There’s craft beer in my hometown Naga City! Ibalon Craft Brew is introducing to Naga City the first craft beers in the Bicol region. I’m so happy that folks in Bicol now have more beer options and can enjoy something new and different compared to the usual commercial beers served in most stores, bars and restaurants in Naga City.
Ibalon Craft Brew and its beer variants take inspiration from the famous folk epic of the Bikol region, Ibalong. For those not familiar with the story, Ibalon is a full-length folk epic centered on warrior-heroes named Baltog, Handyong, and Bantong. The brewery pays tribute to the Bicol folk heroes and characters with craft beer brewed with local ingredients, matched with home-cooked appetizers and dishes native to the creative and resourceful Bicolano households.
I first came across the beers during the MNL Craft Beer Festival 2017, where homebrewer Dexter Adoremos of the Manila Mashers homebrew club was serving two variants of the beer, including Sili Beer (beer with chili). He mentioned that he would be opening a bar in Naga City soon, so I really made it a point to pass by during a visit to my hometown to see parents before the Christmas break.
You know how tasting sili ice cream or drinking sili shakes has become a “thing to do” for tourists in the Bicol region. If you’re a beer lover, you can add drinking Sili beer (and more) to your must-tries in Naga City!
The feel of the bar is modern and industrial, with touches of Bicol artwork and beer memorabilia. The bar menu and beer tap dispensers feature artwork by Mark Anthony Taduran (Markovah on Deviant Art). There are several tables for dining as well as a wide bar for those who just want to enjoy beer and bar chow. I like how the bar is decorated with an outline details of different weapons.
The main dining space features a mural depicting the combat of Baltog and Tandayag, a giant wild boar. There’s also a painted map of the locations listed in the Ibalong epic, which contain names of old places and landmarks that still exist. The paintings are “works in progress” by Architect Adonis “Don” Cortes Navales.
At the end of the bar, you can find a small collection of books by Bicolano writers and illustrated books about the Ibalon folk epic. The brewer plans to add to this mini-library soon to promote Bicol literature and writers.
Ibalon Craft Brew features four craft beers served from the tap in 330 ml glasses which are all named after epic characters. As of December 2017, they don’t have bottled beers yet. The four variants are:
- BALTOG India Pale Ale (IPA)
- BANTONG Pale Ale
- HANDIONG Sili Beer infused with native siling labuyo
- ORIOL Coffee Chocolate Stout flavored with Bicol Cacao and coffee beans
Bicol dishes are known for being very spicy. Chili is the main ingredient in a lot of signature dishes in the region, including Bicol Express, Laing and Pinangat. The most distinctive tasting beers are the sili beer and coffee chocolate stout. However, the most sessionable for me are the India Pale Ale and Pale Ale. If you’re new to craft beer, just order the sampler to be safe 🙂
Ibalon Craft Brew is still currently developing their menu, but to match the beer, the bar serves a few “sumsuman” or local appetizers that are really worth trying.
Biti is dried salted swim bladder of abo fish (tiger toothed croaker), a kind of local fish that is hardly found outside Camarines Sur in Bicol or anywhere else in the country. The bladder expands when cooked, making it light and airy. It’s kind of like a fish version of chicharon or chicken skin. Even though I grew up in Naga, it’s the first time I’ve even heard of it and tried it. It’s really good.
Langkoy, also known as largehead hairtail or beltfish, is a member of the cutlassfish family, and is a common to abundant species found in tropical and temperate oceans throughout the world. I think it’s a specialty of neighboring province Camarines Norte. The dried fish is best eaten dipped in vinegar. Aside from being a good appetizer on its own, it’s great for breakfast with fried rice.
They even have a local spin on peanuts and French Fries with their “Binudbudan nin Himalayan Salt Pili Nuts with Kamote Fries” featuring pili nuts native to the region along with sweet potato fries. For meat-lovers, they also serve pork barbecue for your pulutan needs.
Craft beer costs P100-130 per 330 ml glasses and P250 for a sampler of four beers. Appetizers are priced at P70-P100 per serving.
Aside from serving their in-house home-brewed beer, Ibalon Craft Brew was also selling limited bottled beers from other local craft brewers like Pedro, Sikatuna Craft Brew, Nipa Brew and Juan Brew (and a few from Manila Mashers like Hideout Milk Stout and Ego Trip by Weekend Craft Ales), which were previously not available in Naga City. Bottled beers cost P140 each only. Price-wise, everything is more affordable compared to craft beer in Metro Manila. If you’re a beer-lover heading to Bicol, make sure to add this bar to your Naga City food-trip itinerary! For fellow Bicolanos, the bar is a nice hangout, and would be a great venue for arts, literature or cultural events.
ADDRESS & CONTACT INFO:
Ibalon Craft Brew is located along Magsaysay Avenue (across Villa Caceres Hotel), Naga City, Camarines Sur, Bicol. Facebook: Ibalon Craft Brew