by Marty Nopper, Tastemaker in Residence
Que pasa, mis amigos! Estoy El Marteen and escribo un blog de cerveza para la mesa de espíritu. Soy un tastemaker. Soy muy cool y asombroso. Mis pantalones están muy apretados. Tengo pelusa en mi ombligo. Tengo que hacer caca!
What’s happening, my favorite readers! My name is Marty and I write a beer blog for Spirited Table®. I am a Tastemaker in Residence. I like to make you happy with my words. Do these pants look good on me? This shirt rubs my belly. Thanks for reading!
O.k., soy no fluente Bueno en Espanol…but one thing I do know is that the best beer drinking holiday is upon us. May 5th of EVERY YEAR. Cinco friggin De Mayo (that’s the proper spelling in Mexico, FYI)! Salsas, cervezas, chile rellenos, tacos (mi favorita) y empanadas. Sombreros. Siestas. Texas. Chihuahua’s (miss you, Fitz). Luchadores. Pesos. What? If you ever find yourself doubting the importance of these life-altering items, stop reading.
Go take out the trash or clip your toenails if you don't feel the need to address this critically important ritual celebrated all across America on a nightly basis. Mexican beers are awesome!!! Even more importantly, the Mexican food/dinner is the ultimate treat for me. Call me a wuss- it's ok. I agree some nights. But I have drunk my share of these lightly alcoholed, lime-tainted beverages indiscriminately. I know you've sucked down a Corona (probably a Light if I know you, hater) on the beach or out with ‘the boyz’, too! The point is, just because it doesn't punch you in the face doesn't mean it's not good. I know as sure as I sit here that there will be a massive uprising soon, saying, "Marty, how can you say that about Mexican beers? They're so light and you love the stouty meal in a glass! Does this mean we call you Francis instead of Frank now? How can we ever respect what you say? I'm disillusioned!"
Wow. Slow the roll, mis hermanos. You can call me Francis if you want. Last time I'll answer your call, though. Your choice. Anyway, your disillusionment started in childbirth, not with me. I'm just blogging about beer. I cut my teeth as a teenager (later years, peeps) on cervezas in a Latino mecca, Corpus Christi, TX., in the early 80's. I developed a fondness for the Mexican culture as it influenced me in many ways and I am very appreciative of that. Sol, Corona (even Light wasn't out yet, thank the Lord), Modelo, and Dos Equis were king. Now, brands like Victoria (yum), Bohemia (yum) and Pacifico dominate the mash landscape from south of the border in the US. My favorite, Carta Blanca, El Solamente, seems to be harder and harder to find (a nice Victoria would place second if this were a competition for my taste buds). And who doesn't love it when the bartender asks, 'do you want the 20 or the 32 ounce'? But I will keep up my search! By the way, I know you’re the one going through a second bowl of the chips before the meal even gets there… salsa Blanca or salsa Roja? You know, that salsa with fresh pulverized tomato, onions, cilantro, lime juice, and, hopefully, jalapeño, stinging your esophagus enough to make you want to cry? Aye, caramba! Queso? Si, senor! Muy Bueno!
First things first. Cinco de Mayo (May 5 for nonespanolers) is a ceremonial Mexican holiday celebrated here in the states. According to Mr. Google, “The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army's unlikely victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has taken on a significance beyond that in Mexico. In the U.S. the date has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture. In Mexico, the commemoration of the battle continues to be mostly ceremonial, such as through military parades. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is sometimes mistaken for Mexico's Independence Day—the most important national holiday in Mexico—which is celebrated on September 16, commemorating the Cry of Dolores that initiated the war of Mexican independence from Spain.”
Now that we got that straight, let’s look at more important things. Why do all Mexican beers taste the same? Why do they always serve a lime in my brewski? Why do we add it? What's its purpose? We squeeze the delicious citrus flavorings into the beer and cram the deformed rind through the opening which usually is too small to fit the forbidden fruit. Why? What's the purpose?? Not so sure about the first question but I may be able to help with the latter. After hours upon minutes of endless research, here are quite a few theories so you will just have to go with one of these or invent your own.
One theory is that the origin of lime in Mexican beer is that when they started putting beer in cans and storing the cans in the back room of a dusty bar, the cans would have a layer of dust on top when you received your beer. The patron would then look around for something with which to wipe the top of the can. Hmmm, how about one of these limes set out for the tequila? Sure, that will work. Another, more effective and sanitary belief is that the limes are used to rub around the lip of your barley pop, acting as natural insect repellants (have tried this and works well so I’m going with this one). According to Yahoo Answers, “Basically, it's all about the bottle. Corona was a rather cheaply made beer, in a cheap bottle (Corona is purported to be actually harder to find in Mexico than the U.S.: Think Fosters lacking support in Australia but we can’t get enough of it here. Locals there think it sucks). They save money by putting it in a clear bottle. The reason that colored bottles are better is that it keeps light out. When light, and perhaps especially sunlight, hits a clear bottle, it obviously goes right through and hits whatever is inside. The problem with this is that it causes free radicals to be released in the massive amount of only a few parts per billion. However, we are extremely sensitive to what is released - the chemical composition is nearly identical to what is in a skunk's glands. Obviously, you've heard of skunky beer before, and this is what they are talking about. Now, when you have a dark bottle, it slows down this process tremendously, almost completely, but the bottles cost more to produce. So, basically, when confronted with this issue, the marketers at Corona came up with a rather simple way of combating this skunkiness - suck a lime while drinking, and it was a huge hit. Other beers don't taste as good with a lime because they are typically in a colored bottle or solid can and don't have these free radicals in them.”
Finally, the last entry to the debate states that it's just a marketing gimmick. Of course, the lime adds some interest to what is otherwise a rather bland liquid offering but it has no historical or other similar factually relative basis. Somebody just came up with it as a way of distinguishing the Mexican beers from the rest of the market when they were first being mass-marketed in the USA back in the 70s.
So, we all love south of the border suds, right? Why are Americans so passionate about this south of the border burning water? According to Chicago-based market research firm IRI, Mexican beer has accounted for nearly 70 percent of imported beer sales during the past year — and growing. Nine of the nation's top 54 brands are Mexican imports, including two of the top seven (Corona Extra and Modelo Especial).
The old faithful top four brands — Bud Light, Coors Light, Budweiser and Miller Lite — are all down or flat from a year ago while their Mexican competitors are up: Corona nearly 9 percent, Modelo Especial 24 percent and Modelo Negra (recently rechristened from Negra Modelo), Pacifico and Modelo Especial Chelada all in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 percent. Wow. Who knew Mexican pops generate this much interest? Anyone Anyone? El Marteen? Si…I recently found myself perched at the bar at a local cantina (consequently, the word/term bar in English is the same as in Espanol). As my friends and family know, I am quite fluent in the language and regularly order my food and drink in Spanish. More often than not, I never receive the right order but who cares, huh? It’s all part of the experience and the staff thinks that this loco gringo is o.k.
So, celebrate this sort of holiday and tip back a cold cerveza. With or without the lime.
Y, como siempre, beber responsablemente.