Corona. Pacifico. Dos Equis. You see these beer labels at every Cinco de Mayo party and behind the bar at almost every Mexican restaurant. They fall into a beer classification known as the Mexican-style lager, which is identified through its clear (often golden) color, smooth mouthfeel, and a crisp, sweet, grain-forward flavor profile. They’re generally refreshing and uncomplicated with a relatively low percentage of alcohol by volume.
Interestingly enough, what we call the Mexican-style lager actually originated in Germany and Austria. Known in the Old World as the Vienna-style lager, it was imported to Mexico by immigrants in the mid 19th century. Now the style is taking another geographic turn and is being re-interpreted by craft brewers in the United States.
Why would craft brewers north of the border turn to the Mexican-style lager for inspiration? After all, many of these craft breweries have made their names by creating bitter India pale ales, robust stouts, or intensely flavorful beers with uncommon, creative ingredients. With its simple recipe and one-note flavor, Mexican-style lagers would seem to be the antithesis to the movement. The cynical answer to “why,” would be money. The two leading imported beer brands in the United States for 2017 were Corona Extra and Modelo Especial, accounting for 38 percent of that category. It makes sense to go after a piece of that pie.
The answer you’d actually hear from many brewers themselves, however, is that they actually enjoy drinking beers like Tecate and wanted to create their own version of the style. Regardless of the reason, here are three craft Mexican-style lagers brewed in the good ol’ USA.
Available in cans, El Sully is only 4.8 percent ABV and perfectly suited for trips to the beach. It fits all of the classic Mexican-style lager tropes while managing to introduce a slightly more herbal flavor and brisk bite.
Another canned, low ABV option is Oskar Blues’ Beerito. Eschewing the expected golden hue for a deep amber, it reflects a more robust combination of malts and elicits notes of honey, toast and nuts.
Going all-in, Ska actually uses a yeast strain procured from an unidentified Mexico City brewery for its Mexican Logger. The use of Saaz hops elevates an otherwise faithful rendition of the style.
Whether it’s to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a day in the surf, a tasty taco or just to escape from summertime heat, Mexican-style lagers are the thirst quenching, refreshing beverage you crave. And thanks to locally-brewed options, you can support American craft brewers at the same time.
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