Thursday, August 26, 2010

The fast and the frothy: San Miguel Beer launches beer drinking contest

The liquid was golden, a stream of coldness pouring down my throat. I myself was cold. People were watching. The clock was ticking though I tried not to think about it, focusing instead on not spilling a drop. I strove to feel nothing about unabashed beer drinking and beer drinking contests.

I am leery about drinking sessions for the purpose of drinking alone, unless it is purposeful, meaning it facilitates meaningful discussion and sparks ideas, and in very good company. And beer drinking contest? An empty show of bravado, not an achievement really. But it is fun, at least in the way San Miguel Brewery (SMB) conducts it, so I found myself in my first beer drinking contest. The contest was about how fast you could down a bottle of beer and not how much, and I was comfortable with that. Plus, friends from SMB had invited, and I knew my babe Bob Jerezo, robust beer drinker, would like the event.

SMB was launching the 11th edition of the National Beer Drinking Competition (NBDC) with a version for the media people and reporters at the Cruise Bar and Restaurant at the San Miguel by the Bay, at SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City. SMB decided to invite reporters from the lifestyle section, mixing them with reporters from the sports section, for this second edition of the beer drinking contest for the media.

SMB made the night a good avenue for drinking beer with ample food, live band and good friends and acquaintances. Members of the famous San Miguel basketball team and other personalities from the Philippine Basketball Association graced the occasion.

We were grouped into more than 10 teams of five members each. It was to be a relay game: members lined up, each taking turns drinking the beer as fast as he/she could and all ending with shouting an SMB slogan. Bob and I found ourselves grouped with Glaiza Lee of The Manila Bulletin and Nickie Wang and a friend from The Manila Standard Today. We did not talk about strategy. Could there be any? No spilling was the rule. I worried and hoped I would not gag. After all, SMB was giving away P100,000 worth of cash and San Miguel items to the winners.

Last year, the team composed of Beermen Jonas Villanueva and Chris Calaguio, The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Teddyvic Melendres and Marc Reyes, and The Philippine Star’s Abac Cordero clocked one minute and 33 seconds, winning the contest. It was a tough act to follow.

The second team in the line, we plunged ahead and I was drinking in front of three judges—PBA icons Alvin Patrimonio, Hector Calma and Peter Martin—and other people. The beer was thankfully cold, thus the bitterness was hardly discernible. Everything seemed to happen so fast but in reality, we were slow, clocking more than two minutes. Most the teams clocked less than that. My heart sank, but there was no chance for grieving. We had plentiful food and company to laugh and share stories with. And there was beer, so much going around, to foster a general sense of good feeling.

Bob got to sing a couple of songs with the band. He had something to celebrate: he had won in the best individual beer-drinking time category, a new category added to mark the entry of another decade for the contest, with 10 seconds or so. Although I wished his achievement would also include finishing a book or something like that, I was proud. I also felt a sense of achievement myself—I was brave enough to try this activity, which I never imagined I would do. To me there must be some pupose to it. For while others will do it for bragging rights or free beer, I’d do it again for the money, for experience, for writing and for love. Cliche and shameless, the last one is, I know. Actually, the first one should be. Maybe I am not that different from the others who enter beer drinking contests. But for whatever the reasons, there will always be the spirit of fun. Good, good fun, it is hoped.

The beer drinking contest’s media edition was also staged in Iloilo City on Aug. 9 and Cebu City on Aug. 10. It will be staged in Davao City on Aug. 27 and in Cagayan de Oro City on Aug. 28. After that, a version will be staged for employees of SMB nationwide. The NBDC, which draws at least 300,000 beer drinkers annually, will culminate with the consumer edition late this year. San Miguel Brewery remains the market leader in the brewing industry with 120 years of history.

Try-outs are now ongoing until Oct. 31. For more details, call 632-2337 (BEER); send SMS to 0922-6322337; or visit to www.smbtakesyouto

Me and the team. Babe is beside me.

The winning team in the second media edition of the SMB National Beer Drinking Contest

PBA legends Alvin Patrimonio, Hector Calma and Peter Martin

Bob Jerezo attempts to beat the fastest individual time record, and he won as the fastest that night and wins

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