Behind the Rise of Mexican- style Lagers | Wine Enthusiast
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Behind the Rise of Mexican- style Lagers

While Mexico is best known for spirits like Tequila and mezcal, it also has a deep brewing history. Since the pre-Columbian era, peoples from central Mexico to northern Costa Rica have fermented alcohol like corn beer, but that’s just the beginning.

After Napolean III endeavored to install Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph Habsburg of Austria as Mexico’s emperor in 1864, thousands of Austrians moved to Mexico. Naturally, they brought their beer recipes with them. While Maximilian’s reign was tumultuous and lasted just three years or so, the Austro-Mexican brewing tradition continued.

In the late 1800s, a brewer named Santiago Graf began importing the hops and malt necessary to brew Vienna-style lager. But he added an inexpensive and abundant local ingredient: corn. This alteration lightened the beer’s body and imparted a touch of sweetness. This is how the style now known as “Mexican lager” was born.

Today, while Vienna lagers are no longer as popular in Austria, their Mexican and Central American descendants have become a big hit with craft brewers in the U.S. With balanced, malt-forward taste, medium bitterness and generally low in alcohol, Mexican lagers are a perfect complement to late summer cookouts.

Whether you’re in charge of the grill or focused on beating your neighbors at croquet, here are some American takes on Mexican-style lagers to fuel the fun.

Oskar Blues Beerito Mexican Lager

Made in conjunction with an international array of barley growers and maltsters that include Colorado-based Troubadour Maltings, Beerito has put a unique spin on Mexican-style lagers.

“The challenge in creating this beer was creating layers of complexities, rather than an abundance of big flavor,” says Tim Matthews, head of brewing operations at Oskar Blues. At 4% alcohol by volume (abv), Beerito is an easy drinker.

AleSmith Sublime Mexican Lager

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of reggae-punk band Sublime’s watershed debut album, “40oz. to Freedom,” the musicians collaborated with San Diego’s AleSmith on a new brew. “When you think [of] musical pioneers Sublime, you think sun, surf, good vibes and mashup of styles,” says Peter Zien, owner/CEO of AleSmith. “We channeled all that and put summertime in a sixer.”

The result? A laid-back easy drinker, ideal for a relaxing Saturday afternoon.

Ska Brewing Mexican Logger Mexican Style Lager

Based in Durango, Colorado, Ska launched its Mexican Logger as one of the first U.S.-made Mexican-style lagers. More than just a clever name, the beer won silver and bronze medals in 2015 and 2016 respectively, in the American-Style or International-Style Pilsener category at the Great American Beer Festival.

Anchor Brewing Los Gigantes Mexican Style Lager

Baseball and beer are a time-honored pairing. Anchor Brewing teamed up with the San Francisco Giants to create a grand slam of a Mexican lager. According to Anchor, the brew is “inspired by the vibrancy and diversity of the city.” It’s made lightly malty and easy to drink, so you can keep sipping if your game goes extra innings.

21st Amendment El Sully Mexican Style Lager

Inspired by his love of Mexican-style beers, Shaun O’Sullivan, 21st Amendment’s co-founder/brewmaster, created a lager named after his alter ego. El Sully is a nod to Sullivan’s youth in Southern California. “We all love IPAs and other full-flavored and complex beers, but sometimes you need an antidote,” says co-founder Nico Freccia.

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