BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: Mexican beer versus craft-brewed, Mexican-style beer.


Back in the day when beer judging actually mattered to me, I was fond of saying that if one were to take Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and other aggregations of beer style definitions at face value, the most accurate and clever of the definitions thus far devised would be the ones describing Miller Lite and its emasculated ilk.

These definitions invariably were written as a litany of comical negations — this beer sample submitted for judging can’t have any evidence of malt and mustn’t have hop character … best examples are clean, crisp, odorless and entirely without flavor.

In short, all but the faintest traces of those qualities separating beer from carbonated water were to be removed almost entirely for the beer in question to be representative of style — with the margin for error always tilted toward fizzy wateriness.

This brings me to Mexican lagers, and before wading into the trend nouveau swamp, allow me to issue a reasonably honest disclaimer, in that I’ve waited a very long time to dip a quivering toe into this topic.

First it was necessary for me to complete my beer snob rehabilitation course. I’ll never be fully recovered, but I’m much better now. I remain determined to avoid liquid atrocities like Bud Light touching my lips, and yet there is peace in my tattered soul; if you want to subject yourself to the senselessness, it’s fine and dandy with me. Go right ahead and urinate a lot.

Live and let drink swill, I say, and no longer do I have any compelling interest in explaining the error of your ways — well, except today, as insinuated by the words I’m writing.

(My therapist kinda/sorta approves the preceding message.) 

For most of my adult life, the preceding antipathy to flavorless beer has applied as much to standard golden Mexican lagers as low-calorie American marketing exercises. There’s a caveat, however. Dos Equis (the Amber version) and Negra Modelo are different.

While not exuberantly flavorful, there’s enough Vienna or Munich malt in them to make the game worth the flame, especially with Mexican food — although Negra Modelo’s claim to be a Munich Dunkel seems contrived to me.

As it pertains to all those golden-colored Mexican lagers, it can’t really be asserted that they have much to do with Vienna anything; it’s more about corn and faint hints of grain and hops, eternally touted on the basis on thirst-quenching capability.

Again: fine. Have at them and exercise your kidneys. What I find exceedingly curious about all of this is the (fairly) new wave of craft-brewed, Mexican-style lagers.

(Further reading: What makes a Mexican-style lager?)

It puzzles me because of a very simple distinction: If a craft brewery succeeds in mimicking a Mexican golden lager, then it has produced a flavorless beer which usually will cost 25% more than the genuine article.

And, if the objective is replicating Negra Modelo — as Daredevil in Indianapolis has done quite tastily, the price differential might be closer to 30% more.

It isn’t my aim to stomp on creative exuberance, just to point out that mass market economies of scale are neither friendly nor available to craft brewers who conjure flavorlessness rather than flavor. Speaking only for myself, I’d just as soon pay less for the beer from Mexican — you can do as you please with no riposte from me.   

As a postscript, something not about Mexico at all.

Festivals: 10 of the UK’s most scenic beer festivals, by Tony Naylor

Beer and beauty combine at these brews with a view events at both rural and city locations across the country