When In Vigan: Visit This Microbrewery For Homegrown Craft Beers
Have your fill of freshly brewed beer paired with smoked meats and seafood at Calle Brewery!
“We believe that every great city should have a microbrewery—and great food to go with it,” says Chef Robby Goco, who is known for creating innovative foodservice concepts, such as Cyma Greek Taverna,
To create the beers, Calle Brewery got the services of Joe’s Brew, a Manila-based craft brewery founded by brothers Joey and Marco Viray. “When you go to the U.S. or Australia, many cities have a homegrown brewery and every craft brewer is associated with the town they’re from,” says Marco. “Since tourism in Vigan is picking up, Chef Robby and his partners decided to open a restaurant here, and we were so happy they approached us.”
For Calle Brewery, Joe’s Brew created five styles of beer, named after Philippine heroes: Salakot ni Diego is a blonde ale, a light and smooth drink with notes of honey, spices, and fruits. Espada ni Lapu-Lapu, a popular drink with the ladies, is a wheat ale with coriander, banana, and clove notes. Canyon ni Panday is an American pale ale with a citrus-like aroma and a strong caramel malt flavor. Kabayo ni Gabriela is a dark brown sweet stout with caramel and coffee undertones. For those looking for a strong beer with a kick, Bigote ni Antonio is a supercharged version of the pale ale with citrus, floral, and tropical qualities.
The beers are freshly brewed in a small brewery behind the restaurant. Beer is made from four essential ingredients: water, barley, hops, and yeast. “It’s hard to grow barley and hops in the Philippines so we import those,” explains Joey. “But 90 percent of beer is water so that’s very important. Eventually, we’d like to infuse local flavors and produce, such as cacao, into the beer to make it as Ilocano as possible.”
Chef Robby adds, “Filipinos are so used to cheap commercial beer, but we wanted to aspire for something better. We wanted to brew it fresh without preservatives.”
Avid beer drinkers can attest that almost any type of food is good with beer, but Chef Robby thought that since they are in Vigan, they had to utilize local ingredients. “Ilocos is blessed with fertile soil, and the mountains and the sea are right beside each other. It’s such a great place to cook,” says Chef Robby. “As a chef, you go to a place where there is access to good ingredients.”
Calle Brewery serves bar snacks that play on traditional Ilocano food, such as the Bagnet Sisig, Bagis with Pickled Onion, Truffled Popcorn with Chichapop, and Skinny Fries with Vigan Longganisa Bites—all of which go perfectly well with their beers. “Ilocanos really like their pork crispy. They also love flavoring everything with bagoong,” says Chef Robby. “We wanted something that could go up against local food so the beer is a bit more potent."
The blonde and wheat beers go well with Calle Brewery’s fresh, locally sourced seafood. You have a choice of crabs, lobsters, mussels, clams, and special vannamei (whiteleg) shrimps. “The source of the shrimp was flown in from Hawaii, then they were cultured and bred here,” says Chef Robby. “These are very delicate shrimp. They only eat natural algae. They’re so sweet!”
Once you’ve chosen your seafood, take your pick from a variety of sauces, such as salted egg, yaman dagat (crab fat), or coconut ginger. Finally, you can choose how spicy you want your seafood bowl to be.
The darker beers (pale ale and sweet stout) are the perfect companion to Calle Brewery’s smoked meats, which include pork belly, pulled pork, beef brisket, and baby back ribs. Ilocos Sur coffee is used as a rub, while wood from native santol trees is used for smoking. “The meats are smoked for eight hours, and then smoked for an additional six hours to get the right consistency,” says Chef Robby. “You should be able to break down all the proteins. It literally melts in your mouth.”
Vigan’s Calle Brewery is just the beginning. According to Chef Robby, the goal is to open microbreweries in other places, such as Pampanga and Davao. “We definitely want to be involved in the growth of the craft beer industry,” adds Marco. “I think the next step in the whole industry is to increase awareness and availability by opening local breweries all over the Philippines.”