Bryan Chug and his wife Josan Astrid Dometita-Chug are the first to admit that they don’t know the first thing about running a bar. The two are software developers, their training generally more suited to building the back-end systems that help run a place like their bar, Spektral Beer Lounge, which just opened in October of 2017.
“We think of it like a startup,” Josan says. “There’s a lot of experimenting.” Their background as I.T. professionals can certainly be felt in the space itself, with its absurdly quick Wi-Fi, its cloud-based systems, and the completely digital back end. “I control the music on my phone,” Josan says with a hint of pride.
But that’s all just technological icing. Spektral is worth visiting primarily for the variety of beer on tap. The bar has twenty taps serving draft beer, as well as a refrigerated case for serving bottles. There are a handful of foreign brands available, but Spektral is mainly focused on pouring local craft beers.
There has been a real boom in local craft beer over the last couple of years. The problem is that there aren’t nearly enough venues serving them. And there are even fewer places pouring the beers of multiple breweries. It’s a problem that Bryan ran into himself when he got into brewing. He took up the hobby while Josan was busy with the preparations for their wedding. After his eighth brew, he thought that his beer was good enough to sell. But he couldn’t find a place to sell them.
And so: Spektral. It is easily one of the best places to visit if one is at all interested in trying out the local craft beer scene. Their tap list is constantly changing, offering up a wide spectrum of styles and origins. They’ve got Turning Wheels from Cebu, easily one of the best breweries in the Philippines. They have several styles from the prolific Bulul Brewery in San Fernando. They’ve got interesting, experimental styles from Manila-based Craftpoint Brewery. Most recently, they got in bottles of Illusion Brewery from Bacolod, which hasn’t shown up a lot in Manila as yet. And the entire place is completely focused on serving beer. They don’t even have a kitchen. One can have food brought in from neighboring restaurants, but the whole experience in Spektral is built around the noble brew.
Spektral’s bottle collection of Bacolod’s Illusion Brewery
The selection of beers is pretty varied, with plenty of stranger styles showing up. There’s a perfume-y lavender beer on tap, and bottles of Cebruery’s Guimaras Gose, a sour, salty beer that will likely prove challenging to many. It all suggests an intriguing philosophy behind the curation. Spektral isn’t meant to just be a place where you go back to an old favorite. That favorite is going to be there, certainly, but the place is more conducive to trying new things. Perhaps this is also why they offer the option of smaller pours. Most beers on tap are available in a sub-100-peso taster size, giving the customer the option to try more beers over the course of the night.
Josan says that’s been the best thing about running the bar. She has more than one story of urging customers to try something that they’ve never tried before. A group of students professing that they only like light beer end up loving Bulul’s Vanilla Bourbon Stout by the end of the night. She’s discovered that Japanese ladies seem drawn to a particular IPA, and that Japanese men tend to prefer a crisper, lighter brew. She’s taking all this data in like an I.T. professional would, making connections, taking note of what works, and evolving the system. They’ll admit that they aren’t quite sure what the final form of Spektral will be. They’re thinking about maybe serving cocktails, since there are people asking for that. Maybe someday, they’ll start serving their own food. For now, though, in this beta phase of their tap room, it’s already one of the best places in Metro Manila to get a taste of what makes the local beer scene so exciting.
And honestly, it helps that the Wi-Fi is so good.