MANILA -- Cider may not be the Filipino drink of choice but If Raoul Masangcay, the brewmaster behind Elias Wicked Ales and, has his way, cider should be as popular as beer right alongside your pulutan of choice.
Masangcay, an accomplished craft beer brewer and the first cicerone (beer sommelier) in the country, started experimenting with fermenting fruit in his brewery in a quiet corner of the Banawe car parts district in Quezon City, because he wanted to bring the flavors of Philippine fruit to his craft. The result was something sweeter, more refreshing, more colorful with the same health benefits as eating the fruits themselves.
“In the United States, there is a resurgence of interest in cider consumption due mainly to its health benefits such as its being gluten-free, packed with Vitamin C, plus antioxidants like polyphenols and flavonoids which is present likewise in beer. It is also claimed to reduce inflammation, boost energy and promote weight loss,” Masangcay explained in an email interview.
The bar usually has the Astig (mango), Hanep (guyabano), Pwedee (guava) and Galeng (mangosteen) on tap or available in bottles for take-out. He even has Rosé Rizal (rosé) and Swabe (raspberry) for non-local flavors.
Masangcay is a licensed Electronics and Communications Engineer. His exposure and appreciation for craft beer started while he was going around Europe and Asia for work. His fascination for beer and brewing really took off when he stayed in the US where he was so into the craft.
His very first beer, Manila Pale Ale, won a gold medal at the Home Brewers Association in Virginia. In time, this passion and geekery led to the building of a small brewery in 2018 back when local craft beer was in its infancy. As a tribute to the motherland, he named the brewery Elias after the character in Jose Rizal’s "Noli Me Tangere."
Eventually, the previous occupant of the space stopped operations and offered to pass the space on Masangcay. Elias Wicked Ales had its soft opening back in the Christmas of 2019. Then the pandemic hit and they had to close due to the community quarantine.
To Masangcay’s credit, he didn’t have to lay off any of his team pivoting his beer-making know-how to production of ethyl alcohol to meet the sudden demand during the lockdown. When the IATF gave the go-signal for restaurants to operate on a limited capacity, they picked up where they left off. They’ve even set up secure parking for bikes with recharging stations for e-bikes and e-scooters since a lot of their return customers use alternative transport when they drop by to pick up beer to bring home.
Elias Wicked Ales now has the second floor to itself. On one corner is the bar/tap room where guests can request a sip to sample what they currently have on tap. Off to one side, the restaurant has a secluded function room for meetings and small parties that exits to a small balcony.
While cider is the new kid in Elias' tap room, Masangcay hasn’t left his love of craft beer behind. The brewery that can produce 21,000 cans of beer a month split between a repertoire of 30 beers depending on which ingredients are in stock. Now that Elias has gotten its importation license, they’re planning to streamline the selection. The license enables them to have more consistent sources of hops, barley and other secret ingredients they use to brew.
Masangcay brews his beers to appeal to a wide range of beer drinkers. From the light and refreshing Half Full Ale, an ideal first sip to jump into the world of craft beer, to best sellers Mixtape Pale Ale which is the closest to the brown-bottled lagers Filipinos are used to, to the hoppy Partly Cloudy and its sibling Indian Pale Ales for the discerning craft beer drinker, to the 8-9% ABV Maximus Barrel Aged Stout for those who enjoy beers that pack a knockout punch.
Elias’ food menu is a concise selection of upscale bar chow filled with their own inventive spin on Filipino flavors. For example, the grilled salmon rice bowl has that familiar home-cooked sinigang sourness cooked into the rice.
Check out their goat salpicao, their smoked sisig, and their laing lumpia. If you’re looking for more, their beer-battered chicken tenders, along with the Filipino inspired entrees, are just perfect to wash down with your beer or cider of choice. These are available as ready-to-cook meals for delivery through the Elias website.
Masangcay is still in the US honing his craft, learning more new techniques in Virginia. Even though he’s away, he still managed to add Far From Home, a New England IPA to Elias’ selection doing training and knowledge transfer over the internet. This is just a sip of things to come as Masangcay’s actual return to his brewery is sure to bring in new bottles and new brews.
Elias Wicked Ales and Spirits is located at 13 Ubay St., Santa Mesa Heights, Quezon City and is open for dine-in, and take-out from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Check out their website for a complete menu of beers and ready-to-eat meals for delivery.