Somehow, in the mists of time, the true reason for Cinco de Mayo has morphed from a minor Mexican holiday – it celebrates a little-known Mexican victory over France in the state of Puebla — to a major American beer bash. That is not a complaint, merely an observation of the power of the American beer industry. But, what most beer lovers do not know is that many of the Mexican beers that feature red, white, and green color schemes, brightly smiling and beautiful Mexican women, and serene beach scenes, are really German styles brought to our Latin neighbor by Bavarian immigrants as far back as the middle 1500’s.
Fermented beverages are nothing new to Mexico; history provides plenty of examples of beverages being made from such familiar ingredients as maize (corn), agave, and even cocoa beans. But, the first evidence of beer comes from a short-lived brewery established by Alfonso de Herro in the 1940’s. This was well before the first breweries were established in either North America or Canada and establishes Mexico as the home of the first home to beer in the Americas.
From there the history of beer in Mexico jumps ahead to the 1800’s. The influx of Bavarian immigrants saw the beginnings of the beer industry and the birth of many of the familiar brands we now consider Mexican beer. Brews such as Corona, Negra Modelo, Dos Equis, and Sol all owe their existence to German brewers, living in Mexico.
Indeed, all are recognizable European beer styles that, for one reason or another, fell out of favor in Europe, but found great approval south of the U.S. border.
A Munich Dunkel Lager, the name simply means dark lager. This smooth and sessionable brown lager displays subtle caramel character, a sweet and malty backbone, and very faint hops character. This beer pairs very favorably with beef fajitas, enchiladas with a rich mole sauce, or other spicy Mexican fair.
Long before the most interesting man in the world was born, Dos Equis began its life called as a Vienna Lager called Siglo XX. It was brewed to welcome the 20th century by German-born Wilhelm Hasse at his Moctezuma Brewery. The Ambar version of this brew is the more traditional and most closely resembles the Vienna Lager it is based on. It has a sweet, toasted malt nose with a similar, mid-palate sweet flavor. As with most brews of this style, hops are barely present and provide very little character to the beer. As a companion to Mexican dishes, serve this with spicy salsa and chips or carnitas.
Cervaza Pacifico Clara
More commonly known as Pacífico, this Pilsner-style beer was first brewed in 1900 when three Germans opened the Cerveceria del Pacífico brewery in Mazatlán. Like its cousin Corona, Pacifico is characterized by slightly skunky aroma and flavor that is enhanced by the addition of a lime. Though it may not score highly on many beer websites like Beer Advocate, this is one of the beers locals are most fond of. Drink this one while sitting at the beach on the Mexican Riviera with a plump lime wedge and forget about the world for a while.
- Cinco Cervezas para Cinco de Mayo (foodservicewarehouse.com)