Irie Gastropubliko is a bar and restaurant in Cebu City that’s been around for a couple of years. Located on the Ground Floor of Skyrise 4 Building in the business district of Cebu I.T. Park, it caters mostly to those living and working in the area. They also get a lot of expats and craft beer enthusiasts from all over, who really seek out the place since it’s apparently the only place that you can try beers on tap from Turning Wheels Craft Brewery, Cebu’s first craft beer.
I found out about the place while researching about the different craft beers in the Philippines. Since I’m based in Metro Manila, I vowed to try the beers from this Cebu-based brewery at the soonest possible opportunity. A recent solo work trip to Cebu last January 2015 was the perfect chance to check it out.
The restaurant gets its name from a Jamaican term that means “alright.” According to a description in the menu: “Irie refers to positive emotions and peaceful vibrations, to be at total peace with your current state of being. The way you feel when you have no worries.” Euan Irie also happens to be the name of the second son of Executive Chef and “Official Beer Taster” Jan Rodriguez.
With its dim lighting and dark interiors, Irie Gastropubliko resembles a proper tavern – the kind a solo traveler wouldn’t mind drinking alone in. But it’s also good for dates and special celebrations with friends. The pub’s interiors, including tables and
chairs, are finished in black and grey tones, which gives the place an industrial and vintage feel. Most tables seat one to two diners, while cushioned velvet booth seats towards the back of the restaurant offer a wider space for groups. The restaurant
was playing some ambient electronic indie house music which made the place feel more relaxing.
While I liked the sophisticated yet laid-back feel of the place, the lighting made it a bit difficult to take decent food shots. If you want to give justice to the food with your Instagram photos, I suggest you schedule your visit during lunch. But if you’re just looking to enjoy excellent food and some craft beer and cocktails, then head here for dinner and drinks.
Irie serves a wide range of excellent appetizers and main dishes, mostly modern twists of Western and European dishes. The Premium Angus Burger, Angus Kebab and Steaks all sounded delicious. I was really tempted to order the Fat Bastard, one of their specialties, but was told that the serving was good for 2 people. The description alone was enough to make me drool: “Dry-rubbed incher pork chop, garlic shitake french beans, bacon grease garlic rice, sauvignon Blanc reduction mustard cream sauce.” I mean just look at that…
I opted for the Swined Chicken instead: Grilled chicken breast fillet with bacon sauce, Irie bacon grease fried rice, steamed vegetables. The combination of crusted skin and perfectly moist chicken with the bacon sauce was heavenly. The vegetables added a good texture. The mushrooms were especially flavorful.
Irie serves a variety of bottled local and foreign and beers, including the usual favorites like Hoegaarden, Blue Moon and Stella Artois. Their menu listed Joe’s Brew Fish Rider Pale Ale (a Manila-based craft brewery), and in their refrigerator behind the counter, there was a Jamaican beer called The Red Stripe and lots of Weltenburger Kloster Pilsner (4.9%), a classic German lager.
A set of German beers from Schneider Weisse were also displayed at the bar along with two variants of NØGNE Ø, Norway’s craft beers, an India Pale Ale and Imperial Stout. There were more bottles displayed in one of the shelves at the back of the
restaurant, including an Africa Pale Ale.
But my main purpose for going to Irie was to try Cebu’s craft beer. Turning Wheels Craft Brewery was founded in February 2014 in Cebu City, specializing in handcrafted beer using local and imported all natural ingredients. The founder and master brewer behind Turning Wheels is Michael Nikkel, an avid mountain biker who I was told rides a rigid Singlespeed bike.
The microbrewery’s logo is a penny-farthing, a vintage bicycle with a large front wheel and a much smaller rear wheel. Like its name and logo, the beers have distinctively cycling-themed names. Some variants include Derailed Pale Ale, Summit Wheat Ale, Single Track IPA and Turning Point Double IPA. According to Chef Jan Rodriguez, they like their beers strong, or full of essence. The Double IPA is always the best seller. Beer and biking happen to be two of my favorite things, so finding this brewery was awesome!
The gastropub usually keeps four variants on tap on rotation. Those available at the time of my visit included Centennial Double IPA, Batch 41 IPA, Skyline White IPA, and Single Speed Stout. You can order these per pint, but since I wanted to taste all of them, I opted for the Craft Beer Flight, all 4 styles served on a sampler rack for P500. Yeah, I’m willing to hole down in cheap non-aircon hostels and take public transportation when I travel, but when it comes to craft beer, I tend to splurge. It’s kind of my vice. A very expensive vice at that. :p
All four variants have a pretty high alcohol content, ranging from 7% to 9.5%. Served fresh on tap, these are among the best local craft beer I’ve tasted. These aren’t meant to be guzzled down, but sipped and savored slowly. First up was the Centennial Double IPA (9%), which had smooth, fruity overtones. The beer is so fresh and complex in flavor. The second beer was Batch 41 India Pale Ale (7.2%), a relatively lighter beer with a smooth hoppy flavor.
As someone who likes Weizen beers, my favorite was the Skyline White IPA (7%). It’s the lightest of the four, so I tried this first before my meal arrived. The beer had floral and citrusy notes with just the right balance of bitterness.
My second favorite was the Single Speed Imperial Stout (ABV: 9.5%). The high alcohol volume packs quite a punch, yet the beer is very smooth and easy to drink. This had a very rich flavor of roasted malt and almost chocolate tones. In fact, it would work great as a dessert beer. I saved this for last, but probably should have started with it because I felt a buzz hit pretty quickly. It also seemed to get more bitter towards the end of the glass.
According to Chef Jan, Irie is the first establishment in Cebu to serve bottled craft beers and draft craft beers. And you can see the same passion goes into crafting their dishes. Beers range from P240 – P289 per 14 oz. servings while the main courses range from P300-P500, though serving sizes are generous and good for sharing. My bill came to almost P800 bucks, way above the average amount I spend on a meal during travel. But while Irie’s price point is higher than other more casual restos in Cebu, the quality of ingredients, portion size and the wide selection of craft beers was worth every peso. Seriously, these beers will make you swear that San Mig tastes like water in comparison. Definitely, this is one dining destination in Cebu that beer lovers should check out. While they’re currently serving beer exclusively on tap, I was told that Turning Wheels will be bottling in the near future.
UPDATE: Turning Wheels Craft Beer is now available in The Bottle Shop / Global Beer Exchange in Magallanes and is served on tap at The Perfect Pint in Bonifacio Global City.
ADDRESS & CONTACT INFO:
Irie Gastropubliko is located at the G/F Skyrise 4 Building, West Geonzon Street, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu, Philippines.