Mexican beer is muy popular. Here’s why

by David Holub

Sure, Cinco de Mayo is here and you’re probably thinking there’s no better time to fiesta than now. And what better way than to get a twelver of Corona or Modelo, or if you want to do it Durango-style, as much Mexican Logger as you can fit in the back of your Toyota Tacoma.

While cracking open a Modelo Negra or Sol might be the perfect Cinco de Mayo beverage this side of tequila, Mexican beers have been surging in year-round popularity for years.

In 2017, five of the 10 top-selling U.S. beer imports were of Mexican brands, including the top two – Corona with $2.1 billion in sales (fifth place in all U.S. beer sales), and Modelo Especial, with $1.62 billion (seventh overall), according to Information Resources Inc., a Chicago market research company. In 2016, Mexican beer sales in the U.S. rose 13.7 percent, causing the world’s biggest macro-brewers to continue adding Mexican brands to their lineups. Last year, MillerCoors acquired the pale lager Sol from Heineken, which already had the more popular Tecate and Dos Equis in its portfolio.

While the surging popularity of Mexican beers can be attributed to a variety of factors – changing Hispanic demographics, a growing nationwide demand for lighter beers, and clever and targeted marketing campaigns (Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World, and Corona’s ubiquitous dialogue-free ads full of beaches and hammocks) – I’d like to argue a few other reasons why Mexican beers and their derivatives currently occupy my favorite section of the beer aisle.

1. It has just the right amount of flavorAnd by that, I mean “not a lot.” With most of the Mexican beers you can get around here, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything over-hopped, or with much hop flavor at all. In Mexico, where even the dark styles are relatively light and refreshing, beers tend to be sweeter, grainier, and less bitter. It seems like an unspoken rule that every description of a Mexican beer include the word “crisp.” What does all this add up to? Easy drinking.

2. Mexican beer is the product of its food cultureThink about Mexican food: Spicy, bold flavors invite a beer that can not only cut through some of that spiciness, but doesn’t simultaneously overwhelm them with additional complex flavors. And being so light, one can easily integrate a Mexican lager into their six-item combination plate and not feel too full.

3. And a product of its climateEver feel like a tall, malty stout after mowing the lawn? Ever pound one spicy Belgian after another during a breezy summer corn hole tournament? Ever kick back on a river tube and reach into that trailing cooler for an Imperial red? Not only are Mexican beers typically low ABV for those extended sun sessions, but when it’s essentially summer all year, light, crisp, and refreshing is often the right choice.

4. You can buy macro-beer and not feel so ashamedShow up to a party with Budwesier or Miller Lite in a craft-centric town like Durango and you could be asked to leave. Come with some Hoegaarden or Harp and you might be labeled a Euro-snob. Occupy space in a cooler with Heineken or Beck’s and people will say, “Why not just bring some Modelo?” Why? Because everyone likes Mexican beer. That’s just the way it is.

David Holub


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