Sep 03

San Miguel Beer BottlesBeer is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in Asia. Travelers, Expats and Locals alike are known to happily give it a rest and enjoy a cold one, when leaving the office, sitting in their hang mats, a lively bar or at the many beaches in the region.

The Philippines are blessed with one of the best breweries in Asia. The San Miguel brewery is around for ages, they steadily bolstered their grip on the local market, acquiring more and more rivals until they now have an almost monopoly-like strength in the country. Here is a introduction about their most well-known products, which target every palate:

San Miguel Pale Pilsen (SMB)

San Miguel Pale Pilsen - SMBThis beer is the cornerstone of every beer drinkers fantasy, who happened to have visited the Philippines. Once you tried this brew, there is no turning back. You will crave for it, when you don’t have it and empty the bottle in next to nothing, once you have it in front of you.

SMB says rightly of itself that it is “a truly satisfying beer, with a refined, well-balanced flavor. Perfected and brewed for over a century, it’s the only beer that nourishes true Filipino friendships.”. It’s other ad text is a bit awkward (especially for Germans, who love their ‘Beer Purity Law’ of 1516 or so), as it says “expertly brewed from the finest malt, hops and other ingredients found throughout the world“. Hmmm?!

What could be those other magic ingredients? One of them is cereal, which can be found sometimes on the label sticker. Nevertheless – this is a truly exciting beer, one of the best in Asia and for me one of my all-time favorites, right next to Beer Bintang of Indonesia and Beer Lao of Laos.

A small bottle (0.33l) goes for as low as 19 Pesos in a shop, the Grande version (1 liter) is officially 54 Pesos, although in restaurants and bars you usually pay something around 35-50 Pesos for the small bottle, or 85-150 Pesos for the Grande.

San Miguel Light (SML)

San Miguel Light SMLSan Miguel Light has a very interesting flavor. A lot of people compare it with Corona, although it’s not made of corn. It’s very nice for a night out, if you are planning to chat with friends, play billiard or dance the night away, as it’s very light and doesn’t make you tired or drunk easily.

It has very little CO2 that fades quickly, so it really tastes best very cold and you can’t take too long to empty the bottle, which shouldn’t be a real problem, as it’s only 0.3 liters.

Myself I would prefer a real SMB over SML (if I have the chance) – but I see many ladies drinking SML and liking it. The design of the bottle looks also cool at the billiard table, though! ;-)

SML is usually about 5-10 Pesos more expensive per bottle than SMB.

SM Strong Ice

San Miguel Strong IceSan Miguel Light tastes great but is too light for you? Then why not go with San Mig Ice?

This is the stronger brother of SML; has a slightly more distinguished flavor and a higher alcohol content (6.3%). If your goal is to get flying faster with less liquid, this could be your favorite.

I found it readily available in bars and restaurants in Manila or Cebu, but your mileage will vary in the provinces. On resort islands, SM Strong Ice is generally less available.

Not 100% sure what to make out of this beer; for me it tastes a bit artificial and leaves a bitterish aftertaste. Also the original SML tastes more pleasant in my view.

Price-wise you will have to fork out between 50-150 Pesos per bottle for one of those.

San Miguel Premium

San Miguel Premium All Malt BeerWow, what is that? This is a new addition and was only recently introduced. San Miguel Premium has a more international taste and is positioned as a more exclusive variation of SMB.

It can be found in more upmarket restaurants and is regularly priced at 55-75 Pesos per bottle.

The problem is – it tastes very good! This stuff makes you want to drink more and more of it. Thankfully it’s not so popular yet and therefore rarely available.

But when you found a bar or restaurant with San Miguel Premium, prepare yourself that you will stay for a while longer.

Red Horse Stallion

San Miguel Red HorseThis is a complete different brew and was even a separate brewery until a few years ago, when it was acquired by San Miguel.

It’s somewhat sweeter also and with more acid than the rest. It also comes with cereals, starch and sugar added (really!)

Before it used to be cheaper than SMB, but recently I saw that San Miguel is trying to position it as a more expensive variation and it sometimes costs a few Pesos *more* than SMB. I don’t know though, if that will work. For me it’s all about the aftertaste here, which makes me want to brush my teeth after I drank a few of Red Horse.

I still get headaches and bad hangovers after a few of them, so I usually try to avoid Red Horse and go for some of the other alternatives.

Nevertheless it seems to be very popular here; especially with workers and Twen disco crowds.

Cerveza Negra

San Miguel Cerveza NegraBlack beer. Now we start talking! Cerveza Negra is becoming more popular here pretty fast; especially in places where European Expats hang out.

