Recently, I was invited to this new brew pub in Tagaytay, Papa Bolo. It features beer, and while I was sampling their drinks, my thoughts went unexpectedly to two important men in my life.
I was introduced to beer drinking by my two lolos, Mapua Institute of Technology’s former mechanical engineering dean Feliciano “Anong” Rodriguez, Sr. and Osvaldo “Badong” Custodio, former chief of police of Sta. Rosa, Laguna. (People used to say, as a joke, that my father was forced into a shotgun marriage by my mother’s brood.)
Dean Rodriguez was tall, dark, very bald, taciturn, and spoke in a deep, serious-as-scholar voice. Lolo Badong was your provincial grandpa, handsome, with thick dark hair, square shoulders, and engaging smile—Eddie Garcia’s long-lost brother, they used to say.
Both were burly men’s men. And boy, did they love to drink beer.
For lolo Anong, it was San Miguel Pale Pilsen; for lolo Badong, it was Gold Eagle Beer. I remember playing with empty San Miguel Beer bottles in our Malabon house, and during our visits to Laguna, being asked to return beer bottle from the silong to the nearby sari-sari store.
Those two lolos were the first to introduce me to beer, allowing me a sip of beer from their bottles. Of course, as a kid, I found it bitter and unappetizing. But as my palette matured through the years, I grew to love it.
I only wish that, now that I’m older, I had a chance to drink with my two lolos. But not a chance— I was the youngest grandson of lolo Anong; he died two days after my 10th birthday. Lolo Badong died fairly young, 58.
I would have wanted to have lolo Badong as drinking buddy. He never drank alone, and loved to host friends and his police staff in inuman sessions that would start at lunch and end late into the evening. Lolo Anong, in contrast, preferred to drink alone, over meal, in our house in Malabon.
The Tiongco Brothers might have been annoyed by this—or those legendary musicians might have had a drink or two with the ‘Chief’
Chief Custodio was known as a generous host on Zavalla Street. According to older cousins, he loved to serve beer with goat or turkey that he himself cooked for his guests. I imagine the raucous house parties during those times on our quiet street in Zavalla. The Tiongco Brothers (who lived a few houses away) might have been annoyed by this—or most probably, those three legendary musicians might have had a drink or two with the “Chief.”
The few things I remember lolo Badong telling me about, when in childhood I’d beg him for stories, were his adventures in nearby Batangas and Cavite. He’d regale me and my cousins with stories of drinking lambanog, tuba, and other Southern Tagalog moonshine. He would even pepper his stories with encounters with aswang, dwende, and other supernatural beings. It was fun hearing those tall tales.
As a true-born Tagalog, lolo Badong would have loved the newly opened Papa Bolo in Tagaytay City, and I imagine he would appreciate the craft beer revolution happening in the country. His stories of southerners making moonshine from coconut and rice resonate with the processes described by Papa Bolo’s brewmaster, Mike Wayne, who we interviewed during a tour of the new establishment.
Papa Bolo is a three-story glass-and-steel structure, with vast open interiors where friends and families can drink and dine. There are also cozy alcoves which are shaped like beer barrels, a great design peg. Considerable space houses a brewery producing elaborately crafted beer.
Brewmaster Wayne, with Papa Bolo creators Aniela Tolentino and Lampara chef-owners Alphonse Sotero and Aj Ramos, envisions Papa Bolo to be the best brew pub in chilly Tagaytay. Wayne wants to ease Filipinos further into the world of craft beer. “There is a growing movement of craft beer in the Philippines. However, the market is not yet that mature, so we need to slowly show beer drinkers what craft beer has to offer.”
Wayne created six craft beers—’We need to slowly show beer drinkers what craft beer has to offer’
To showcase his skills, Wayne created six craft beers for Papa Bolo. First is Barkada Bliss, a Bohemian-style pilsner. Most Filipinos would love this, as it tastes similar to San Miguel pale. My grandpa Badong would have loved this, as I remember he was particularly “traditional” in his choice of beer. Wayne noted that the Barkada Bliss makes a great entry point into craft beer.
Second is Piña Niña Pineapple Ale, which features Tagaytay’s signature fruit. Next is Cowboy Classic and Disco Biscuit. I particularly like these two; Cowboy Classic for its malty flavor, and Disco Biscuit for its biscuit-y flavor, with hints of malt, lemon, blueberry and vanilla notes.
My more cosmopolitan lolo Anong, who was able to travel to Europe in the 1950s, would have enjoyed these advanced craft beers offered by Papa Bolo: the Bad Boy IPA (India Pale Ale), made with the hard-to-get Munich Malt and its roasted malt taste; and the Twin Suns, with its Double IPA rating and 10 percent alcohol content, featuring notes of fresh cut grass, and citrusy fruits. IPA features more hop oils than standard beers.
As a brew pub, Papa Bolo has very good cuisine by the Lampara tandem of Sotero and Ramos. “We wanted to create dishes that would pair well with the different beers. The results are items influences by different cuisines, from Western to Asian to Filipino,” Sotero said.
We paired Wagyu beef cubes with Barkada Bliss, and soft shell crab with curry sauce with the Piña Niña. The Cowboy Classic complemented the Crispy Pata, while the Bad Boy IPA’s strong malty flavor went well with the sweet flavors of the Barbecued Chicken Lollipops. The final dish, Sweet Corn Elote-style, was paired with the Twin Suns.
Particularly good was the dessert—cheddar cheese cake with torched meringue and topped with berry sauce and pea chiffon.
With the country slowly going back to a pre-pandemic routine, it’s encouraging to see new establishments like Papa Bolo introducing new and exciting things. Although it’s a long drive from the metro to Tagaytay, my Southern Tagalog roots beckon me to go back to Papa Bolo, and taste again the unique flavors. I can’t wait to go back.