Try these beers with your favorite Filipino foods

A bright IPA is a good match for pork or chicken adobo. Pictured is an IPA with a plate of chicken adobo.
A bright IPA is a good match for pork or chicken adobo. Pictured is an IPA with a plate of chicken adobo.
(Kent Nishimura | Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

For years, Filipino cuisine was the specialty of home cooks. But recently, Filipino dishes are breaking out of the home kitchen and onto L.A.’s dining scene at restaurants such as Downtown’s Rice Bar and the Lasa Filipino pop-up at Alvin Cailan’s Unit 120 kitchen incubator in Chinatown. So what beers do you drink with all this great Filipino food? Here are suggestions for matching beers with some favorite dishes with origins in the Philippines.

IPA with adobo

Let’s start with pork or chicken adobo, perhaps the best known Filipino dish. The meat is stewed in vinegar, garlic and spices until the liquid concentrates its sharp, piquant flavors. There’s a sweet/tart interplay of reduced vinegar and a richness that can easily overwhelm a light, easy-drinking brew. Look for a beer that will cut through the tongue-coating richness with a firm bitterness, lively effervescence, bright acidity or higher alcohol content. IPAs, it turns out, are a popular recommendation to pair with many Filipino dishes. A bright IPA showcasing the tropical fruit aromas of modern hop varieties — such as Amalgamator from Beachwood Brewing — will match the intensity of adobo while countering the pork’s richness with a three-way assault of fat-busting alcohol, balancing hop bitterness and tongue-scrubbing bubbles.


FilipinoAmerican chef and restaurateur Andre Guerrero (Maximiliano, the Oinkster) slips some Filipino flavors onto the menu at the Hollywood location of the Oinkster. The restaurant features a pork adobo burger — a thin pork patty topped with tangy pork adobo, garlic-y aioli and pico de gallo on pandesal bun — and the chef suggests pairing the signature sandwich with the 1903 Lager from Pasadena’s Craftsman Brewing. The beer is a light-bodied throwback to the way American beer tasted before prohibition. Anchor Steam, with it’s dry-yet-malty body and mint-like hoppy finish, is another throwback beer to try with adobo. And for a more modern match for the adobo burger, try White Dog IPA from El Segundo Brewing Co. This wheat-based IPA matches tropical hop flavors to a citrusy body that highlights the vinegar twang of the pork.

Pale lagers with pulutan

Pulutan is a category of popular bar snacks that are nearly always served alongside a chilled San Miguel lager. There’s lumpia, the cousin of the eggroll; and sizzling sisig, which is stewed and fried pig head and liver, and all manner of other pig parts fried and dressed with citrus or chiles. Both these dishes beg for a glass of beer.

“The climate in the Philippines is very hot and humid, therefore the most popular beers are the lighter lager styles — and the colder the better.” says Guerrero. “Most of the fried dishes, such as spring rolls or the crispy fried pork, should be paired with a lager.” San Miguel is the traditional choice — the ubiquitous brew from the nation’s oldest and largest brewing company is pale and slightly sweet, and it will quench your thirst as it washes down pulutan. But why not try a more flavorful alternative to the industrial lagers?

Craft-brewed lagers have been gaining popularity, and pilsners, helles and modern takes on century-old American lagers offer more malt character and hop aroma, and can better stand up to the intensely flavored lumpia and sisig. You get all the easy-drinking and thirst quenching qualities of San Miguel in a fresher, more characterful brew. Look for cans of Pick Six Pils from San Diego’s Pizza Port Brewery, or try a Seafarer kolsch, the lager/ale hybrid style from Inglewood’s Three Weavers Brewing.

Sour beers with pancit buko

Even sommeliers have a tough time with Filipino foods — all the bold flavors and condiments common on the table can challenge the pairing powers of wine. Filipino-American cook-turned-sommelier Anthony Cailan (brother of Alvin Cailan of EggSlut and Unit 120) suggests finding a wine with “a mouthwatering acidity” to combat rich dishes.

Today, beer does acidity too. And sour ales, from the light and refreshing Berliner Weisse to the complex oak-aged wild ales from Belgian or American craft breweries, are versatile accompaniments to Filipino dishes. Cailan says sour beers that also feature a fruit component match with what he calls the “aggressively flavored Filipino foods.” Guerrero seconds the sour suggestion, and recommends wood-aged sour ales alongside the savory Filipino dishes featuring coconut milk such as pancit buko — noodles made from young coconuts. Flavors of oak imbued in the beer mirror the woody, green flavor of the coconut, while the ale’s acidity cuts the richness of the dish. Try a lambic-inspired bottle from Beachwood Blendery, an oak-aged saison from Monkish Brewing or an imported sweet-and-sour Flanders-style red from Rodenbach.


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