Beer Review: San Miguel

WITH few bottled beers on the shelves that I haven’t tried, the options are running thin. Something would have to give. And that something is quality. So, even though I swore I would never bother with it when I rounded off my look at Peroni Nastro Azzurro, here is San Miguel.

San Miguel bottle

Thanks to all the advertising from this international mega-brand, the bottle looks as familiar as Fanta. And first impressions are good. It’s all very tasteful looking.

The neck label sums up much of what you need to know.

San Miguel neck label

The famous “San Miguel” name and logo uses a tasteful red, green and gold colour scheme. They also describe this beer as “International Premium Lager”. Rather vague and unimaginative don’t you think? I suggest “Bland Generic Lager”.

The main front label doesn’t add much more.

San Miguel front label

In fact, it’s virtually a bigger version of the neck label. The main exception to that is the alcoholic volume which is 5%. Which isn’t exceptional at all. There’s also a small red crest in the bottom-right corner. Featuring as it does three castle turrets and an anchor, I’d say that this bottle is subtly hinting at Spain’s past naval might. A fact made laughable when we look at the back label to discover where this “International Premium Lager” was made.

San Miguel back label

Sure, the paragraph on the back label may name Spanish cities such as Seville and Barcelona. And that it’s “uniquely refreshing taste” has made it Spain’s most loved export. But the fact remains that this was “Brewed in the UK” by Scottish & Newcastle in Edinburgh. And that makes this lager as Spanish as Rab C. Nesbitt.

Elsewhere on the back label, and the Spanish equivalent to “Cheers”; “Salud!” is a good addition. Down in the small print, this 330 millilitre bottle of 5% lager weighs in at 1.7 UK units of alcohol.  It, predictably, contains barley and wheat. And the web address hints at the true Spanish origins of this famous lager, because it is at www.sanmiguel.es. And, sure enough, it takes you to a Spanish language website. Why they have that address and not the English language, UK specific www.sanmiguel.co.uk, I don’t know.

With nothing else worth reading, it’s time to open this “International Premium Lager”. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it. But no one said the hobby of reviewing bottled beers would be easy.

San Miguel poured into a glass

In the glass, everything looks very ordinary. It’s a similar pale yellow colour to most other lagers. It has a head. Albeit a patchy one. And it has a weak, bland smell of malted barley.

But, will this be one of those drinks that looks terrible, and then surprises us all? Lets take a couple of gulps to find out. No. No it isn’t. It has exactly the rough, cheap lagery taste I was afraid it would have.

It tastes of the same blend of malted barley and hops that you’ll find in almost any other lager in the world. The difference is the after taste. There’s no smoothing of the lingering bitter after taste here. No rice softening the blow. Instead, you’ll find a rough, lingering bitter after taste.

Digging deep, there is a brief list of points on the plus side. I left this bottle in the freezer for a good few minutes, and I suspect that it has made it that much more drinkable that it would otherwise have been. The label describes it as having a “uniquely refreshing taste”. And served cool enough to dull the flavour, it is fairly refreshing. And that, in turn, makes it begin to be drinkable.

The list of points on the negative side is, as you’d have guessed, substantially bigger. Foremost among them is that taste. Some people who like their strongly flavoured lagers will like it. I don’t. In fact, I hate it. That lingering bitter after taste is about the worst I’ve ever tasted. Worse even than some of the Polish lagers.

And it doesn’t stop there. Putting aside that atrocious after taste for a moment, everything else about the flavour is bland. In fact, there is almost no real flavour. Just a colossally bad after taste. The same goes for the smell and the look.

To sum up, San Miguel is unexceptional in every way apart from the after taste which is exceptionally bad. If you like your lager to be strong tasting, you might like it. Otherwise, choose something different. Even a Polish lager. Because it will be more drinkable than this.

You might be thinking at this point that my prejudices clouded my judgement with this one. That I went in expecting it to be bad, so it was bad. But that’s not the case. You see, this was brewed by Scottish & Newcastle. And I thought other S&N licenses Kronenbourg 1664 and Foster’s Ice were good for what they were. Despite my open mind, I couldn’t find anything to love, or even like about San Miguel.

Rating: 0.3

Have you tried San Miguel? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts and recommendations here please.