If you think, that looks like Guinness, you are on the right track, but only for looks.

The taste is something completely different. This stuff (Cerveza Negra) has a very dark and malty taste, a bit sweet, but very palpable. Somewhat mild and caramel-ish – it is very hard to describe!

It actually IS addictive and you can easily empty 2-3 bottles just with your dinner, as it goes very well with all kinds of food, especially with Pizza and BBQ Fish dishes. The label sticker looks a bit cheap, but it’s the content of the bottle that matters most. Definitely one of my favorites!

It only comes in small bottles (0.33l), which costs anything between 50-70 Pesos in a bar or restaurant, although if you find a distributor and get it per crate (just ask the San Miguel truck guy, if they deliver it to your door!) – the bottle can cost as low as 19 Pesos! A true bargain for such a fine drink.

Gold Eagle

San Miguel Gold EagleThis seems to be the budget alternative to SMB. Priced slightly lower, the Grande version can go for as low as 39 Pesos per 1 liter bottle!

At most local Karaoke joints (those with the coin machines) you will have no problem finding this beer.

I only came to try it a few weeks ago, as I was before happy with all those other great beers and didn’t want to sample the cheap stuff, as not to spoil my taste buds. But then, when exploring Virgin Island near Bantayan a few weeks back; it was hot and sunny and no other beer in sight. Okay then, bring it on!

Surprisingly, this beer is not too bad; my worries were completely unfounded. The taste is similar to SMB, if slightly lighter and goes down very well. I rarely see it sold in its smaller bottles, most people seem to buy the Grande Version (1 liter) right away.


These are the most popular and common beers in the Philippines. I’m not sponsored by San Miguel (unfortunately), but that’s the way it is. San Miguel has almost a monopoly on the local market. I didn’t mention the SM ‘Super Dry’ version here, as I never saw it out in the open.

Yes, there are some other minor breweries in the Philippines, offering other beer brands, like ‘Beer na Beer’, ‘Mucho King’ or others, but they are few and far between. If you stay mainly in touristy areas and the larger cities, chances are that you won’t even run across them.

So there is no way of avoiding San Miguel, it’s simply a way of life here. But that’s not bad thing. The company continues to make some of the finest beers in Asia for very affordable prices. You simply can’t go wrong with one of the above choices.

I’m by no means an expert beer drinker, or a heavy drinker at all. 1-2 bottles every other day for dinner is all I need. Myself, I can’t decide, which one is my favorite San Miguel beer. Sometimes I prefer the simple, but true-blue SMB, but only ’til I get my hands on SM Premium or Cerveza Negra. If I can’t find any of those, the other alternatives above are nice to go with also and without any disappointment. No comparison to India here.

What do you say? Which one is your favorite beer in the Philippines? Did I miss out on something else that we should sample together? Please use the comment form below for your suggestions, additions or beer stories! ;-)

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written by Chris

37 Responses to “Which San Miguel Beer type are you? Poll is up…”

  1. RyanNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    I used to drink SML, but shifted to SMB- my official beach beer. Strong Ice is always a 4th or 3rd alternative. I occassionally indulge myself with Red Horse (especially when I had a week of working hard). Gold Eagle taste reminds me of Victoria Bitter. Cerveza Negra tastes too sweet for me though.

    Great post!

  2. marieNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    San Mig Light 4ever! My minimum used to be six bottles – but after the 6th, things would be a little blurry for me already and so the counting stops there but the bottles continue to pile up..=) But those were the days. I have shifted to a healthier lifestyle now and beer is out of the list. =) RED Horse – wow…used to be a little cheaper, and could make one (such as moi) tipsy real fast…and oh, if you’re having a few bottles, always look for the HAPPY HORSE!

  3. LorraineNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    I’ve tasted most of those but as you’ve said, San Miguel is the most prominent one and easily available everywhere. SML is my preference but I’ve been known to indulge in SMB occasionally. Boy those bottles could add up easily!

  4. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Ryan, yeah Cerveza Negra is not for everyone, an acquired taste. I love it! :D

    marie, 6 bottles? Wow, you must have a good stamina. I used to drink more when I was in my early 20’s, but nowadays 2-3 bottles is the max I can take, hehe! Not typically German, I know….

