It's that time of year again, Cinco de Mayo! How many of you think we are celebrating Mexican Independence Day? Wrong, Mexican Independence Day is September 16. So what are we celebrating anyway. On the 5th of May in 1862, a greatly outnumbered and very ill-equipped Mexican army defeated the French invasion that would expand Napoleon III's empire. I'll drink to that!!
Here is my essential Cinco de Mayo guide to Mexican Beers:
- Corona Extra- is the largest selling imported beer in the U.S. According to Beverage Marketing Corporation figures, Corona imported more beer than the next five Mexican competitors combined. Say what you will, the beer is popular enough that the big boys, Miller and Anheuser Busch (aka AB/InBev) both came out with citrus-and-salt flavored beers namely Miller Chill and Bud Light Lime. Try to get this beer in draft or a can to get a better idea of what it should taste like before the sunlight "skunked" the beer's hop oils. Overall it is a refreshing beer with lots of drinkability on a hot summer day.
- Bohemia - is the oldest and most traditional pilsner in Mexico. It has much more hop presence and a fuller mouthfeel. It is aged longer than most Mexican imports and is probably the most highly awarded beer from Mexico. Beer Advocate.com gives the beer nice reviews (nice compared to Corona Extra) so I'd say it is certainly worth a try. They have a dark version that I enjoy called "Bohemia Obscura" which is in the Vienna Lager style category. Overall a really nice beer, not the most complex beer in the world, but good by Mexican import standards.
- Dos Equis - was first brewed in Mexico by the German brewer Wilhelm Hasse in 1897. The original version is the Dos Equis Ambar, another Vienna Style dark lager. It is currently the best selling imported dark beer in America. The Dos Equis Special Lager is very similar to Corona, in that it is made with huge amounts of adjuncts such as corn which lightens up the flavors while keeping the alcohol level high. The current marketing campaign is trying to make the beer popular with the more affluent beer drinker. It, like most Mexican lagers, is a refreshing beer to drink on a hot summer day.
- Tecate - is one of the more popular brands in Mexico due to its use of sports advertising. It was the first beer to be canned in Mexico. Flavors are typical of all Mexican lagers and I suggest buying it in a can if you can find it.
- Modelo Especial - is a better version of the typical Mexican adjunct lager. It actually has some hop presence, a malty backbone and mouthfeel that masks the adjuncts (corn) somewhat. The dark version, Negra Modelo, is a nice beer, which Beer Advocate classifies as a Munich Dunkel Lager. It is full of malty grain flavors with just enough hops to balance. Overall a very nice beer on it's own. Don't put a lime in this one, pour it in a glass and savor the malty aroma and subtle bitterness in the finish. It is not as "drinkable" as the Especial, but if you are looking for more flavor then this is a good choice.
These are not all the Mexican beers available, but you can get a good idea of what the rest taste like by drinking one light and one dark. As far as adding lime to your beer, I'd say you probably need it with some of these beers. It covers up the minerality in the flavor and a little salt goes a long way in mellowing out the carbonic bite as well. For traditions sake, try one of these Mexican imports today while eating some of Lafayette's great Mexican food, and remember to drink responsibly.
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