fortunate to have access to the likes of Boddington, Full Sail, Sam Adams, Moosehead, Leffe, Chimay, Hoegaarden, and the like, so good beer is readily available in the fridge at home.

Finding something when you’re out for a meal, however, particularly in places like Saigon, Taipei, Seoul, and Manila, can be a challenge.

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Tan Lap Restaurant, Saigon

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Shanghai Express, Taipei

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The Platinum brewpub having been driven out of business, I was fortunate to find some Hoegaarden at a 7-11 in Seoul, which salvaged the situation, but Taipei is sorely in need of something better than the nasty swill called Taiwan Beer.

The good news is that Taiwan is not completely bereft of a tasty brew, but, like Korea, may be in need of more enabling legislation that breaks the stranglehold which purveyors of swill have imposed on an unsuspecting populace. This here Ma La Sun brew being sold at Sun Moon Lake is a refreshing brew that should be available in every ballpark on Taiwan. It would have complemented the deep-fried squid perfectly!

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Sun Moon Lake, Taipei

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Even in Manila, within the past two years, some entrepreneurs have been producing some surprisingly flavorful potions under the Katipunan brand. Their IPA in particular is solid and can stand up to some of the best in the world. Manila being Manila, however, demands that the Katipunan brewers pay especial attention to maintaining quality. I can’t say for sure what was wrong with it, but my most recent, and much anticipated, encounter with their IPA left much to be desired. The one I was served at Kanto, bottled on 31 October, was clearly compromised. I don’t know if this is a shortcoming at the brewhouse caused by problems there, but it may well be the doing of the vendor, as they’re not particularly appreciative of cellaring requirements (certainly, San Mig products require no care or attention — a nuclear event wouldn’t have any effect on that swill, one way or another: it can’t be improved, nor could it get any worse).

The Katipunan brews, however, demand much more attentive handling and storage: they can’t just be stacked next to the oven or be shoved under (or used as a seat for?) the dishwasher. The brewers need to develop beer handling protocols that their vendors must apply lest poor handling undermine the quality of the product served and damage the reputation of the brewers. This was the first Katipunan that I couldn’t finish — I hope it’s the only one, as leaving beer on the table is nearly as sinful as leaving money on the table…