One reason why a lot of people find me rather unusual is the fact that I am dead-serious about my love of ginger ale. Time and again, I have mentioned on this blog that this particular soda preference is actually the end-result of a college-era rebellion against the conventional and prevailing taste for Coke, Pepsi, or whichever soda pop was available at the cafeteria and the bookstore. But, more than that, I love the stuff for the zingy flavour and the refreshing aroma it exudes.
Which brings us to the point that ginger ale is more expensive in the Philippines because it is so goddamned rare! For a long time, the only ginger ale available was the artificially-flavoured mixer sold under the MixMate label. Asia Brewery took a stab at the ginger ale market by putting out Roots several years ago – but, alas, that failed to gain critical ground. (It was a pretty damned good ginger pop, though.) That said, the only way one can get a ginger ale fix here in the PHL is to head over to specialty groceries like Healthy Options or the one over at the Union Jack Tavern.
Well, that is, up until recently.
Allow me to introduce your tastebuds to the ginger ale from the Stanford & Shaw Brewing Co., a dynamic brewing duo who – despite the name – are all-Filipino. I chanced upon their micro-stall a couple weekends ago over at the Salcedo Saturday Market and was almost immediately hooked onto their brew by virtue of the rather snappy sample I tried.
This is old-school, home-brewed ginger ale: there is none of the overly saccharine sweetness one encounters in commercial ginger ale. You pop the bottle open and your nostrils get a fragrant blast of spiciness: fresh, sharply gingery with a bare hint of lemon zest that hardly tempers the intensity of the aroma.
A caveat for any ginger newbies trying this: this is a ginger ale with a hell of a lot of serious bite. Fiery only begins to describe it: you can really taste the fresh ginger used in this one: that snarling bite that tickles tongue and palate yet goes down smoothly and soothingly down the throat. Throw in the fact that this is slightly fermented, and you have something with a good kick, to boot.
Magnificent on its own when chilled, it would also be amazing as an ingredient for such British cocktails as shandygaff (pale pilsen or lager mixed in equal parts with ginger ale) or, a more whimsical spin on the elegant theme of a Black Velvet (dark beer – say, a porter or stout like Guinness – mixed with chilled sparkling white wine) by swapping Standford & Shaw ginger ale for champagne or prosecco. Salut!