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12 Responses to “Beer Review: San Miguel”

  1. Scott Says:

    I also keep high hopes for lagers that are not typical, but usually am disappointed. I did, however, recently try the San Miguel Dark, which was much, much better tasting. I thought it was actually pretty good!

  2. kryg Says:

    Yours of course is not a scientific kind of study but a mere personal opinion. To have a scientific conclusion, we have to ask about 100 beer drinkers whether San Miguel indeed is a good or bad beer. International beer competitions though has given San Miguel (I think the Philippine brand) numerous awards.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I am getting increasingly irritated by your lager reviews. You obviously despise lager, which discredits your reviews of them. This is one of the best lagers I have tried. Don’t get me wrong, your Ale reviews are good, BECAUSE YOU LIKE ALE. But your lager reviews will never be good because you don’t appreciate what makes a good lager.

  4. hywel Says:

    Hi Anonymous, thanks for not leaving your name or email address.
    A couple of points…..
    Point one: You are taking my posts FAR too seriously. My uninformed opinions are not worth getting irritated over.
    Point two: What does make a good lager? I wrote this post a while ago. More recently, I’ve been judging lagers by some of the qualities that make them good or bad. But, there’s room for improvement. Tell me, what should I look for next time I review a lager? Leave a list, and I’ll be happy to bear it in mind.

  5. richie79 Says:

    the san miguel we get here in dublin is very very nice. We dont have it in bottles (or I have never seen it in bottles here anyway) and our 500ml can version is 5,4% not 5%.. Still, it is too espensive. Its nearly 3 euros a can in tescos or wherever

  6. richie79 Says:

    just one thing I wanted to add. Although I could be wrong, the glass you use looks like a standard pint glass (too big for the 330ml bottle) and I believe you disturb a beer by adding more to the glass after the initial tilted pour. So, though maybe you just opened a second bottle to fill the glass fully for the picture rather than tasting I would recommend (if not) that for actual tasting that you get a slightly smaller glass or else always test each beer by pouring only one initial pour. Adding to a glass of already partially full of beer with more not only makes it flatter but also knocks the taste off in my experience. If I have a glass not big enough for a can/or whatever bottle I will always wait till what is in my glass is completely gone before pouring the remainder in. Do you find this or does anybody out there agree? I used to think that it was just doing it carelessly, but I found even with tilting and pouring very slow it still affects the taste

  7. ordonez Says:

    hi, san miguel is not a spanish brand.it is a Philippine brand beer. I have heard about the U.K. brewed version and it was not nice. You should try the original beer from the Philippines and also the Hong kong version is as good as well. If you want a lighter beer try San Miguel LIGHT it is my favorite beer.

  8. Andrew Craig-Bennett Says:

    Agree with Ordonez; this is a Philippine beer and when it is brewed in the Philippines (with New Zealand hops) it is really an excellent South east Asian bottled beer. I put in the proviso about it being “Southeast Asian” because of the regional habit of adding ice when drinking beer. The beers are brewed to accomodate this. The LIGHT version is not, and I also prefer it. It is a pity that the UK brewed version is not the same.

  9. Kenneth Says:

    As a Scandinavian, I have had my fair share of Tuborg and Carlsberg (Danish much?), and I do like to say I know my lagers.

    What San Miguel reminds me of, is mostly a stale and dead version of those two with a bit of Maize added – No clue as to why…

    It feels too dead (Straight out the bottle, as I learned to drink Pilzen).

    Slagging Czech or Polish beer is like saying you’re a satanist in the Vatican though!

    I do agree with Hywel – It’s boring, Bland and almost undrinkable.

    To sum up – San Miguel – I’d rather stay thirsty.

    This is the reason why I started liking Guiness Extra Stout…

  10. Paul Says:

    Its cheap only good thing about it. IF your a beer drinker and have traveled the world like I have YOU WOULD REALIZE THAT SAN m. TASTE LIKE PISS !

  11. Anonymous Says:

    san miguel originated from the philippines try reading their histroy.

  12. Osbert Quimby Says:

    Just popped a can of Spanish San M (in Spain not bought by me); wondered if it still tasted as bad as before: yip, it’s bad, nasty metallic bitterness. This stuff does not taste nice. Down the drain with it.

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