Beers of the Philippines

San Miguel Pale Pilsen

What a joy to discover that the Philippines’ staple beer, San Miguel, is not only very good but is also not the Spanish ‘Pedro’s Piss’ of the same name (and logo) that you get from Costa Blanca to Clapham tapas restaurants. It’s also every bit as good as Beerlao and so is likely to be up there for Beer of the Trip.

The Filipinos sold the rights to the San Mig brand to the Spanish in the 1950s, but continued brewing their own in a much better manner to their European affiliates. And it’s a very good beer – mainly I think because of the inclusion at last of barley malt, rather than rice as with the rest of South East Asia. In the style of a Pilsner, it’s well balanced with a good hoppy bitterness and a malty aftertaste, and is crisp, refreshing and flavoursome. It’s other point scored is that it’s hard to pay more than about 60p a bottle for it.


Its less common guise, although more like the Spanish namesake












San Miguel Premium

This is a delicious extra-malty number, with a dominating hoppy notes and a yeasty influence. Less crisp than its Pilsen cousin but mellow and smooth on the tongue, and full of distinctive flavour. It’s about 15p more a bottle, but worth every peso.


San Miguel Light

Go nice in a spritzer this. Utterly devoid of anything resembling taste or flavour, and is yet somehow 5% proof. This is the sort of beer that breweries spend a fortune developing, trying to pack as much alcohol in for a few calories as possible but without it tasting disgusting, which it doesn’t – it just doesn’t taste of anything. A beer for 17-year olds trying to make the step up from  alcopops. One way to drink it pleasantly, however, is to drown it in freshly squeezed calamansis (little citrus fruits, the size of kumquats but with lime-green peel and orange flesh and as sharp as a lemon), which actually makes it rather nice to drink, and yet is oddly closer to the alcopops that it is trying to steal a market share of.


Cerveza Negra

Made by San Mig, this is a tasty dark beer, with nutty tones over-ridden by a smooth and bitter-sweet finish. Strong, sweet and more traditionally in the mould of dark beers than its Vietnamese equivalent – to its benefit. As good a (genuinely local) dark beer as sampled yet.


Red Horse Beer

Another by San Mig – it’s going to be hard to find anything not made by them – this is their strong beer (6.9%), but it’s strength is cleverly masked by its smoothness, making it easier to drink than is helpful. The Russian tourists here love it, but only because it steadies their nerves better than the Pilsen at 8am (not joking either). Again it has slightly nutty malt note, caramelly, smooth and full-bodied. Not bad.


San Miguel Super Dry

I spilt a bit of this, and it was definitely wet. The Super Dry variety is just about drinkable, it is crisp and does what the label suggests but lacks any interest or character – it’s the Ready Salted of beers, and is nearer the San Mig Light than the San Mig Pilsen on the flavometer scale.


Manila Beer – Strong

I think this must be the Filipino’s ‘tramp juice’. It is also brewed by the Asia Brewing Company and is only sold in cans in 7-Elevens and the like. It’s over 7% and pretty much undrinkable – I had to tip the remaining three-quarters down the sink. It is caramelly but is overly pungent and sickly sweet.


Beer Na Beer

Interesting name, but sadly the same can’t be said as confidently for the substance. This beer, brewed by the Asia Brewing Company in Manila, seems to be the one and only challenger to the San Mig domination. It boasts ‘floral hops’, and the claim cannot be denied, but what it makes up for in gentle floral and citrus flavours it lacks in the more important punchy bitterness, malt and yeasty beer notes. Not bad though, and in Vietnam it would be heralded as a Champagne of beers.


San Miguel Strong Ice

San Mig have a Pale Pilsen, a strong beer (Red Horse), a light beer (San Mig Light) and a dry beer (Super Dry) and this seems to be a beer made by someone pouring a quarter of equal measure into a bottle. It actually tastes strong, unlike Red Horse, and is fairly neutral in taste – not too sweet, bitter, crisp or smooth. Strong and average.


Manila Light

Our third offering from the Asia Brewing Company, this is their rival to San Mig Light. It is actually the better of the two, boasting posh varieties of hops and yeast, but it’s hard to detect them in this bland and inoffensive beer.





3 Responses to “Beers of the Philippines”


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