Ian Paradies is the founder of Filipino craft beer brand, Engkanto and is the president of Napa Gapa Beverages Corporation which houses the Engkanto label. Here he talks to Tatler about how this brand was born and what he hopes for the future of local businesses in the country.

When this local brewery was born, the impassioned Ian was hands-on in every aspect of the business. “I am truly lucky to have such an incredible team behind the company that now allows me to focus on the direction of the brand without being held down by many day-to-day functions. I am more of an ideas guy and love coming up with marketing campaigns, and working with or talking to our customers” he shares. His exuberance and passion oozes from his smile and is reflected from the twinkly of his eyes. Customers feel the love and can taste it in Engkanto. 

Beer was something Ian had always been fascinated with and enjoyed drinking - so opening his own homegrown label and making a beverage that so many Filipinos now love has been an actual dream come true. This beer is without a doubt, delicious. Engkanto does not hold out on ingredients or flavour, delivering a local frosty treat that Filipinos can and should be proud of. 

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“A lot of people ask me what I would like Engkanto to achieve or become. Truthfully, my hope for Engkanto is really to just be a harbinger for change and inspire people to grow by challenging themselves and the things they are not happy with” Ian tells me. Just like how starting Engkanto allowed him to challenge what he felt needed to change within the beer industry in the Philippines. Part of his journey included helping further educate the market on what craft beer represents. 

“Beer is so much more than what we thought it was, as it is only now we as Filipinos are getting exposure to different beer-types. Beer is not just commercial lagers. Beer is ales, porters, stouts, sours. Beer can be aged in wooden barrels. Beer can use fresh local ingredients such as mango, dalandan, calamansi, coconut or chocolate. Beer can be gold or yellow or brown or black. Beer can be 5 per cent ABV or 10 per cent ABV. And most importantly beer doesn’t have to be enjoyed as a standalone product; it can be used in food or cocktail recipes as well” Ian gushes, clearly enthused by the topic.  

This man wants Filipinos to truly enjoy beer in all its glory. He entered this F&B space with that goal in mind. “The main reason I chose to put up Engkanto, focusing on craft beer, was that it always bothered me that as Filipinos we never had much local options when it came to alcoholic beverages, particularly premium ones” Ian admits. 

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This combined with the fact that Filipinos believe that things have to be imported to be premium frustrated him. “Everywhere around the world people look up to and love Filipinos and we have such a great reputation abroad, yet we ourselves often believe that we can’t do things as well as others...But that’s not true, we can do things just as well as anyone else can, and we want Engkanto to represent that” Ian asserted.  

The decision to actually start his new business in 2017, didn’t come easily and involved a lot of contemplation. Ian shared how he was well aware that the industry had always been cornered and dominated by a handful of powerhouses with storied histories. “What really gave me the courage to push forward was my desire to change what I felt was wrong with the industry in the first place, the lack of choice, and the focus purely on commercial products,” Ian said. That paired with the confidence and encouragement from his family and friends provided Ian with the momentum to get started.

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What important lesson did you learn while developing Engkanto?

Starting a business from scratch is no joke. You can never underestimate the importance of hard work. I think most successful businesses are driven by that one factor: hard work. There are days when you will question your decision to starting your own business. I have asked myself this many times. I have been lucky enough to have such a great support system around me with my family, friends and team really pushing me and encouraging me to pursue this journey. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to continue pushing forward without them.

I am a firm believer that you need to love what you do. I have loved beer for a long time and am extremely proud of what the team and I have been able to produce, which makes coming to work every day enjoyable. Do things get stressful every now and then? Of course. But it is still so much fun coming to work and pitching a brand and product you truly believe in.

Why do you personally love beer?

Ever since I started drinking I have loved beer and it has always been my drink of choice. What made beer my go-to drink is the fact that it can be enjoyed on any occasion. Secondly, It is generally light in alcohol so you can have one or two and still feel great. Most importantly, I love the taste of beer and I find that it helps me relax!

Favourite cuisine to eat with Engkanto? 

This is a tough question as beer goes well with so many different types of food. Since beer is so casual, I literally drink it with everything I eat, except for soups or salads. Burgers, hotdogs, pizza, wings, fries, bbq, oysters, tapas - anything! I also love having beer and sake with Japanese food. The simplicity of Japanese flavours pairs so well with lagers and sake.

Favourite type of beer?

I personally love lagers and pilsners because of their simplicity. Growing up in the Philippines where it is hot all year round, it’s hard not to enjoy a beer that is crisp and refreshing. I like beers that I can have several glasses of without it being too heavy. But I also do enjoy a nice ale or dark beer every once in a while, there is nothing like a great sour. When I travel I like to visit small local breweries and try the beers they specialise in. 

Funnily enough, although my favourite type of beer is lagers and pilsners, my favourite beer of Engkanto’s five flagship variants is the Pale Ale, as I find it to be so well balanced.

Do you like to drink beer in a bottle or in a glass?

The best way to really enjoy a beer is [by] having it in a glass. Whether it is draft, bottle or can it should be served in a glass as the first experience a person should have with the beer is [the] smell and not taste. Similar to wine. And with craft beers, in particular, many have such a nice aroma or bouquet that is brought out by the hops and malt used in them that you can’t enjoy in a bottle or can.

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