David vs. Goliath: A Face-Off Between Katipunan Craft Ales and San Miguel Beer

December 29, 2018

Drinking beer in the Philippines is practically a national past time. Some of us only drink occasionally, others indulge every Friday, and we all have that one friend who will use any excuse to consume his weight in beer at least a couple of times a week.

Our choices, though, have been limited. While there are a number of both local and international brands available, San Miguel still dominates the market. It leaves us with little variety when it comes to taste and style.

To fill this void in the local beer market, a counter-culture movement of home and craft brewers has been steadily growing, successfully making their own beers to suit just about anyone’s unique preferences. They can be found all over the country, providing their fellow enthusiasts with different styles and flavors of beer. In Manila, one such craft beer brewer has taken the next step, introducing their beer to the local commercial market.

katipunan brewery

Meet Katipunan Craft Ales. Formed by a group of friends who are passionate about beer, the brewery is trying to ferment a revolution to challenge our perceptions on what beer should be.

Even though they’ve only been commercially brewing for a couple of years, they have found much goodwill and success among the drinking circles of Manila, as well as the rest of the country. They make a few different brews, but it is their flagship product that best embodies their brewing philosophy: ale that represents the revolutionary spirit of the Filipino.

katipunan IPA pic

Today we pit this rebel against a symbol of our Spanish conquerors, San Miguel Beer. Will it be a worthy face-off? Find out below.

The Beer

As we’ve established before, beer holds a special place in my heart. It’s easy to see why I was so excited to give this brew a try.

Katipunan Craft’s signature brew is called the Indio Pale Ale, a nod to the India Pale Ale. It is a classic type of ale that is distinguished by a distinct hoppy, or bitter taste.

IPA at skinny mikes

Pouring the beer into a glass shows a deep golden, almost brown, color. You can immediately smell its fruity and faintly hoppy aroma. You’ll also see a few particles floating around, but this is perfectly safe and normal. They’re just leftover products from the fermentation.

The taste is very hoppy. It’s far more bitter than what the local large breweries offer, but it is not an unpleasant kind of bitterness. In fact, it helps to better round out the flavor of the beer. You can also taste tangy, fruity notes with some slight malty sweetness.

This is a beer that goes well with food. I had a burger and fries with it, and the food made the drinking experience all the more enjoyable. The flavors balance well, and the fruity notes became much more distinct.

It’s a different enough experience that you’ll be curious and eager to try it again.

face off

We pitted the Indio Pale Ale against San Miguel’s Super Dry, a beer that boasts a character all its own.

The Face-Off

Beer Face Off

The Verdict

Super Dry skinny mikes

So, will Katipunan Craft Ales ever knock San Miguel Beer from its throne? Probably not. Indio Pale Ale is priced at PHP 150 (that’s straight from the source, it’d be more expensive from resellers). That’s more than thrice the cost of the most expensive brew that San Miguel offers.

While it’ll never reach the financial success of SMB, Katipunan Craft Ales has already succeeded in sparking the revolution it initially sought. Yes, indeed. They’ve helped change how many Filipinos think and feel about beer. Nowadays, more and more people no longer see beer as something you simply gulp down, making them actually take the time to savor and appreciate the flavor of the beer.

The difference in flavor between a well-made craft beer and something you bought from  7/11 is night and day. Drinking one after the other only makes it easier to taste the blandness in most big-name beers.

For this face-off, Indio Pale Ale has the upper hand when it comes to being full-flavored and well-balanced. Though we don”t see it toppling San Miguel as a regularly consumed beer, the ale is an excellent choice if you”re looking for a great tasting beer, one that would go well with a nice meal.

The Indio Pale Ale is a great drink, one that demands your attention. It is, perhaps, what makes it all the more different from your usual bottle.


Have you tried the Indio Pale Ale or other craft beers? Have you tried brewing your own beer at home? Let us know in the comments!


 Visit Katipunan Craft Ales on Facebook to know more about them and where to buy their beer.

