adventures in craft beer and real food

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Tasting Notes: San Miguel Pale Pilsen

To dovetail with my review of Kelly's Malaysian dinner, Kelly gave me the rare opportunity to try a southeast Asian beer. She brought back a 330 mL can of San Miguel Pale Pilsen for me to try.

The San Miguel brewery has been around since 1890 and was once considered a world-class brewing operation. Now, however, it seems to have floundered in trying to settle for the bottom line. It's easily the largest brewery in the Phillipines and is said to have a 90+% market share in many southeast Asian countries. It also brews two truly abominable brews under liscense: Miller Genuine Draft and Löwenbräu.

To say that I had high expectations for this particular macro would be a lie. Nevertheless, I thought I'd give it a chance.

Pleasant aromas filled the room the moment I cracked open the seemingly quaint 330 mL narrow-mouth can. Upon further investigation, the first aroma I picked up was decidedly metallic. I associated the aroma with brass. Beneath the metal, there was a generic citrus aroma that stymied all of my efforts to provide a more exact description. As the beer warmed up, a pleasant hint of mushroom started showing up.

As I poured the beer into a glass, a large head was raised. It dissipated almost completely within three minutes of pouring. The color was very pale, lighter than Mountain Dew when held up to a nearby lamp. Plenty of carbonation graced the beer, although it seemed to express itself with unusually large bubbles instead of a melange of smaller ones.

The flavor seemed light for a beer of 5% strength, and lacked a lot of qualities that I expect and enjoy in this style. Make no mistake about it: this beer is brewed in the international pils style, not the Czech-German pils tradition.

There's a light malty pils flavor that seems to run the gamut of the tongue and then stop on a dime. I was impressed by this finesse and control. Many smashmouth brews have macho flavor experiences that could only dream of exacting such a precise blow.

On the other hand, the pils style ought to be well hopped. It should have a crisp flavor brought on by the bitterness of hops and elaborated by perfuming hops. This beer, however, has no detectable hopping. It pretty much only plays its generic malt flavor, except for the occasional hint of mushroom or cranberry as the beer warms. The aftertaste is really where the good flavors are. There's a complex malty aftertaste that makes you want to sip it, which is difficult given the beer's quaffability.

If the ingredients list is to be trusted, this beer might actually have been brewed in the Reinheitsgebot tradition. It lists only malt, cereals, and hops. Upon examing their website, however, I doubt that the beer meets that standard of purity. Practically all brewers that adhere to the Reinheitsgebot boast about it online. That San Miguel makes no mention of the issue is evidence enough for me.

For all of its faults, this beer is extremely well balanced. The taste and the aftertaste are like sitting on a swing on a nice summer day. The direct malty flavor is elaborated upon by the complex malty aftertaste.

I'm not so sure that I'd put money down to buy this beer myself, but it was an intereting and educational experience.

1 comment:

xenobiologista said...

Their Cerveza Negra was nice...sorry I couldn't bring that back since it was in glass bottles. On the other hand of the San Mig spectrum, there's Red Horse, which Prof. Sedlock says is what "farmers out in the provinces drink".