Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Back when Aly and I first started Beard + Bloom, I spent a great deal of time writing down long lists of blogs I could do about beer. I shared a lot of plans with those close to me and felt them out on whether any of the ideas were great. Several of them were put on the back burner until I had the time, or in this case guts, to finally attempt them. Among one of my favorite ideas was to do a series in my Brew Reviews where I drink some of the cheapest beer I could find and write reviews about which brews provide you recommendations for the most bang for you buck.
I had initially planned to start with all of the many soda flavored malt beverages out on the market and then transition into things like Steel Reserve, Joose, Magnum, Old English, and the myriad of Mike’s Hard flavors before arriving at the standard American domestics. Instead, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to start this series today by trying some of the cheapest Mexican beers I could find and doing a miniature version of my Brew Reviews that I’ve done in previous posts. The formatting for this series may change over time and will probably be a little more off-the-cuff than some of my regular Brew Reviews but, on this series, I’d like price and taste to be the main focus. Because, let’s face it, all of us craft beer drinkers still drink cheap beer and are always looking for something to buy that isn’t a cheap beer made by the big three breweries. So dig deep for that pocket change, put on a sombrero, and start looking for these bottom dollar Mexican beer offerings that rarely catch your attention.
A Quick Word About My Rating System |
Rather than bore you with how a cheap beer looks and smells, I’ve decided to limit my reviews based on three things: Taste, Cost, and Availability. On more than a few occasions, I will probably make commentary on the smell and even the look of the beer in the “Taste” section. Consider it less about how a beer actually tastes and more about how tasteful it would be to purchase it. “Cost” will still be weighted on my standard 5 point system. But rather than simply provide the amount I paid, I’ll also make mention of how far that dollar truly is stretched. Expect beers with higher ABV and a more palatable taste to be rated higher in cost. Lastly, “Availability” is simply how easy it is to get this beer and some suggestions on where to try it. This should always be a rather high rating than the former two. Still with me? Enjoy!
Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma
STYLE: American Adjunct Lager
Taste: 2.50 | Cost: 3.0 | Availability: 3.0 | Overall: 2.8
Taste: Tecate tastes like almost every other light lager I’ve had: thin body, little carbonation, and a subtle bready quality. Most domestic lagers have almost a sour component to them and this one is no different here. The brew begs to have a lime squeezed into it and is often served this way when you order it at Mexican restaurants. It isn’t a bad tasting beer but one you’ve tasted time and time before. In a blind taste taste, I could probably pick out Tecate over your Miller, Bud, and Coors brews. It has a noticeably stronger bite on the back end of the flavor that doesn’t taste like alcohol, but rather, something distinctly earthy. This beer simply tastes nostalgic to me and I have to rate it higher because of that. As a quick side note, I discovered, while writing this blog, that Tecate is owned by Heineken. I noticed a definite comparison to the beer styles after reading this factoid.
Cost: I paid a whopping $2.29 for a single 24oz can. That’s roughly $0.10 an ounce. In a pinch, this beer would go a long way but falls considerably short compared to beers in this price range with higher ABV. A lot of people consider it to be the Budweiser of Mexico and, in truth, the cost for a 6 or 12 pack is cheaper than your average American Domestics. Back when I was in my 20s, I noticed how much cheaper Tecate was compared Miller Lite or Pabst Blue Ribbon, which were always what my friends wanted me to bring to a party. On more than a few occasions, I grabbed a case or a sixer and I watched as they barely noticed how, without the unmistakable red, black and gold label, they could have been fooled in thinking we were really drinking what was requested.
Availability: I’d say that this beer is easy to come by. I’ve seen it in all major liquor store in my area and frequently see cans available at many of the Mexican restaurants in our area. Weirdly, I’ve never seen it on tap so now I’m curious to find a place that offers it on draft. But because it isn’t featured in numerous places on draft, I’m dinging its score here.
Overall: If you are looking for a slightly cheaper, better tasting, less-than-fancy import to bring to a party over your average American Domestics, you can’t go wrong with Tecate. It is close to the flavors you’ll find in those beers and won’t put a hurtin’ on your wallet. If you are expecting something amazing, I wouldn’t recommend it. It serves the purpose of drinking lots of cheap beer while mowing the lawn or at a party where the playlist is all songs that make you miss that friend that moved away when you were 10 years old. Give it another shot or try it for the first time. And, as always, let me know what you think.
Grupo Modelo S.A. de C.V.
Mexico City, Mexico
STYLE: American Adjunct Lager
3.2 / 5.0
Taste: 3.0 | Cost: 3.5 | Availability: 3.0 | Overall: 3.20
Taste: Before even taking a sip, I spent some time reflecting on all the good times I had when I was drinking cheap, and thought I was drinking well, when I bought Negro Modelo fairly regularly. At the time, the craft beer market wasn’t what it is now and we struggled to find anything that didn’t simply taste like your average beer. We were buying frequent 12 packs of Michelob Amber Bock and thought we were refined, high class beer drinkers. One day, we got a recommendation that Negro Modelo was a Mexican alternative to our favorite beer and decided to finally give it a shot. I haven’t had it since the early 2000s but remember it being pretty comparable. So how does their Modelo’s flagship lager compare? I can’t compare it to my memory of Negro Modelo but I do think it is the best of the three beers on this list. While it still provides the same standard sour mash flavor of the American Adjunct Lager style that often makes my palate cringe, this one seems to be the most balance of the bunch. It is just light enough that it doesn’t overwhelm your taste buds with, well, Bud (light) flavor. It is a forgettable flavor but, if you are drinking cheap beer, this might be your thing.