Image Sources: Katipunan Craft Ales | Katipunan Craft Ales |  | San Miguel Brewery

Banner Image Source: Katipunan Craft Ales

Nico Goco Nico Goco

Nico is an engineer with a fondness for food, drink, and cooking. This is in serious conflict with his desire to lose weight. Writing is his outlet to make sure the right side of his brain still works. When free, he likes to read, travel, and nurture a dozen different hobbies. He also believes that the perfect fried chicken is the cure to anything.

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56 comments in this post SHOW

56 responses to “David vs. Goliath: A Face-Off Between Katipunan Craft Ales and San Miguel Beer”

  1. hylander says:

    labo ah, so alin ba ang panalo sa dalawa?

    • Nico Goco says:

      As stated, if it’s a matter of taste, the Indio Pale Ale has San Miguel’s number. It really makes the smb brew taste bland. Pero economically speaking, SMB still dominates.

      The face-off is meant really to contrast the two, to highlight what a craft beer is vs. a macro beer, rather than to put one beer over the other. But, I do see your point.

      So for me, if you’re looking for a really good tasting beer to go well with a meal, go for the craft beer. But there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the SMB products on a regular basis. 🙂

      • hylander says:

        Thanks Nico, will give it a try soon

      • Anton Dizon says:

        I’ve sampled beers from all over the world and in my humble opinion, I think San Miguel’s Pale Pilsen and Super Dry can hold their own in their respective categories. I’ve even encountered expats from countries famous for their beers who really like the Pale Pilsen. But San Mig Light? Ughhh, yuck. But even that’s better than a certain self-proclaimed “King of Beers.” =D

        • Nico Goco says:

          My personal take is that SMB products work extremely well in the local environment, the climate, our food, and even in our culture. It can be consumed easily, has a fair enough taste, and is really really good on a hot and humid day. I personally drink a regular amount of pale pilsen. And if we compare it to other macro brews like Coors and Bud, I’d have to say our beer just has more flavor. 🙂 There’s nothing bad I can say about SMB (except the Zero).

          • Anton Dizon says:

            I also drink a lot of Pale and Super Dry; fridge usually has some in stock. I’d quickly go broke if I drank my favorite Belgian beers all the time hehe

          • Nico Goco says:

            I know exactly how you feel. I hope SMB pale never changes. Affordable, good taste, and can be found anywhere.

  2. Adrian De Leon says:

    I like Katipunan Craft, but I’ll go broke if I intend to get regularly drunk on it. Haha. But when you need to get drunk quickly and for minimal damage, nothing beats Red Horse. 🙂

    • Nico Goco says:

      As long as it’s a very cold red horse! I had a great beer last time I was in Draft. It clocked in at almost 7% alcohol but the taste was phenomenal!

    • My German and Belgian friends think that our local Red Horse is the bee’s knees. I can never equate Red Horse to pleasure, though. What comes to mind is heavy projectile upchucking the morning after.

      • Adrian De Leon says:

        I don’t think anyone drinks Red Horse for the taste, hahaha! It’s just what you buy when you need to get drunk fast and for cheap. Best friend ng mga studyanteng tomador, lol.

      • Nico Goco says:

        If it’s real cold, it can be very sweet since there’s a more malt or sugar in the process of making a strong lager here (which is similar to the style of malt liquors in the US.) @adrian_de_leon:disqus is right though, I spent a large part of my college days drinking red horse.

        Good times.

      • Sandra Okawa says:

        good to hear that foreigners like our strong beer! Probably because, compared to their beer blend, ours are still much milder.

  3. carina says:

    where can we get craft beers?

    • Nico Goco says:

      there are a lot of stores selling craft beers in manila. 🙂 i think Global Beer Exchange over at Magallanes is your best bet. They also have listings of places that serve craft beer over at their facebook site. Gastropubs like Draft also have craft beer for sale.

      Check out Katipunan Craft Ale’s facebook site to get a list where to buy their beer too.

  4. Matt says:

    must try this, maybe after payday

  5. Randy Rodriguez says:

    It is all about marketing. They are still selling water in a diffrent package. Perception is reality. Pinoys should learn how to make fresh beer.

