You hear a lot about Belgian- or German-style beers, but Mexican? Banded Horn Brewing Company’s Wicked Bueno “Mexican-style lager” is gunning for Corona with this one, though the other rivals of Tecate, Pacifico, Sol, Dos Equis and Modelo are also in the crosshairs. Wow. That’s a lot of NAFTA beer. Jeebus turned water into wine, but could He turn a Mexican-style lager into something drinkable? I’m not sure if any of the bearded fellows at Banded Horn Brewery have a divine parent, but they’ve worked some magic here.
Banded Horn is throwing corn into the grain bill for Wicked Bueno (“very good” for those who don’t speak New England/Spanish) to get that sweet lager flavor. However, adding corn means – let’s face it – it’s an adjunct lager. Yes, the A-word has become a foul curse among the craft brew faithful, but there’s a reason. The American Adjunct style generally refers to the macro-brew conglomerates (Bud, Miller, Coors) whose flagship pilsner-style lagers are brewed from a variety of grains. Barley is expensive, and when you brew 40 million barrels a year, it adds up. If you can cut your product with something cheaper, lower your costs, and expand your volume, you’ve just made even more profit. Just ask Tony Montana. It’s drug-dealing, not rocket science. Miller’s grain bill is amended with corn, whereas Budweiser uses somewhere in the neighborhood of 30% rice.
While most of the “Mexican” style lagers are classified as American Adjunct Lagers, several are actually Vienna lager styles, though with adjuncts added. As you can expect with these styles, they’re not looking for a big, bold, flavor, but rather something lighter and refreshing for warm temperatures. With your Mexican-style lagers, you’ll generally want a lime, not because of the LACK of flavor, but because of TOO MUCH flavor. Bad flavor. See, that nice clear glass bottle that Corona comes in does little to protect the beer, and it gets pretty lightstruck. That’s when UV rays degrade the hop molecules called isohumulones. They then bind with sulfur atoms, creating unpleasant “skunky” smells and flavors called esters. Lemon or lime wedges are used for the citric acid that covers up unpleasant esters in cheap beers. Funny how Corona’s marketing campaign seem to never show one of their beers too far from that all-important slice of green fruit. Time to find out how a Mexican-style lager from Maine (not from Mexico, ME, sadly) compares.
Mexican-style adjunct lager
At 4.3% abv, this is in session country.
Appearance: Pale yellow-green, light straw color, slightly hazy (unfiltered).
Nose: Corn. Then some cereal grain, and a grassy hop. Like freshly mowed grass however, not too sharp, very damp. The corn aroma is reminiscent of an unaged whiskey without the heat. There’s also a slight floral tinge, though likely the hop again. Grain and grass.
Taste: Oooh. Fresh corn on the cob. I can almost taste butter. This would be amazing paired with a salty dish. Light, refreshing, but flavorful. There’s a slight nibble of bitterness from the hop on the sides of the tongue, and a slight dryness.
Lady Friend: *Sniffs* “Smells like a lager.” *Sips* “…but it has flavor. It’s nice and grainy. Corn! Yes. Popcorn. This would go well with a nice seafood dinner. Fish tacos, perhaps?”
Es muy dilicioso.
You could drink this all day. Summer beer. Beach, boat, barbecue. It’s not a hop bomb (which can be a struggle on a hot afternoon), but a sweet corn elixir with just enough grain and grassy hop to give it a dry finish, and prevent an overly sweet brew. Forget the lime, you won’t need it. This is Corona, Maine style.