It was a passion for good beer that led Ian Paradies to start brewing his own batches. “Simply put, I love beer. I grew up in Cebu with the usual supermarket brands,” he muses. This love for beer led him to start brewing his own line of craft beers under the Engkanto brand back in November 2016.
While even expats who patronize it love it, Engkanto is brewed for the Filipino, he says. “I felt there was an opportunity in the market, with a craft beer that is designed to cater to the Filipino palate while being affordable.”
He describes the Pinoy beer drinker as someone who enjoys sweet and sour tastes. “Filipinos at the moment don’t appreciate bitterness. I think that will come later down the road. This is why we developed recipes that have tons of character and are extremely flavorful yet have a controlled bitterness so the Filipino palate can enjoy it.”
He took price points in mind too. “While we may not be as affordable as the supermarket brands, we have been able to achieve price targets that allow more Filipinos to enjoy a craft beer with our flagship variants.” He describes those variants are such: the Lager is light and crisp, the Pale Ale and Double IPA have a citrusy flavor and aroma. Those who do appreciate having some bitterness in life can enjoy the Blonde Ale and the IPA. These craft beers are now available in 55 outlets and at their bar Polilya on draft.
“When we were planning to open Polilya, we thought of it foremost as a place to showcase our beers. But when my wife and I partnered with my sister Nina and my cousin Alex, we started thinking of putting up a place that was much more than that, by offering a different experience through our customers. We thought that we could distance ourselves a bit from Engkanto but still have a subtle connection to it,” he explains.
That understated connection starts with the bar’s name. Polilya means "moth" in Filipino, and that is Engkanto’s logo. “We loved that practically no Filipino knew that's [what it means], it is, for me, a good conversation starter.” He adds that it lends a distinctive touch to the Poblacion bar scene, as most of the other establishments have macho-sounding, masculine names.
Aside from the craft beers on tap, they offer something quite unusual in the local bar scene—a range of beer cocktails. “We brought in mixologist Priscilla Young to create a line using our craft beers. Typically, beer is difficult to incorporate into cocktails because of its bitterness. What she did was to make a sirop out of our flagship craft beers and stout, not necessarily using the beer up straight.” The Cool Bird Sptritz is Aperol, Double IPA, Pineapple, Prosecco, and Dried Mango. Polilya Fire is a fiery Paloma with Silver Tequila Grapefruit Cordial, Thai Chili, Fresh Lime, Serrano Bitters, and IPA foam.
Goldfinger and Fonzy Collins
Even the food has a touch of Engkanto’s enchantment. “Our menu was developed by Luis de Terry. The goal was basically to create pub food from different countries, utilizing our beer in dishes where it made sense.”
As such, their fish and chips and pickled tempura jalapeños use beer in their batter to make it better. The chocolate mousse uses stout for a full-bodied flavor, and the gambas has beer in its sauce. A must-try is their Bangla mussels (steamed mussels in a beer, mustard oil, and coconut milk broth served with homemade roti). “It is one of my favorite dishes here,” Ian discloses. “Although people think of it as Indian, because of the curry, it is actually a Bangladesh dish. We loved the idea of serving something curry-based in the menu because it is a popular trend in Europe, plus, locally, not a lot of bars serve mussels.”
The response has been really good since it opened a few weeks ago. The Poblacion crowd merrily found its way to the lanai-looking lounge, with a mix of expats in their casual wear and tsinelas to the Salcedo yuppies regrouping after work.
Ian recounts, “We have had students in their 20s sitting next to a table of ladies in their 70s. Everyone feels comfortable here, and that for me is already a big achievement and a fulfillment of what we set out to do.”
Polilya is open from 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day except Mondays. It is located at 5658 Don Pedro, Makati City.