    • Nico Goco says:

      We are 🙂 the Katipunan Craft Beer is just one of the many craft beers we’re seeing locally. And there’s a healthy home brewing culture growing across the country.

  6. Malu says:

    Katipunan Craft Ale’s Indio Pale Ale isn’t expensive at all considering the quality of the beer and the ingredients used. I’d say, it’s a class of its own 🙂

  7. Randy Rodriguez says:

    P150 is high-end … very end. What quality? Water quality? Or Overhead costs quality? like payroll, rental (or profit)… I can understand Corona beer to be high end – but local beer? It is all marketing. Priced high so perception will be higher ‘quality’. It is still 90+% water with alcohol content and a fancy paper label.

    • Lars Roxas says:

      I think very very very very very very very very very very very very very few people will label Corona as a high-end beer. It’s, after all, a mass market brand that’s the 4th in the world. Para sa akin, hindi naman pagkat imported mas magaling na agad. Just my 2 cents. 🙂

      • Randy Rodriguez says:

        I agree. I would rather buy a fair priced good red wine and enjoy it.

        • RicoRambo says:

          Anung I agree ka diyan, eh opposite ung sinabi niya na sinabi mo. High ka bro?

          • Randy Rodriguez says:

            High-end, Mid-range and low-end refer on brand positioning and pricing strategy that may or may not be related to quality. Ok na ba? Sige isa pa. If you read carefully (bago ka sumabak) what I have written above. I wrote ” … I can understand” . I did not mention that “I agreed”. Ano? high pa ba o low na? o hot ka na? When a person said she understands you, she does not mean she agrees (pwede kasi basted ka). Read above Katrina’s comment – meron siyang brain.

          • RicoRambo says:

            HAHAHAHA ah talagang di ka marunong magbasa pala. “I did not mention I agreed” eh first line nung reply mo “I agree.” HAHAHAHAHHA.

            Un pala ang problema kaya di mo maintindihan di ka marunong mag basa.

      • Carl Tomacruz says:

        Woe to anyone who labels Corona, Budweiser, Coors, and Heineken as “high-end”. SMB’s Cerveza Negra and Premium are better choices than those highly-marketed swill.

        • Jerry says:

          Adjuncts is just anything with starch that enzymes can break down as food for the yeast SMB used to use broken rice until it became cheaper to use something else like cassava starch.
          But I think SMB premium doesn’t use adjunct. Malt is expensive these day due to demand and supply

    • hohohoho says:

      corona? high end? clearly you must be joking. it’s considered mid-tier at best, and there are a lot of beer drinkers that consider it swill. The fact that you consider it high end, now that’s a great marketing ploy at work.

      You should study how beer is actually made. That conversion from just water and grains, to a drink that’s flavorful AND has alcohol, with just yeast, reflects just how much a drink is worth.

      Price-wise, a craft beer does not have economics of scale on its side, so it will be more expensive. Maybe you should brush up on your facts, and give the craft beers a try.

      Or you can stay perfectly happy with your high end Corona. But if you’ll open your mind, and try to change your perceptions, you’ll definitely be in for a treat when you try out the real good stuff. After all, you did challenge Pinoys to brew fresh beer, right? For those that do, they’ll show you both the cost of their brew and its actual worth when it comes to quality.

      • Randy Rodriguez says:

        Fresh beer is not sold in bottles … kaya nga tawag “fresh”. Normally sold in kegs and put in a glass through a dispenser. See my comment below to a gentleman named ricorambo.

    • Nico Goco says:

      Compared to Corona, Indio Pale ale is definitely better. That’s coming from my own humble opinion of course, but I’ve tried a lot of local and foreign beers (to the horror of my doctor), and I’d like to think I know the good stuff.

      I’d say the PHP 150 is reflective of the time and effort these craft brewers put into their work. It’s not the most expensive beer out in the market after all, and neither is it the best. But it is very good. And just because it’s local, doesn’t mean it can’t be high end now. I hope you can give the beer a try.

      Cheers!

    • Troll says:

      Sir, you just went full retart.

      • Randy Rodriguez says:

        Intelligent comment. Not surprised. You can believe what you want – I can say, at least marketing strategy of Katipunan is working – if you believe it as a consumer (and you are not an one of its investor annoyed with my comment … I hope).

