Posts Tagged ‘spain’

Beer Review: San Miguel

2 August, 2008

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 And, sure enough, it takes you to a Spanish language website. Why they have that address and not the English language, UK specific, 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.


Beer Review: Damm Estrella

4 June, 2008

AFTER a miserable start to my look at beers from the Latin world, it’s time to move on, and see what Damm Estrella can offer.

Damm Estrella bottle

More conventional looking than Sol, you get the impression that this is what the locals would drink. First glances show that Estrella is imported from Barcelona, Spain. And the embossed crest around the shoulder has the date “1876”. So this beer has some heritage.

For some reason, beer bottles from the Latin world try to fit a lot onto the label around the neck. Damm Estrella is no exception. Here’s the front of it…

Damm Estrella front neck label

Is it me, or does the “Estrella Damm” lettering look more north European than Spanish? The ring of repeated “Imported” words is good to see. No “brewed under license in…” here I hope. And under that, “Le Cerveza De Barcelona”. You don’t need to be a linguist to work out what that means.

The all-important vital-statistics appear on the neck-label when you turn the bottle around.

Damm Estrella left neck label

Printed larger than anything else to make sure you can’t miss them are the size of the bottle. Which is the standard, and unimaginative 330 millilitres. And the alcoholic volume. Which is a slightly unusual 4.6%. Not 5%. Not 4.5%. But somewhere in between “moderately strong” and “quite strong”.

Also on this side of the neck label is the address of the brewer. Up to this point, I was under the impression that this beer was called Damm, brewed by Esrtella. Turns out it’s the other way around. The brewer is S.A. Damm. So this must be their Esrtella beer. See, it does pay to read the small-print. There is also a web address which is Fortunately, they have an easily findable English language section, which is at

Over on the other side of the neck label is some more small print.

Damm Estrella right neck label

There really is nothing to say about it. It’s simply mundane details you find on every product, but repeated in several European languages. Nothing to see on this side of the label.

So we make our way to the main front label.

Damm Estrella front label

And I’m delighted to see that it’s quite tasteful. It’s not a shield or a roundel like you find elsewhere. More an unusual amorphous label shape. And it’s red. Mostly.

There’s a big gold start sitting in the middle. The “1876” date is on there. And under the big name and “Barcelona” pride, lies the news that made this bottle stand out for me on the shop shelf. The word “Imported”.

Over on the back label, and there is a gigantic block of impenetrable multilingual text.

Damm Estrella back label

Fortunately, they left enough room for a brief English language description. Sadly, it’s wasted on marketing speak. We already know that it comes from Barcelona, that it dates back to 1876 and the web address from elsewhere on the bottle.

In the big, impenetrable block of multilingual writing are the odd fact. Like the ingredients which are water, barley malt, rice, maize, hops, yeast and “E-405 stabilizer”. Most ingredients lists are identical from one beer to the next. The rice is a good addition. It’s what beers with interesting flavours sometimes have. But the E number? That’s a first. Most beers pride themselves on natural ingredients. Not this one apparently.

There’s no UK units of alcohol symbol here, but there is something else. The UK isn’t the only place to have something like this. In some unknown country, this bottle is equivalent to 1.2 of their “Standard Drinks”. Without knowing what one of their “Standard Drinks” are, that information is useless. So sorry for wasting your time. But it is still interesting to see how other countries do what we are doing, isn’t it? What do you think?

Time now to open up this bottle and answer the age old question: is this beer any good? And more specifically, is it better than Sol? I certainly hope so.

Damm Estrella poured into a glass

Into the glass, and Damm Estrella comes with a good, if thin head of foam. After a couple of minutes, it died down enough for a hole to appear in the surface. And there’s no worry about it overflowing the glass. You’ll be able to fill your glass nearly all way with this pale yellow and fizzy beer.

Give it a sniff, and you get “generic beer smell”. It’s not bad. Just not exceptional or unusual. Simply the smell of a blend of malted barley, hops and so on. Good though, so long as you like beer.

A couple of gulps in, and I’m liking Estrella. The main flavours are of the blend of arable crops that went into it. The malted barley, the rice and maize are all part of the blend of flavours. And the hops give it a slight bitterness. None of these flavours are strong enough to dominate it, however.

What else can I say about it? Well, the blend of flavours and character is a little different to most of the European beers I’ve tried so far. It remind me a bit of the Asian beers. Probably because of the rice. It’s not at all gassy. It is very easy to drink. And drinkable by all but the most timid drinkers. Served cold, this quality brew can be quite refreshing too.

If I had to look for faults, I would say that Damm Estrella doesn’t take any chances. There’s no bold, strong flavours to make it interesting and truly distinctive. In fact, you could write it off as a boring, generic beer that is unexceptional in any way.

Or would that be unnecessarily harsh? Damm Estrella might be dull, but it doesn’t do much wrong. In fact, it does a lot right. If I were travelling in Spain, I’d be more than happy to enjoy this drink. And over here, if all you want is a decent beer that won’t upset anyone, this is a great choice. One for the party or the barbeque.

Rating: 2.9

Have you tried Damm Estrella? What did you think?
Opinions, corrections, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and anything else you can think of in the usual place please. Thank you.

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