Mexican beer (cerveza) gets a bad rap. That’s due, I think, to the ubiquity of Corona, the light Mexican brew in the transparent bottle that supplanted Heineken a few years ago as the biggest selling imported beer in the U.S. But there’s a lot more to Mexican beer than just Corona, from ultralight Corona clones like Sol to full-bodied south-of-the-border brews such as Negra Modelo.
There are occasions when nothing but a Mexican beer will do, such as when Mexican food is being consumed. There’s simply no better food and beverage pairing than, say, grilled-fish tacos and a bottle of Pacifico, a light-bodied lager with a good balance of yeast, hops and malt. Light Mexican lagers like Pacifico, Sol, Corona or Chihuahua are fresh tasting, not too heavy on the palate and served ice cold to provide an antidote to hot and spicy foods and salsas. They are perfect to drink along with nachos, flautas and fajitas.
Among beer snobs, Corona does get a bad rap. True, it is the Budweiser of Mexico. But on a hot, humid day at the beach in Puerto Escondido, there’s nothing more refreshing. And if Corona is Mexico’s Budweiser, then Sol is the Pabst Blue Ribbon of Mexico. Like Corona, it’s great on a hot day with a wedge of lime.
In my travels in Mexico, I’ve noticed that the natives consume much more Tecate than Corona, which is the favorite of tourists. To me, Tecate tastes a bit too thin and a bit too sweet. But its popularity can be accounted for, in part I think, because it comes in cans, requiring no bottle deposit, which tends to be hefty in Mexico. Don’t spare the lime when drinking this stuff.
One of my favorite Mexican brews is Bohemia, a German-style light lager. Bohemia comes in a fat little brown bottle with a gold label and is aged longer than most Mexican beers. It has a nice floral aroma and a somewhat nutty malt flavor, not to mention 5 percent alcohol. I like it especially with meat dishes such as bistec Mexicana and pork carnitas. Another good candidate for meat dishes, although a bit thinner than Bohemia, is Dos Equis XX Special Lager. A little easier to locate is the popular Dos Equis Amber, which is a bit malty and reminiscent of a Vienna lager. And if you can find it, also try Noche Buena from Mexico’s Cerveceria Moctezuma. It’s another fuller-bodied lager—not at all unlike a Munich Bock beer—that pairs nicely with grilled meats.
In my opinion, the most interesting and flavorful beer produced in Mexico is Negra Modelo, from the Modelo brewery that also makes Corona. The two beers couldn’t be more different. Negra Modelo is a complex beer (akin to an Altbier), creamy and somewhat sweet with hints of chocolate. That subtle chocolate flavor makes it a slam-dunk to drink with rich Oaxacan mole dishes, as well as with beef, lamb and pork dishes. A bit on the heavy side, it’s also a good Mexican beer to enjoy after dinner.
Finally, for a south-of-the-border brew that is distinctly un-Mexican, try to track down a bottle of Casta Morena. It’s a fruity, plum-flavored Mexican microbrew in the style of Scottish Ale. How did Scottish Ale make its way to Mexico? Beats me. But if you’re looking for the antithesis of Corona—a zesty, malt bomb of a beer—get your mitts on some Casta Morena. Â¡Salud!