        • Katrina says:

          I am speaking as someone who knows very little about beer, but knows a bit about (1) marketing, (2) finance, and (3) production costs. While pricing is indeed part of your overall marketing strategy, a high price isn’t always “all marketing,” as you put it. There are definitely some products that fall into that category (most designer perfumes, for instance), but small-scale, hand-crafted products usually don’t. It’s a double whammy for operations like Katipunan: they have high (and mostly fixed) costs because their production process is so labor intensive. That then constrains them to make such small batches of their product. They can’t speed up the process to make more, since that would compromise the quality of their product. In the end, they end up with a small number of bottles to share the costs of production.

          In this case, I actually think your “all marketing” comment would be more applicable to the mass-produced beers. Katipunan has (from my observation at least), relies mostly on word-of-mouth, social media and the goodwill of their small but loyal legion of fans. San Miguel, on the hand, spends millions on advertising, events, etc. to differentiate its product from its other products and from competitors’.

        • Katrina says:

          I am speaking as someone who knows very little about beer, but knows a bit about (1) marketing, (2) finance, and (3) production costs. While pricing is indeed part of your overall marketing strategy, a high price isn’t always “all marketing,” as you put it. There are definitely some products that fall into that category (most designer perfumes, for instance), but small-scale, hand-crafted products usually don’t. It’s a double whammy for operations like Katipunan: they have high (and mostly fixed) costs because their production process is so labor intensive. That then constrains them to make such small batches of their product. They can’t speed up the process to make more, since that would compromise the quality of their product. In the end, they end up with a small number of bottles to share the costs of production.

          In this case, I actually think your “all marketing” comment would be more applicable to the mass-produced beers. Katipunan has (from my observation at least), relies mostly on word-of-mouth, social media and the goodwill of their small but loyal legion of fans. San Miguel, on the hand, spends millions on advertising, events, etc. to differentiate its product from its other products and from competitors’.

    • You have to consider the “overhead costs” that you threw around haphazardly in your comment, man. Of course, craft beers will be priced higher than mainstream, mass-produced commercial beer because these small home brewers will in no way be able to reach the scale and the efficiency of the large industrial machines that Asia Brewery uses in its production. Brewing is a labor intensive process, so just because it is priced in the higher end of the sliding scale is not necessarily because it is marketed as a high-end beer. I believe the pricing is commensurate to the effort that goes into it.

      I’d gladly pay for a P150 homebrew because I’d like to try something new every now and then. Katipunan is actually quite good. It reminds me a lot of European ales that have very robust hoppy flavors. I believe that beer is an acquired taste, and so are microbrews. You simply get the one that suits your palate the best.

      I for one buy microbrews to support the hobbyists who are passionate about their craft beers. What’s a few hundred pesos if it means someone will get to sustain a livelihood out of something he or she truly loves? Sure, he will never be as big as a multinational corporation, but one thing these small time hobbyist brewers know is innovation. They come up with quirky offerings every now and then. You should try Katipunan. It’s quite…different.

      • Randy Rodriguez says:

        I have to call it as it is. “Haphazardly” – sorry it is my job – I am in finance so I know what I said. Unfortunately, I have worked with big brewers mentioned and audited APB. I hope these hobbyist with passion will lasts to be in the league. I definitely will try this beer but I have to drink this pricey “quality” beer at places like Cowboy Grill bar with live music to be comfortable with the price. All liquid beverages are making money because these are 90+% water. No wonder sago’t gulaman, iced water, bottled water … are everywhere because these are “tubong lugaw”. Goto? anyone.

        • RicoRambo says:

          HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

          teka di ako makahinga

          HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA

          Ocge tol, yang Cowboy Grill mo ang sukatan ng high end. Enjoy ka nalan gdiyan habang nakikinig ng Hotel California mula sa showband at kumakain ng Amurican Hamburjer

          HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    • Sandra Okawa says:

      You nailed it Randy! It’s all about creating perception and status quo. Geez…. Php150 for a bottle of beer!