Cost: I paid $1.49 for a 16oz can. This is approximately $0.09 per ounce. Out of the three beers I purchased for this post, this is the cheapest. There were 24oz cans available for considerably more for whatever reason and clued me into how often liquor stores will upsell a consumer on quantity for cost. Now that I’ve had the time to process the breakdown per ounce, this may be one of those beers that is cheaper to buy when it is in smaller quantities. It is also the only beer out of the three that isn’t owned by a bigger brewery. So if you like to support the little guy, you may want to consider buying Modelo. It still is slightly weaker than Tecate but the whole package has a much more “down-to-earth” sensibility about it. It looks and drinks like an American Domestic but may not break the bank like those other beers.
Availability: I’d say that Modelo is relatively easy to find and it is a beer that you do have options on how it is purchased. At my liquor store, I saw 16oz cans, 24oz cans, a six pack of 12oz cans, and even a case of 12oz cans that was fairly comparable in price to American Domestics. They also had their darker version, Negro Modelo, available at the two places I stopped this evening. I see this frequently offered at restaurants in can or bottle form but never on draft. I’m sure it is out there but I rarely see this offered as a standard competitor to the big giant breweries. If it were out there for a similar price or cheaper, I wouldn’t think twice about supporting the little guy if I were on a more stricter beer budget.
Overall: If you are one of a beer drinker that just wants your beer to taste like beer, Modelo Especial is something you have to try. It is definitely refreshing, cheap, and something worth drinking if you don’t have a lot of dough for your bready beer. After trying this one and actually being fine with it, I’m curious to give Negro Modelo another try to see if it still holds up. This is a brew that tastes similarly to Miller Lite but also has a slight uniqueness that didn’t make me feel like I was gagging down the last few sips of it.
Dos Equis Lager Especial
Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, S.A. de C.V.
STYLE: American Adjunct Lager
Taste: 2.0 | Cost: 2.0 | Availability: 4.0 | Overall: 2.6
Taste: Out of all the beers I tried here, this is the one I was looking forward to the most. In full disclosure, I will admit that I actually think that Dos Equis Ambar is pretty good. It has been some time since I’ve had the Ambar but know that a few friends consider it their go-to cheap beer. I also discovered that Dos Equis and Tecate may be brewed at the same facility yet have two distinct forms of branding that you would never guess were both under the ownership of Heineken. After discovering this, I decided to do a side-by-comparison of Dos Equis and Tecate. Are they the same beer with different labels? In terms of appearance, the beers do look slightly different. Dos Equis pours a slightly lighter color and had its head dissipate much quicker than Tecate. And after tasting it, I’m happy to report that they are totally different beers. Where Tecate has a noticeably sharper bite at the end, Dos Equis is a smooth, buttery flavor throughout. There’s a noticeable lack of sharp sour flavor in Dos Equis but, its lack, gives it a more watery consistency. It is a very drinkable beer but that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Cost: I paid $2.99 for a 24oz can. That is roughly $0.13 an ounce. While the beer is definitely drinkable, some experienced beer drinkers will probably be able to throw back plenty of these beers and mostly feel more hydrated than they did when they first started drinking due its watery consistency and decidedly low ABV. Given the cost per ounce and having the lowest ABV of the bunch here, I can’t help but score Dos Equis rather low.
Availability: So this beer is pretty much the main offering at every Mexican restaurant. It is notably more expensive than your average domestics but gives you a small taste of Mexico should you be craving Mexican beer. This should be about as easy to find as Bud, Miller, and Coors and is frequently available in the 24oz sampler size.
Overall: Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed with Dos Equis Lager Especial. Now that I’ve had the direct comparison to some of its counterparts, I feel that Tecate and Modelo Especial are much better beers all around. It is incredibly forgettable in taste and weirdly more expensive than the two other beers on this post. So if you are looking to drink cheap for your Cinco de Mayo celebrations, consider going with something else and forget the super cool dude they used for this brew’s advertising.
Best Bang for Your Buck |
If I were to recommend one beer out of this bunch, I would have to recommend Modelo Especial. It is most comparable to the offerings of American Domestic offerings and is at a comparable price point. The three of them are not great beers by any means but I’ve read about a new burgeoning movement of Mexican craft beers that will hopefully start making their way stateside that will help highlight some of Mexico’s brewing options. However, if you are looking for beer to drink for Cinco de Mayo, you could do a coin flip between Tecate and Modelo Especial and wind up with something that gets you buzzed without breaking the bank. Skip the Dos Equis entirely. However, if you are looking for something more involved that isn’t beer, I highly recommend ponying up the dough and buying the ingredients for the Watermelon Margaritas we also posted today. Those were damn tasty.
Have you had these cheap brews? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.