The place was called Chicken House. My host, Lyn Balboa, had taken me there to try chicken inasal, a dish many Negrense, or Filipinos from the island of Negros, consider a delicacy. This is because it's the best barbecued poultry you will ever taste. Succulent, immensely flavorful (thanks to a lengthy marinade), and served with vinegar, it's a must try for anyone traveling to Bacolod City, the capital of Negros. Unsurprisingly, chicken inasal also goes well with beer.
Most of the suds you're likely to drink in the Philippines are made by the same giant brewery: San Miguel. By their own estimate they control about 95 percent of the domestic beer market. What I didn't know before visiting the City of Smiles however, is that for the past three years, one entrepreneur has quietly been producing his own beers and distributing them locally. As luck would have it, Lyn knew the brewer and invited him to join us at the Chicken House.
"I had this dream ever since college," Felix Hagad told me as he sat down at our table, "it's been a slow process and I had to make my friends taste bad beer in the beginning. I couldn't get it to bubble enough."
Fortunately for his friends—and globetrotting beer travelers like me— those days are well behind him. I didn't try the Bogsbrew Classic (somewhat confusingly offered as an IPA, a Canadian blonde ale, a European lager, and a Mexican-style cerveza), but I liked his Primo all-grain beer, a cloudy, light bodied drink that weighs in at about 4.5 % ABV. I detected a trace of hops in the nose, and it ended with a sweet finish, probably owing to the wild bee honey and organic muscovado sugar that Felix adds to his wort. Overall, Primo is mellow and sessionable, although it could benefit from a bit more carbonation.
Nevertheless, the popularity of his craft brews has only increased since he realized his dream, even attracting the attention of a Canadian beer blogger. "Business is picking up," Felix wrote in a recent email. "I now have to brew an extra batch of Primo in between my normal cycle of brewing malt extract beer." With a furniture manufacturing company to run in addition to Bogs, it must be challenging to keep up with the growing demand for his Filipino beers. And yet something tells me I'm not the only inasal devotee who wants to see his labor of love succeed.