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Tiny Engkanto gives beer drinkers a premium choice

FOR this summer’s overbearing heat, homegrown craft brewery Engkanto is releasing its seasonal offering, Hop Coolture Pale Ale.

The new beer was launched in a party in Poblacion on April 19. Its blend is derived from Cryo Pop, a signature hop blend from a US-based resource in hop innovation, Yakima Chief Hops. The result is a scent like green grass, with a sharp, pronounced hop note, and a well-balanced aftertaste.

BusinessWorld also tasted their High Hive Honey Ale, made with honey from Bukidnon. A previous seasonal release was made from ube (purple yam). “You guys have the top ingredients of the world,” said Ricard Basora, Managing Director for Engkanto Brewery in an interview, referring to the Philippines’ resources. “How are you going to be in this country and not care about these materials? It really makes no sense.”

Engkanto Brewery was founded in 2017 by Ian Paradies, with facilities in Makati. In 2019, it moved to a facility in Cavite, with a capability to produce 1.5 million liters a year. Mr. Basora said of their annual yield, “we expect to be between 350,000 to 400,000 liters this year.”

The Philippine beer market is dominated by two companies, namely, San Miguel and Asia Brewery. In a statement from the San Miguel Corp., it said that San Miguel Brewery, Inc. (SMB) delivered consolidated volumes of 224.5 million cases in 2022, up 10% from the previous year. In 2022, Asia Brewery, Inc.’s income was posted at P294 million (according to a story from BusinessWorld). How then does a tiny player like Engkanto make a dent in how Filipinos drink beer?

“It’s part of your culture, it’s part of your day-to-day. It has been here for 130 years, and we’re definitely fine with that. We know that we’re not going to change that,” said Mr. Basora of the huge corporations dominating the beer scene. “It’s actually one of the most monopolized markets in the world in beer.” He then noted that in his native Spain, there would be five or six beer companies offering several choices of in every bar, in every store. “We just want to offer a choice… and to give a premium choice.”

An ace up their sleeve is their brewmaster, Michael Jordan (no relation to the basketball player). Working for breweries in the US and Denmark, Mr. Jordan is recognized in the world for his work in China, bringing Boxing Cat Brewery a Silver Medal at the World Beer Cup 2016. He has since settled in the Philippines. “It’s crazy. It’s like saying that you have Tom Brady,” said Mr. Basora.

According to Mr. Basora, they are in talks to bring Engkanto beer to Singapore, Hong Kong, the US, and Australia. They started to export to Thailand in April. “We expect to finish the year at least in four to five countries outside the Philippines,” he said.

And what should drinkers there think when they take a sip?

“We really want to break the stigma; the stigma that other countries might have about the Philippines: if something is made in the Philippines, it’s probably not good. We know that Filipinos can do things as well as any other country,” he said.

To find bars serving Engkanto, use this link: — Joseph L. Garcia

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