Heating Up Bicol With Bottles Of Ice Cold Chili Craft Beer
Gari Sy Rivera | October 22, 2019
Photos by the Author
In 2017, Dexter Adoremos found himself in a timely situation of turning a hobby into a lucrative venture when he moved back home to Bicol with his family. The traditional way of hand-brewing beer was something he found joy in. As he researched and practiced, finding achievement through his creations ultimately encouraged him to start Ibalon, a craft beer brewery that can be considered truly Bicolano.
As the founder and curator of Ibalon Craft Brew, Dexter used the rich culture of Bicol to establish the pub, with the tales of Ibalong, a Bicolano folk epic, serving as inspiration for the brand. Considering that its stories were once taught in schools as a part of the region’s heritage, he used its theme to honor both Bicol's and Ibalon’s history. “Isa sa mga objectives namin was to re-educate the people, kasi nakakalimutan na ang story niya,” he expresses, “it’s something that a Bicolano can be proud of, we have an existing local epic, we need to be proud of this.” (“One of our objectives was to re-educate the people because they were forgetting about this local epic.”)
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Named after the Ibalong warrior-hero, the “Handiong” Sili Beer is the crowning glory of Ibalon Craft Brew. “Malikot lang yung isip namin at the time na nag-eexperiment kami,” Dexter laughs, recalling how he and his wife toyed with the idea of creating a beer made out of local chili peppers, a major crop of Albay. "Normally kasi, ang alam nating sili is ‘yung mahahaba na ginagamit natin sa mga sawsawan, pero hindi yan. Iba siya, wala masyadong amoy, wala masyadong lasa, kahit andoon ‘yung spiciness niya. Pero ‘tong sili namin is very unique, masarap ‘yung aroma niya.” (We simply played around with ideas at that time when we were experimenting. The long chili peppers that we use in sauces are what we’re normally familiar with, but we don’t use that. Though the spiciness is there, it doesn’t have that much scent and taste. The chili peppers we use are very unique, its aroma is tasteful.)
The fresh sili flavor and scent are what ultimately shines behind the immediate spice as you take the first few gulps, it’s definitely not your ordinary beer. “Craft beer siya, so ang gusto mong i-paexperience sa customer or beer drinker is ang mapalasa at the same time mapaamoy ang aroma ng chili, pero ma-enjoy mo parin ‘yung iniinom mo being a beer,” Dexter reveals. (It’s craft beer, so what you want to have the customers or beer drinkers experience is the taste and aroma of the chili as a beer.)
Other Ibalon star players such as the Coffee Chocolate Stout, Pale Ale, and the Indian Pale Ale, are types of craft beer that can be found in other parts of the country such as in Metro Manila. The headlining Sili Beer, however, is exclusive to the Bicol store. “Ibalon lang ang mayroon niyan,” he grins. (“Only Ibalon has that.”)
As Ibalon Craft Brew takes pride in their creations, what they want their customers to recognize is the taste and flavor in their products. “Ayoko kasi na drink lang sila ng drink for the sake lang na malasing sila. Gusto ko, as I improve my products, kasama sila na pati taste buds nila mag-improve din.” (I don't want the customers drinking simply for the sake of getting drunk. What I want, as I improve my products, is for my customers to elevate their tastebuds.)
In line with this, Dexter explains that they aim for the Ibalon environment to offer a rather different drinking environment. "I’m trying to break that norm of when people go out to a bar, they drink the usual beer just to get drunk, not to enjoy the drink,” he shares, “Sa Ibalon, I try to tell the customer to come here, at kahit isang baso lang inumin mo, basta i-enjoy mo, i-appreciate mo yung iniinom mo.” (I try to tell the customer to come here and have at least one glass, just enjoy and appreciate what they’re drinking.”)
“We’re not just a bar, we’re trying to build a community,” Dexter says, adding that the bar also serves as a hub for other creative minds as well who come together at Ibalon, to hang their paintings, speak their poetry, and even jam with their instruments for free, as they celebrate different forms of art that contribute to culture. “Sinasabi nila na ang ganda dito sa Ibalon kasi kahit magisa ka lang, pwede ka uminom. Hindi rin siya ‘yung tipo na nakaka-ilang na magjoin ka sa table ng iba,” he relates, sharing some stories of new friendships and love started at Ibalon Craft Brew. (They say that Ibalon is also great for those who drink on their own, that it’s not awkward to ask and join a table.)
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It is a business that advocates the growth and support of local industries. “Support local, not just the brewery. Kasi ‘yon ‘yung struggle ng local businesses dito sa probinsya. Try to support local products, aside from us having local craft beers here, maraming may local businesses din who feels the same thing na sana masupport rin sila.” (That’s the struggle of local businesses in the provinces. Try to support local products, aside from me having local craft beers here, there are a lot more who feel the same of wanting more of the local support.”)
Thirsty for more of Ibalon Craft Brew? Visit their Facebook here!