Let's get this straight right off the bat: Despite what your Twitter feed says, no, Corona sales have not declined because people think it spreads coronavirus.
That study that circulated in the early days of the pandemic, which generated headlines that screamed "38 Percent of Beer-Drinking Americans Won't Buy Corona Under Any Circumstances," has already been widely debunked as misleading, its spread attributable to the media's insatiable drive to cast your fellow countrymen as complete and total idiots.
It did, however, have one positive effect: It got us thinking of Mexican lagers other than Corona.
The brand has long dominated the market for Mexican beers, and as much as it makes geeks groan, it remains the commercial standard-bearer for the style.
And so, with the temperature ticking ever so slightly upward, and with our minds wanting a break from anything with the word "corona" in it—even if that won't, as noted, cause us to avoid the beer like a literal plague—we decided to gather up the closest approximations we could find at shops around Portland for a blind taste test. Here's how they ranked. MATTHEW SINGER.
1. Victoria (Grupo Modelo)
Mexico's oldest beer brand, established in 1865, is a copper-colored Vienna-style lager from the same brewery that churns out the more widely available Corona and Tecate. The medium body, bready flavor and tinge of sweetness proved to be a combination that had more than one taster in the group requesting additional pours—a testament to its longevity.
Tasters' notes: "This is a cruise ship beer—you'll drink at least 12 every day to maintain a buzz." "Not too light or heavy. Just right." "Much more sophisticated than the rest. Less refreshing, but a nice pal."
2. Sol (Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma)
As legend has it, a German brewer came up with the name "Sol," or "sun," in 1899, when he caught a glimpse of his newly bottled batch illuminated by a golden ray of light shining through a hole in the roof. Clean and crisp, with the color of straw and the slight sweetness of corn, it tastes as bright as the name. This adjunct lager is the stuff of commercials featuring eternal boat parties and beach sunsets.
Tasters' notes: "I could crush 12 of these easily, warm or cold." "Bubbly, clean, refreshing flavor. Likable." "Liquefied corn flakes."
3. Pacífico (Grupo Modelo)
Every beachside bar, shrimp shack and open-air cafe in Mazatlán has Pacifico in bottles and the brand's bright yellow labels splashed across umbrellas shading tables. Consider it a tribute to the hometown beer, established by three German brewers in the port city at the turn of the 20th century. Pacifico got high marks for its easy drinking and dry finish.
Tasters' notes: "A flavor inspired by the sea." "Ladylike and shiny." "Tastes like getting drunk in high school—confident and not yet filled with regret."
4. Modelo Especial (Grupo Modelo)
Modelo Especial was first brewed in 1925 in an attempt to set the standard for what a Pilsner-style lager should be. Tear open the gold foil bottle top to access the flaxen liquid marked by good balance between notes of corn and a gentle bitterness.
Tasters' notes: "Tastes like Corona." "Zinger! Crisp and has some nice bite. Great for nachos."
5. Carta Blanca (Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma)
One thing is certain: Most of our tasters detected an apple flavor in Carta Blanca, but there was no consensus on whether that was a good thing.
Tasters' notes: "Smells like stale lunchbox apples." "Regurgitated apple juice. I hate it so much, I want to punch it in its face."
6. Bohemia Clásica (Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma)
This Pilsner-style beer is named in honor of the Czech Republic's Bohemia region and made with highly regarded Strayan hops. But we found this batch polarizing. It fell short of about half the drinkers' expectations while impressing the rest.
Tasters' notes: "Very strong lime taste. At first I thought it was artificial, but maybe I like it? Really almost like a gin and tonic." "Spunky, like a lucha libre wrestler who's light on his feet and ready to win." "Fake fancy."
7. Tecate (Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma)
Tecate is a Cinco de Mayo staple around Portland, though we're not sure why. Guess it's best everyone chugs from these bright red cans only once a year—plenty of time to forget how bland it is.
Tasters' notes: "Germany would consider this a soft drink." "A dish rag that's been soaked in beer and wrung into a glass." "Piss water. Just no."
8/9. Cusqueña (Union de Cervecerias Peruanas Backus y Johnston)
Not even pure Peruvian Andes water could compensate for the metallic flavors that tended to linger with this lager.
Tasters' notes: "Like sucking on a penny that's been sitting in a lager." "Smells like my college dorm, and tastes like you're just basically drinking flavored water."
8/9. Dos Equis Special Lager (Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma)
It's no wonder the original Most Interesting Man in the World ditched Dos Equis and started promoting a tequila brand instead. So bad it barely deserves the honor of serving as the target for a game of beer pong.
Tasters' notes: "This is what college students drink for spring break on South Padre Island." "I wouldn't think about or notice what this beer tastes like if I didn't have to."
Oregon’s Mexican-Style Lagers
Mexican lagers aren't made just in Mexico. More and more Oregon breweries are messing with the style. Many of the beers are seasonal specials, and while it's slowly starting to warm up, well, it's not exactly beach weather out there yet. We did, however, find three locally made examples already sitting in coolers at bottle shops around town. Here's how they stacked up ranked against each other.
1. Most Interesting Lager in the World (Ex Novo Brewing)
Some five years ago, when most brewers had IPA tunnel vision, Ex Novo was an early entry in the Mexican-style lager market, and helped inspire a mini-wave. Made with Vienna and Pilsner malts, with a touch of flaked corn, the beer is light but never boring.
Tasters' notes: "This would be great to drink at the beach." "A perfect drink for an early summer afternoon." "Bright, tart, juicy and yummy. Love it."
2. Sesion Cerveza (Full Sail Brewing)
Full Sail's Session line includes a Great American Beer Festival silver medalist that pays tribute to the Mexican lager. Celeia and Northern Brewer hops impart a fresh-squeezed kiss of citrus—not unlike the "Lemony Yellow" Trix cereal balls—that fades into a crisp bitterness.
Tasters' notes: "Pleasant and sunny. Refreshing." "Lemony and maybe even kind of floral? Has a bit of wheaty heft."
3. Clasica Amber Lager (Xicha Brewing)
This out-of-the-box take on a Mexican lager surprised the room, but not in a good way. The Salem brewery's amber-hued Märzen-style beer is much fuller bodied and bready—the malt backbone overpowers any crisp, snappy end to this drink. Ultimately, Clasica transports drinkers to Bavaria, not Puerto Vallarta.
Tasters' notes: "Sweet battery acid with a hint of lime. Like if someone pissed on a coffee bean." "Very malty, as if Oregon tried a Mexican lager but landed in Ireland instead."