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Eat & Drink » Drink

Celebrate Cerveza

Mexican-style brews, from clara to obscura.



If you visit either of the restaurants I reviewed this week, you'll have to enjoy your meals sans beer as neither eatery offers alcohol. However, both places do offer takeout, and El Cabrito sells fully cooked carnitas and roasted goat meats to-go, sold by the pound at very reasonable prices. So, you might want to hit your local grocer or liquor store to stock up on some good Mexican brews and stage a fiesta at home. Here are some terrific Mexican and domestic Mexican-style brews to enjoy anywhere.

Certain "dark" beers are called obscura in Mexico. One great one, sadly, is only available around the Christmas holidays. But maybe that limited availability contributes to the appeal of Noche Buena. More readily available year-round is Bohemia Obscura. It's a bock-style beer that was developed originally by German immigrant brewers in Mexico.

German-style brewing is also well-represented in another excellent Mexican obscura: Negra Modelo. This creamy, slightly sweet (off-dry) beer is complex, with hints of Mexican chocolate or mole. It's not too dissimilar from a German altbier, and pairs well with pork, lamb, goat and beef dishes.

Mexico's modern beer industry began to develop thanks to an influx of German immigrants during the late 1800s, and from then through today, German brewing styles have greatly influenced Mexican beer making. That German influence can be credited for one of my favorite Mexican clear (clara) lagers: Bohemia Lager. It's a complex, German-style light lager that is aged longer than most Mexican beers. Bohemia has fragrant floral aromas and a somewhat nutty malt flavor.

The same gargantuan brewery that produces Negra Modelo—Grupo Modelo—also makes what has to be the most ubiquitous Mexican brew in this country: Corona Extra. Grupo Modelo, in turn, is owned by InBev, which also owns Budweiser. To be honest, I'm not a huge Corona crony. But, it certainly has its fans. It's the best-selling non-domestic beer in the United States, and the fifth most popular beer worldwide. The truth is, Corona is easier to find here than it is in Mexico, since the American consumer seems to like its inoffensive, light, non-bitter, crisp flavors. I must admit, there are few beers that go down better on a beach or a boat.

When I'm in the mood for a light, crisp beer similar to Corona Extra, my pick is Pacifico Clara. Also produced by Grupo Modelo and brewed in Mazatlán, Pacifico is a Mexican-style pilsner that's a little more meaty than Corona, as well as slightly hoppier—one of the better light lagers from Mexico.

In the U.S., Epic Brewing makes an enjoyable and refreshing session-style lager called Los Locos. It's a Mexican-style lager that has natural lime juice and a little sea salt added to balance hints of sweetness from corn adjuncts—sort of like a beer margarita that tastes great with nachos.

Another fun American beer with a sunny Mexico-influenced mind-set is Wasatch Jalapeño Cream Ale. The beer seems to come and go, depending upon the whims of Wasatch Brewery founder Greg Schirf. I absolutely love this unusual brew when I can find it. Imagine a Schoenling Little Kings Cream Ale that's been infused with fresh jalapeños. This brew is light and refreshing—not too spicy—but brimming with appealing vegetal jalapeño flavors. It's a wonderful summertime sipper.

The last domestic Mexican-style lager I recommend is Proper Brewing's Little Sister Cerveza. It's a unique seasonal lager made with malted blue corn and German Tettnanger hops, named in honor of brewers Liam and Rio Connelly's little sister's 21st birthday.