I can still remember my first beer at 11 years old.
But, before anyone calls the Department of Social Welfare and Development or the Bantay Bata Hotline, it was just one sip (and it was an elder cousin’s birthday at that time) and yes, I found it bitter and didn’t like it at all. But then again, now, I can’t remember at all when I started liking beer. Like two of my favorite foods- sashimi and kimchi, I guess it’s also an acquired taste. It also helps that from time to time, a way of celebration for simply getting through a day at work and bonding with workmates or friends is a “one for the road” (whichever “one” it means: one bottle or one bucket!).
Whenever I get to travel, it’s also a must for me to sample local beers (much like it’s a must to watch local commercials on TV). Here are some of my memorable beers abroad but first, let me share with you my favorite beer of all time…
Red Horse a.k.a. RH – I rarely drink from a glass with ice and what I like about this local Philippine beer is that it still tastes like beer with a distinct kick, even when the bottle gets a bit warmer. If what they say is really true and that RH is banned in some countries because the alcohol content is supposedly not for human consumption, then I don’t know what they call us, RH-lovers now.
Here are some of my favorite spots to drink RH and hang out with friends:
– 11th floor of LKG Tower: Yes, right smack in the middle of Ayala Avenue at the food court area of the LKG building. There’s an outside, open area and they serve drinks until 11 pm. Bands even play every Friday night.
– Bagnet 8065: A hole-in-the-wall restaurant at Estrella St., San Antonio Village in Makati. You can drink your RH with bagnet (of all kinds- the original crispy bagnet, sisig, dinuguan etc.). The crispiness of the pork matches the kick of the RH, it’s as if both are invented to exist for each other! Plus, the place has a very homey and relaxed ambiance.
– Sarah’s: The best thing about this place at Krus na Ligas in UP Diliman is that you can drink your RH together with isaw (which you can buy from inside the campus or right outside Sarah’s). I have yet to taste a better isaw (chicken or pork) than the ones in UP.
– Persia Grill: What I like in this place at Megamall aside from their kebabs, is that a bucket of RH only costs PhP 150 (relatively cheaper than the bars around the area).
And on to the rest:
1. Bintang – or Bir Bintang (Star Beer) is a local beer in Indonesia. The best place for me to drink Bintang is in Jimbaran Bay, Bali along the beach while on a seafood binge. Nothing beats the taste of the beer together with the smell of the ocean and the delicious smell (and of course taste) of grilled, to-die-for, seafood of all kinds (from lobsters, to oysters, to shrimps to all sorts of fish and the rest of the contents of the ocean).
2. Tiger Beer – the size of the “regular” bottle itself is overwhelming I already felt light headed even before I started drinking. Then, where else but the ever popular hawker centers in Singapore are the best place for me to order a Tiger.
3. Beerlao – ask any backpacker and one of their “to-have” list while on the road includes a Beerlao t-shirt. It’s a trademark that you’ve been on the road. I have one and I’m saying this with a backpacker’s pride. This is also because Beerlao for me, is by far, my most memorable beer. I will always remember the calm and celebratory feeling while drinking it along the Mekong River in Si Phan Don, Laos after braving through a travel ordeal that consisted of a 12-hour local economy train ride, a bus ride, a tuktuk ride, a local van and a rickety boat ride.
4. Angkor Beer – in Cambodia, it can be confusing seeing posters of both Angkor Beer and Anchor Beer. There are waiters who said they are the same beer (and will give you Angkor Beer) and there are those who said there is no such thing as Anchor Beer (and will give you Angkor). There must have been a secret ploy there somewhere by the marketing people of Angkor Beer (I didn’t get to sample Anchor Beer and yes, it’s a different beer). Whatever it is, the best for me of course is drinking it at the night market in Siem Reap after gawking and admiring at Angkor Wat and the rest of the other temples for a full day. But, my most memorable Angkor Beer was drinking it while eating “happy pizza” at the Boengkak Lake in Phnom Penh, which for me is a must combination after a very emotional tour of the Killing Fields and the S21 Prison.
5. Saigon Beer : let me first share my beer experience during my first trip to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam- 333 Beer (read: Ba Ba Ba), I gagged on my first gulp then threw the rest away. I don’t know, probably because I drank it from a warm can or was just too tired or too hungry (my first trip was work-related and I drank it with an empty stomach) and I wasn’t too keen on drinking Ba Ba Ba ever again. For my next visit, I ordered one and drank it from a bottle and I therefore conclude it tastes just the same. Lucky, though I ordered another local beer- Saigon beer, for variety, and survived. The best place to order Bia Saigon is any restaurant in Pham Ngu Lao Road and drink it while people watching and soaking in the feel of the busy area or drink it while slurping pho.
Saying this as a beer lover rather than a beer connoisseur, any kind of beer in any spot on earth is really the best place for a “one for the road” especially if you have people to share the bottle or the bucket with.