Today, millions of Americans will celebrate Cinco de Mayo the best way they know how: by consuming lots and lots of Mexican beer. (We’re sure the ghosts of the Mexican army soldiers who beat the pantalones off the French during the Battle of Puebla in 1862 would be very proud.)
But your brew of choice on this alcoholiday need not be a lightstruck bottle of lager jazzed up with a sad lime slice. Thanks to the skyrocketing popularity of imported Mexican beer, more small American brewers are trying their hands at “Mexican-style lagers.” Here are three examples, all new this year, that make us want to say ¡Salud!
Sun King Pachanga
Pachanga is Spanish for party, and this pale lager tastes like you’re at one, hanging around the chip station. Tortilla chips greet the tongue with each sip, while green, herbal hops deliver a dusting of oregano, peppercorns and parsley. At 4.2% ABV, it’s as crisp and flaw-free as any mass-produced lager, but it’s also clearly an all-malt beer. Sometimes, simplicity can be just what a party needs. Just like tortilla chips.
Lakefront El Wisco
Saaz and Mt. Hood hop additions give the aroma on this brilliantly clear, bullion-hued lager the character of dried tarragon, but the focus is trained on malts that come across like sweet dough and baguette crust. A subtle but pleasant toastiness carries the tongue through flavors of saltine crackers and cracked pepper before the slightly sweet swallow, while woody bitterness latches to the tongue between sips. Though just 4.1% ABV, this is the most substantial of these three beers.
Full Sail Sesión Cerveza
Existing somewhere between Full Sail’s malt-focused Session lager and its slightly more bitter Session Pilsner, Sesión sports a sudsy head of pure white with better staying power than any Mexican lager we’ve met. Above those bubbles, oysters crackers and cilantro bounce; sips reveal lemon pith shifting into dried grass and more cilantro. Dry white bread and a soft husky grain character emerge at the swallow, while subtle dried corn floats above the palate between sips.