As local lore has it, Sagada’s founding father discovered his people’s permanent home after a long, arduous journey. Escaping headhunters and afraid of being baptized, Biag wandered around the lowlands for some time looking for a new home before finally settling in Sagada, a place so remote it was able to keep its local culture and tradition relatively free from Spanish influence.
Back in the day, a trek to the Malitep tributary feeding the lush valley must’ve sufficed for Biag, but nowadays thirsty hikers and spelunkers are fortunate enough to have as an option the refreshing local craft beers brewed by Andrew Chinalpan of Cerveza Sagada Craft Brewery.
Driving up the winding road carved into the mountainside, the fog slowly revealing the rice terraces below, you might think you’ve found yourself in a place that’s quite unlike anywhere else in the country. And you’d be right, it’s a magical place which has kept its customs and cuisine alive. So, after a day of exploring the fog-covered Marlboro Country, verdant rice terraces and challenging caves, you deserve kicking back with a local craft beer, and Cerveza Sagada’s Gusi Violet Ale is as local as it gets.
Andrew, who mans the bar at Sagada Cellar Door where his wife Bing prepares authentic Igorot dishes, brews his signature ale using native heirloom rice called balitinao, which is harvested in the lowlands. Inspired by the Igorot rice wine called tapuey, the rice’s black color gives the violet beer its unique color.
Brewed the same way as a traditional ale, Andrew simply replaced malted grains with balitanao, resulting in a refreshing ale that tastes distinctly like the local rice wine but with fruity notes and a hint of grapefruit.
Cerveza Sagada, which is somewhere between a nano and a microbrewery in size, also produces three other beers, all highlighting ingredients native to the region. There’s a wheat ale brewed with wild sunflower honey and Sagada orange zest, a brown ale with local bananas in it, and a coffee stout brewed with Arabica coffee from Sagada.
Andrew’s latest project is a pale ale which will make good use of the local pine tree, one of the province’s most abundant resources, in case you’re pining for a different beer experience.