While the Philippines has always held fast to San Miguel Pale Pilsen and Red Horse beer as crowd favorites, quite a few Filipinos are slowly turning to craft beer as an alternative.
With Frederick Farińas Calope, however, his love for great beer turned into a desire to give Filipinos a wider worldview that San Miguel is not all there is to beer.
This mindset came after a night of introspection over several bottles of local beer, not that there was anything wrong with commercial brew. Rather, Fred felt that Filipinos deserved more choices and styles, and not have to settle for the usual Pale Pilsen, SML, or Red Horse.
Fred had already tried brewing beer way back in the mid-nineties and tried again on a stovetop at his home sometime in 2011. He had already thought of opening a brewery as early as 2013, but as he was still practicing law at the time, he found it difficult to juggle between his law practice and brewing duties.
In December of 2015, after what he calls a “come to Jesus” conversation with his wife Patricia, he decided to discontinue his law practice for the time being and focus on brewing beer. With Patricia’s blessing and support giving him the courage to follow his dream, he launched Boondocks Brewing Company in October of 2016.
Asked why he called the company Boondocks, he said that boondocks is an American English term referring to a rural or provincial area, one American soldiers co-opted from the Filipino word bundok which means mountain.
Fred explains further that: “It encapsulates who I am, a probinsiyano (someone from the province) from Ilocos, a mountainous region in northern Philippines, and I’m a hiker and outdoorsman.”
According to Fred, the craft beer scene in the Philippines prior to the pandemic was on the rise as more interest from the drinking public was being generated at the local beer festivals.
Even though the pandemic had slowed Boondocks’ sales slightly, they were able to shift gears right away and started to sell directly to the consumer, increasing Boondocks’ sales over the past few months.
Referring to the microbrewery scene in Manila back in the nineties, Fred says its failure was the approach to marketing of what he says “was a novelty item at the time for most Filipinos.“
When the investment started faltering, the proprietors tried to salvage the business by including commercial beer on the menu, hereby going against the whole point of the venture.
Fred says of this attitude: “Today, there’s more of a focus on generating a loyal following and then to make sure you remain true to yourself. This isn’t a business you get into to make a quick buck.”
Fred doesn’t see Boondocks competing directly with San Miguel, nor does he compare Boondocks beer with imported ones.
It’s just different strokes for different folks. We’re here to provide a reasonably priced alternative when folks want something different from what they grew up drinking
“Luckily we have a good mix of loyal customers. Locals who are looking for something different and new, locals who want variety akin to what they experienced during their travels abroad, and of course, foreigners who want the same variety that they enjoyed back home,” Fred says when asked about the kind of person who bought Boondocks beer. “Most of our customers are into craft beer for the taste.”
Filipino beer connoisseur Gino Bustos whose Instagram account brewedinph supports and promotes the local craft beer scene in the Philippines, agrees, “Boondocks beer should be a staple, a beer that should be in every craft beer drinker’s fridge, he says. “It’s good, proper, and well-made. People in the know have a deep respect for Boondocks beer.”
Going back to Boondocks’ products, Fred says, ”We have four different beer styles, and even though they are kind of brewed to adhere to an “official beer style”, we crafted our beers to appeal to the local palate, so our beers don’t really match up to any particular imported craft beer brand.”
Recently, Fred was contacted by the president of the Hyun Bin Philippine Fan Club to produce a batch of specially labelled beer cans for the group which they planned to send to South Korean actor Hyun Bin, who recently starred in the highly popular K-drama Crash Landing on You.
Obviously passionate about brewing beer, he insisted that he just wanted to create something with his own hands and declined to consider himself as a visionary.
“I wouldn’t call myself a visionary,” he declares. “It’s just a matter of understanding that the world is getting smaller and that things available for the average person to enjoy elsewhere should also be available here. And, I’m happy to say, craft beer is here to stay”
Words by Jigs Arquiza. Jigs is a journalist-turned-mechanic who lives on the island of Cebu, Philippines. He’s been cooking since he was 12 years old, but refuses to go professional because he doesn’t want to get into arguments about how authentic his food is. Follow him on Instagram at @eatssogood
Photos provided by Boondocks Brewing Co.