Let's face it, Mexico isn't exactly a major player in the current craft beer revolution. But that doesn't mean that its long tradition of easy-drinking, European-style lagers is something to be overlooked. Sure, the cerveza market is just as consolidated and macro-dominated as the United States' was in the 1970s, but even among the brews that make it up here, there are a few that stand out as more deserving than the rest.
So when faced with the Oktoberfest-of-Mexican-beer that is Cinco (or should we say Drinko?) de Mayo, arm yourself with our top 5 beers we think you should get down with before the tequila drops you to the floor. Turn the page.
Victoria is the perfect step up from all the similar-tasting light Mexican lagers made by Grupo Modelo (Mexico's largest brewery) — think Tecate, Corona, Modelo Especial, Pacifico. Like those in the cerveza clara style, Victoria remains crisp and refreshing, but true to its more amber color (the beer is technically a Vienna lager), it has a little bit of sweetness, too. The low 4% ABV makes it a great choice for sessioning, too. (Editor's note: Sessioning? A lovely beer geek word for getting slowly but surely fucked up.)
4. Corona Familiar:
This only-in-large-amber-bottles version of Corona Extra tastes so much better than its smaller sibling that it has sparked debates as to whether it's a different recipe altogether. But according to the brewery's website (and Familiar's bottlecap, which carries the “Corona Extra” logo), Corona Familiar is merely the company's designation for the 32-oz. size of regular Corona — which most likely has more flavor due to the fact that its dark-colored container protects the beer from skunky nastiness that its smaller, clear-glass counterparts do not.
3. Dos Equis Amber:
We've always found it a little hard to believe that “The Most Interesting Man in the World” would choose the light and limp-flavored Dos Equis' Special Lager for his occasional post-cliff-jumping beer. The whole campaign would be way more plausible if he preferred to drink Dos Equis Amber, the brand's other year-round beer. A wonderfully sessionable Vienna-style lager, this brown-bottled Dos Equis Amber is great for fans of both Sam Adams' Boston Lager and Newcastle's Brown Ale.
2. Negra Modelo:
Negra Modelo is the best-selling dark beer in Mexico and it's easy to see why. Instead of the Mexican Vienna-style lagers that are just a step up in color and flavor from the claras, Negra Modelo is an even darker, more delicious, German-style dunkel. The body is still light enough to not weigh you down, but the caramel notes and hint of bitter chocolate keep things interesting. If you need to work your way into these flavors, Negra's sister beers — Modelo Especial and Modelo Light — are great places to start.
And for No. 1…
Unlike many light Mexican lagers that are brewed so wimpy they'd make better-flavored water than beer, Bohemia actually does justice to the ingredients that created it. The malt is there — in the aroma, in the body and on the palette — as well as the hops, which add some spice and tease with a light bitterness. For a light macro beer from any country, Bohemia is good. But even more interesting are the adventurous variations brewed under its label, such as Bohemia Weizen and Bohemia Chocolate Stout.