Mexican-Style Lagers: Mas por Menos
Mexican imports, and their stylistic offspring, are kinda huge right now. Brewbound recently reported that IRI data showed Mexican imports to the U.S. up 11 percent year-to-date over the first third of 2017. MillerCoors (the U.S. arm of Molson Coors), which didn’t previously have a major Mexican beer brand to play ball with, just signed a 10-year agreement in June to handle the Mexican brand Sol within the U.S. market, taking over for Heineken USA (which already has Dos Equis and Tecate to oversee). Expect a major marketing rollout soon.
In the U.S., we’re seeing an increasing number of breweries jumping on board. Which could arguably be said about just about anything at the moment, with 5,000-plus breweries angling for attention—but especially for Mexican-style lagers. Following in the footsteps of classic options like Corona (on the pale side) and Negra Modelo (on the amber end), this stylistic turf is most frequently characterized by a lighter, crisp and easy-drinking body, often focused on a toasty or bready, streamlined maltiness, depending upon whether pale or amber. Many versions use flaked corn to lighten the mouthfeel. And the vast majority avoid any significant hopping.
Perhaps as often as anything else, it’s about capturing that vibe of drinking a Mexican lager.
Most of these reviewed are readily engaging beers, and palatable for a much wider audience than what we’re often tasting through. I love pale-lager styles like this that depend so heavily on a great feel, on getting that lighter body without whittling away all the good things. These are not easy beers to brew, there’s very little space to hide flaws, and when you find a brewer making great Mexican-style lager—be sure to try their other stuff. The best examples for me this round were the ones that kept the lean mouthfeel while adding just a little extra oomph.
Note: These were tasted sans lime, but I firmly encourage pragmatic drinking. Lime away.
More Noteworthy Releases: Chuckanut Brewery’s Mexican Style Lager, crafted with local Skagit Valley malt, returned from June through August. Pelican Brewing Co.’s Pelicano Extra! includes flaked corn and Tettnanger hops and returned to bottles in June. And this fall in San Diego, Coronado Brewing ‘s ex-brewmaster Ryan Brooks will open SouthNorte Beer Co., a border-culture-influenced brewery bridging SoCal and Northern Mexico.