There’s nothing wrong with an endless parade of Negra Modelo, Bohemia and Tecate on Cinco de Mayo. But if you’d rather sip more flavorful suds with your guac and tacos, here are some Mexican lager-inspired craft brews that will elevate your fiesta.
21st Amendment Brewing — El Sully
This light and spritzy lager from the Bay Area’s 21st Amendment nails the flavor profile common to the imported cervezas. El Sully is pale, brilliantly clear and balances a faint apple aroma with a corn-sweetness that’s supported by more hoppy bitterness than you’ll find in traditional Mexican lagers. At just under 5% alcohol, these are the cans to reach for when you want to feel like you’re drinking the real-deal from Mexico but you don’t want to lose your craft beer cred. El Sully is available in six-packs and in the brewery’s new variety 12-pack (which also feature its Back in Black IPA, Brew Free or Die IPA, and fan-favorite Hell or High Watermelon wheat beer).
Oskar Blues Brewing — Beerito
The new offering from Colorado’s Oskar Blues is also a light-bodied take on the Mexican lager, but this version is a little lower in alcohol (only 4%) and a little richer in malt flavor. Tinged amber, Beerito follows the mild nutty and toasty malt flavor with a zippy hop bitterness. The finish is crisp and the lager is a perfect accompaniment to a plate of nachos or some smoky chicken tinga tacos. You can find it in six-packs of 12-ounce cans, but there’s no word on if Beerito will be available in the brewery’s popular 19-ounce “stovepipe” extra-tall cans.
Ska Brewing — Mexican Logger
Most Mexican lagers have a similar flavor — they're a little sweet, very light and just bitter enough to balance. Mexican Logger hews closer to the old-world pilsner style, with a more assertive hop character and dryer finish. It’s a craft take on the popular Bohemia import brand, and while Mexican Logger is still light and refreshing, the distinctly floral and zesty presence of Saaz hops is unmistakable. It's hoppy without being bitter, and the cans from Colorado’s Ska Brewing combine the effortless drinkability of the standard Mexican imports with a volume of flavor craft beer fans expect.
The Bruery — Or Xata
If you’re looking for something other than a typical Mexican lager for your Cinco celebrations but still want a brew in the spirit of the holiday, try this curious mash-up from Orange County’s the Bruery that re-creates horchata (the spiced rice milk treat ubiquitous in Southern California) in beer-form. Or Xata is a blond ale brewed with rice that gets liberally dosed with cinnamon and vanilla to mirror the flavors of the milky rice-drink you see churning away in taquerias around town. Lactose is added to create a creamy body, and the aroma of Or Xata will instantly take you back to SoCal summers sipping on a frothy cup of horchata. At 7% alcohol, it certainly packs more of a punch than the real stuff, but it's capable of standing up to all manner of Mexican foods. And It’s especially good with flan.
Look for these four beers at your local Whole Foods Market | Sunset Beer Co.,1498 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (213) 481-2337, www.sunsetbeercompany.com | Select Beer Store, 1613 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach (310) 540-1221, www.selectbeerstore.com | Cap N Cork Market, Los Feliz 1674 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles (323) 665-7880.