    Lorraine, same here – sometimes it depends for me also on the company I have. With friends who prefer SMB, I tend to follow their lead. If we are mainly black beer drinkers, it’s nice to sample a Cerveza Negra. Playing Pool or going to a Disco, it sometimes is SML. Moods matter, haha! :D

  5. DirkNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Mainly I go for the SMB – just because everyone is drinking/buying this (when invited)… The Red Horse just lets me stay in bed half of the next day and at home the rest of the day…
    SML for me is by far the best beer when you just want to drink one or two while eating or when you are at the beach and its hot…

    Didnt tried the others yet :)

  6. Backpacking JapanNo Gravatar UNITED KINGDOM Says:

    One Pale Pilsen for me please (classic look and timeless taste) – along with a little square serviette to wipe the Filipino grime around the bottle mouth! I *love* the Philippines =D>

  7. Tom Web PMNo Gravatar SPAIN Says:

    Yeah, the cerveza negra is the hit! I am currently teaching the Spanish people how to enjoy it right :))
    I figured out that they learn pretty fast ;-) how fast is Asia adapting the beer culture?


  8. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Tom Web PM, the beer culture is already here, if you ask me. San Miguel for instance brews their beer here since 1890 and in most other Asian countries beer is more and more popular also. There are countless of brands catering to all kinds of tastes and it only get better! :D

  9. adekunNo Gravatar JAPAN Says:

    They have the Negra at one of the bars here in rural Japan. I liked it before in Mexico. I can’t afford to go to the bar often. If I manage to slip out, I’m usually too full to enjoy it; not one to end the night on.

  10. MonNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    I cannot tell the difference from one to another. i like beer in cans though.

  11. LorraineNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    I will admit that I will trade in SMB for Beer Lao though :)

  12. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Mon, try switching to beer in bottles and you will taste the difference. Trust me on this! ;-)

    Lorraine, for sure a tempting comparison! One of my favorites also. ;-)

  13. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Had meanwhile a chance to sample the above SM Superdry and I must say, I’m impressed – it’s well worth it. The taste is very similar to SM Premium maybe a tad lighter. So it tastes more like an international beer towards American beer brands and it’s very distinctive. Definitely give it a try, if you can find it somewhere in the open, it seems to be a bit more upmarket, could only find it for 50-60 Pesos per bottle and up. Wonder why they don’t offer it in more places. ;-)

    Also tried now the other filipino beers ‘Beer na Beer‘ and ‘Colt45‘, both not from San Miguel. While ‘Beer na Beer‘ is a very cheap and strange brew (sweet, acidy and funny aftertaste – but all for 35 Pesos per 1 liter Grande!), ‘Colt45‘ comes in similar bottles like SML and SM Strong Ice and isn’t too bad. It seems to be pretty popular in discos and bars, especially here in the South (Cebu). It’s also a more American beer taste, somewhat sweet but very smooth on the tongue, even after 2-3 bottles it still tastes okay. Although it seems to have a problem being too cold. I had a very cold one in a bar and it’s basically sweet, slimy ice left in the bottle. Never saw that from a cold beer, maybe some funny ingredient. But drink it normally cold and it’s quite pleasant. :D

  14. dodong floresNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Back there in the province during my good old days, my friends and I used to drink SMB in “Grande.” If our money is not enough to buy this beer (we were jobless and student at that time), we resorted to Beer na beer. It’s very light in the pocket :D

  15. ajayNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    I do like San Miguel Strong Ice ;-) less beer to consume, more kick…

  16. RomyNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    yeah guys you crow so much about this SMB but, where the hell can i buy them in geelong or melbourne, victoria. what good is it if no one sells ’em.maybe SMB Philippines has banned their beer to be sold in australia, or australian liquor outlets have boycotted san miguel beer. HELP!!!!!

  17. janNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    SMB is the best for me. As an alternative SML. All others I haven’t tasted yet or I am not interested to taste.
    The only other one was beer-na-beer, I don’t like this artificial and chemical beer.

    All over the world you will find Filipinos having a store. Much of them also sell SMB. Try to find a store like that, so you can enjou SMB in your own coutry.

  18. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    jan, that’s actually a good tip to try and find Filipino stores in the respective communities. This way you would also avoid the sometimes outrageous prices of supermarkets or other special importers! Okay, in Singapore you could simply walk into Lucky Plaza for all kinds of Filipino specialties, but in other countries I’m not so sure also….

  19. THE BEER BIBLE...according to EMDEE - Asian Travel Forum UNITED STATES Says:

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  20. bedding sheetsNo Gravatar INDIA Says:

    Very nice I occassionally indulge myself with Red Horse (especially when I had a week of working hard). Gold Eagle taste reminds me of Victoria Bitter. thanks…

  21. PinoyborianNo Gravatar UNITED KINGDOM Says:

    You forgot Pegasus, favourite of money tight Cebu university students like me in the late 80s. If you are up for binge drinking on a Friday night, this is for you.