  8. E. says:

    Craft beer is not high-end. You simply get what you pay for: fresh, natural ingredients, no chemical additives, superior (if not actual) flavor. In the words of Greg Koch of Stone Brewing, craft beer is not expensive. You’re just cheap.

    • Randy Rodriguez says:

      Craft beer is a fancy name. Again … intelligent marketing is working. Cheap? Do you know that the same factory are making same garments for Mark Spencer, Topshop, Mango … and Wallmart, Tesco and Primark. Same like one brewery is making beer for Heineken, tiger beer, foster beer, BGI beer. Marketing is perception.

      • Katrina says:

        The point is, though, craft beer in particular is NOT made in those industrial breweries. They are made in small, and usually home-based breweries, with nowhere near the scale, technology and automation of those beer factories. All these beers you mentioned are mass-produced beers (yes, they are foreign beers and would be more expensive than SMB), but NONE of them are actually craft beers. So you can’t really use that as a comparison.

        Also, your example of clothing brands doesn’t hold water. Even if things are made in the same factory, it’s not automatic that they should be priced the same. It doesn’t even mean that they COST the same. The materials could be different, the construction more complex. Poly-cotton blend versus 100% cotton, single stitched versus double-stitched. All those differences could still be produced within the same factory.

        • Randy Rodriguez says:

          The beer are good points … but the garment side is not. Garment is expensive on designing not necessarily on materials and definitely not in making or construction because these garments are produced by workers at minimum wage.

          • Katrina says:

            Ah, now, we get into something I know more about than I do about beer. 😉

            Materials can definitely increase your costs, and quite significantly, too. Obviously, silk is more expensive than polyester, organic cotton pricier than regular cotton. Your materials also impacts your production process. For instance you’d have more allowance for scrap if you were sewing PVC bags versus real leather ones (i.e. your process would have to be slower with the real thing, resulting in lower output). And again, certain brands take more care in the production process, have higher standards, even in the smallest details, like the sewing of a button. And all those standards can be met, high or low, in one plant. Yes, it’s all the same wage rate. But if, in the same amount of time, production line #1 produces a smaller number of blouses because, say, they double stitch the seams versus line #2 that produces faster because they only single stitch, then the cost of labor per blouse will still be higher for line #1.

          • Randy Rodriguez says:

            Not as much compared to selling price. At the end of the day, workers are only paid basic wage. Stitching is done in just seconds. Bakit naging popular ang saipan dati? I hope garment industry will be revived in the philippines with special preferences like no PITax for workers and salary not as high as regulated basic wage so we can compete with countries like Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and protected from Labor Union Groups because these are money coming from overseas -like tourism or OFW money without people going abroad to earn money – labor intensive so can employ a lot of people, no need ‘high education” and can help a lot of families.

  9. Gina dos Santos says:

    The Beer vs. Beer chart in this article looks horrendous!!! What did you use, MS Paint?! You guys should learn how to consolidate your graphics. I expect better from Pepper.PH.

  10. akimdintern says:

    I have been a regular drinker of beer just recently. I mostly drink craft beer but i have also drank my fair share of “mass-production” beers. It boils down to a matter of taste preference. I love to drink my smb pilsen ice cold, especially when it’s hot. However, the taste, the texture, the aroma, the appearance of craft beer, makes it much much more different.

    In short, the experience of drinking it, which is the reason that I keep on drinking more. Every bottle for me has never been the same.

    IMHO, you do not drink this beer if you want to get wasted, or drink beer ice cold.

  11. […] has done an excellent job of representing the heritage of Negros, and makes a great addition to the other craft brews we have going around. As they declare on their bottles, the drink is one of friendship, fun, and […]

  12. Geraldine says:

    We loved Katipunan so much we decided to film and tell their story. Their story is very inspiring and we hope craft beer in Philippines will continue to grow. Watch the video to see how they got started and where they are now. Cheers!

    https://vimeo.com/93948728

  13. […] to craft beers, many small breweries are now taking all our attention. There’s Craftpoint, Katipunan, Fat Pauly’s, Bogs Brew, and Xavier Beer just to name a few, all with their own signature […]

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