    In case you’re wondering Pegasus is actually one Red Horse and one Gold Eagle Grande mixed together. I guarantee you the headache and hangover the following day is very bad indeed. Ahhh, those were the days!

  22. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Wow – Pegasus sounds like a great recipe and guarantee for heavy headache! But in a very innovative way. Thanks for sharing, Pinoyborian! :D


    Does any one know where i can buy San Miguel light in Australia. I am not a beer drinker when home in Australia, because I can not find one I like. I have travelled through SE Asia and my first choice is always San Miguel Light. On a hot day nothing is better.

    can any one let me know.



  24. janNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    In bigger cities with larger Filipino communities, you probably will find a Filipino store. In this store Filipinos are able to buy their Filipino made products like soy sauce and filipino vinigar, dried fish and so on. They might also have San Miguel. Give it a try.

  25. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    jan, thanks for helping out Jane here. By the way, you have a very interesting website! ;-)

  26. JanNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Thanks for the compliment.
    I try to keep my website informative with a little humor.
    When I was still living In Holland my wife and I always went to Filipino stores to buy Filipino products. That’s where I saw also San Miguel. I assume that in other Filipino stores in the world they are selling more or less the same stuff. Also San Miguel beer.

  27. DanielNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    SML is the best beer I’ve ever tasted!!
    Just got back from Phuket and I’m missing it heaps, thats all we drank over there.
    Does anyone know where I can purchase SML in Australia?

  28. Allen TrottierNo Gravatar CANADA Says:

    I’ve always liked SML.

  29. marthaNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    i’ve always liked red horse beer it’s very popular for us filipino youth :D
    but already switched to strong ice, same kick much sweeter, less aftertaste .

    hey watch this:

  30. Teresa OrlandoNo Gravatar CANADA Says:

    SML is always nice on a patio or as a late night chilling beer. But like you mentioned Chris, it is so much better cold and bottled is best.

  31. tzNo Gravatar POLAND Says:

    Of all the variants, Super dry tops for me. I totally agree with what you said about it. Comes close is SML. Light on the stomach and less or no headache to battle the next day. I also rather choose Strong Ice over Red Horse. Red horse really kicks hard and there is something of the smell i dont like.
    Been working for San Miguel for 6 years now as QA Inspector. Thanks for this blog, it makes me even more proud to be part of the company.
    By the way, got hooked up with this site. Cant stop reading your blogs, one after the other. Two thumbs up!

  32. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    tz, thanks for the heads-up! As you are more qualified than me on that matter, maybe you can help me solving a mystery: here in Indonesia, we can also buy SMB and SML, but: they taste completely different and not at all so good like back in Pinas. I mean, I understand that they are brewed under different guidelines and country laws, but shouldn’t they be able to at least preserve and retain some of the original taste that made it so famous? :-/

  33. Philippines and Bali soon directly connected » nomad4ever UNITED STATES Says:

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  34. RobertNo Gravatar NETHERLANDS Says:

    It seems it is all abt San Miguel, not bad of course, but can tell that lot of regulars over there like the Beer na Beer more, I dont live there yet, but must say that I like it more also. If i drink San Miguel, it is light or strong ice, if they have Beer na Beer I am drinking that if I dont want SML, compared to normal SMB Beer na Beer is in my opinion better.

  35. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Robert, Beer na Beer is definitely a cheaper alternative to SMB in Pinas, however not to my taste. Glad you like it! ;-)

  36. Beer KingNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    I have loved San Miguel Beer for over 25 years and I find it to be always fresh and clean tasting.
    American beer just sucks in my opinion, Now British Ale`s are wonderful also, I`m still going through them all so, I`ll check back. :)
    p.s. Canadian beer is near the top of my list also, Brador ;)

  37. mishaNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Hi, I’m a filipina and I’m not usually a fond of SMB and other beers since I hate the taste but I won’t deny that I drink at times when out with some friends but not most of the time. I drink beer for at least once or twice a year since I don’t really go to bars that much and I always say no.
    By the way, the only beer that has the taste that I can’t stand is Red horse and I don’t know why. I think it’s the only beer that my taste buds can approve, really. And you wrote in your article is that you usually avoid it since it gives you strong hangovers. Strange coz mine is definitely different as it gives me a hard time sleeping and even though I slept very late already, I always end up waking up earlier compared to my friends or cousins who slept earlier because of the effect of the alcohol…Again, I don’t know but that’s just how it is with me…

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