We very much enjoy a good beer. So while we’re traveling, we want to try as many different brews that are local to the country as we can. We’ll be in search of that perfect pint each country has to offer, trying both the country’s standard offerings and will also seek out rare and craft beers if available. Some of the beers we may have had before in the US, but will give them another chance in their home country. Without further ado, here’s our crack on the first region we’ve visited: Beers Around the Yucatan.
Beer Around Mexico (Yucatan)
This is a land filled with very light pale and amber lagers. Most restaurants and bars have a selection of 3-5 of the same 8 or so beers, which is a limited variety of the pale and amber lagers. Locals seemed to gravitate to Sol the most but really I saw them drinking several different brands. Nearly all the big beer brands are brewed by one of two companies: Grupo Modelo (Modelo, Corona, Pacifico) or Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma Brewery (Sol, Superior, Tecate, Bohemia, etc.)
Most beer is bottled. A few are canned. Draft beer is rare, known as ‘cerveza de barril’ (beer of the barrel). The only Mexican beer I ever saw on draft were three varieties of Modelo Chope. Craft beer just seems to be emerging in the Yucatan (more on that in just a bit).
Proper glassware is not used. In fact, no glassware was used. You’re drinking from the bottle here. Only once was I given a glass for my beer and it may have been an accident. If you ask for a glass (vaso) though, the bartender will certainly oblige, usually with a glass mug. Pale lagers such as Sol are usually served with a lime wedge and I’ve found the limes really do work well with the pale lagers to give the bland beers some much-needed flavor.
Craft Beer in Mexico? A Search for Hops in Yucatan
It appeared that there was a small fledgling of a craft beer scene just beginning to emerge in the Yucatan. About a week into our trip, we were at a cantina in Merida in which my eyes lit up when seeing seven beers listed on their chalkboard under the subheading of ‘cerveza artesanal,’ five of which I indulged in.
I asked our server more about these and where I could find such beer. He explained that cerveza artesanal was very new for the area and many of these seemingly Mexican craft beers had just started popping up in Merida as recently as just the past few months. I found a few other Mexican cerveza artesanal bottles in a supermarket too.
We also saw a sign on a city bus indicating that a Buffalo Wild Wings was opening in Merida in January 2014. As a restaurant known for typically having 40+ taps and a number of those being dedicated to local craft beer, I wonder if they’ll keep that alive in Merida, as a few craft brews seem to just be finding their way to the area.
A brand of beer called Ceiba was the only beer that is locally produced in the Yucatan. Our bartender said that the brewery was around some twenty or so years ago (unconfirmed) but ceased operation and it just started back up again recently in 2013. It is named after the sacred Ceiba tree that Mayans worship as the “Holy Tree of Life” which is considered the axle of the world. Its nice to see a small local operation spring up in the Yucatan. At the time of our visit to the Yucatan, Ceiba had three different varieties: a pilsner, an amber, and an imperial stout. (See more on Ceiba beers in subsequent sections of this post.)
Import Beer in the Yucatan Mexico
Beers from other parts of the world were not common here. Heineken may have been the most common import we saw (perhaps because Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma is a subsidiary of Heineken). Oddly enough even Heineken was found on draft at an Irish Pub in Merida, whereas Guinness was not.
We did find a few beer-oriented places that had a wider variety of imported beers. For instance, the BierHaus in Merida carried a decent selection of Belgian, German, and other international beers. We did not have any though since we’re playing by the rules we set out to only drink beer from the country in which we’re in.
And strangely enough, although some of these specialty beer places had a decent import list, they tended not to have any particularly interesting Mexican beer, which was a disappointment. Hopefully they’ll soon hop on the cerveza artisanal bandwagon.
Cost of Beer In Mexico
In restaurants and bars, Mexico’s standard beers tended to range in price from a low of $15 pesos ($1 USD) to $40 pesos ($3) on the high end. I only found the artisanal (craft) beers at two different places. At a cantina in Merida (La Negrita) they were all going for $55 pesos ($4USD) but at a café in Campeche prices ranged between at $100-$150 pesos ($7.50-$11 USD) for many of the same offerings. This leads me to believe that they’re still trying to figure out how to price craft beer since it is a new concept for Mexico.
The Best Mexican Beer in Yucatan
Here’s my picks for the best Mexican beers found around the Yucatan:
1) Bohemia – It was an all-around good beer that was pretty easy to find. It paired very well with almost any Mexican dish and worked exceptionally well with Mexico’s spicier meals. This pale lager which carried some real nice yet mild hop bitterness to it was an exemplary standout among the overabundance of the pale lager style in Mexico. This delicious representation of Mexico cerveza reigns king in my book.
2) ChupaCabra –This was a delightfully hopped American-style pale ale. Its brewed by Cubara, which seems to be on to something as they also seem to brew a dozen or so craft beer styles. Although very tasty, they are scarce in the Yucatan so if you happen to find a ChupaCabra or any Cubara beer in Mexico, do not hesitate to grab one. Really this could have easily taken my #1 spot, but I had to give the edge to Bohemia since it was such a nice demonstration of a typical Mexican beer, while ChupaCabra was more reminiscent of a great pale ale I can find in the States. If you want craft beer in Mexico or need to quench a hop craving, definitely try this.
3) Ceiba Imperial Stout – Although I have a hard time acknowledging this as an “imperial”, Ceiba offered a very decent stout and a welcomed change of pace in a land of bland lagers. Ceiba was also the only beer I could find which was actually brewed in the Yucatan, rather than in other parts of Mexico. I found the stout to be the best of the three beers they currently brew and a well-deserved spot in my Top 3.
4) Negra Modelo – This is my pick among the many amber lagers found throughout Mexico. It’s much fuller bodied and palatable than the other Mexican ambers. Its slight sweetness also helps set it apart from the rest. If you’re looking for a good amber lager in Mexico, this is my pick.
5) Superior Rubia – Of all the bland pale lagers we found, this was the only one other than Bohemia that contained any flavor. Make sure to pick one up when at the convenience store or supermarket because you aren’t likely to find this at a restaurant or bar. Certainly not the best beer in Mexico but worth trying.
If you’ve made it this far into this blog post and want to know more about the different beers found around the Yucatan, I’ve typed up notes I made for each beer I drank, in the order I drank them in throughout our two weeks in the Yucatan. The colored text shows my highlights and lowlights. My scoring is on a scale of 1 to 10, in which 1 I found disgusting & undrinkable while a 10 tastes incredible and would be a lifelong favorite.
- Dos Equis Ambar – Bottle, 4.7%, Amber Lager, Score: 4
This is okay. I could drink this for a few weeks in Mexico if I had to. A bit lighter than ambers I’m used to but that works well with the Mexico heat and pairs nicely with the food I’m eating.
- Dos Equis Lager – Bottle, 4.5%, Pale Lager, Score: 3.
Watery, bland, light, pale lager albeit drinkable. I prefer the Amber offering but this is definitely something I can drink. I chuckled every time I ordered us two of them, as it felt like I had a stutter. “Dos Dos Equis.”
- Tecate – Can, 4.5% ABV, Pale Lager, Score: 1 (although I want to rate it lower)
I want to vomit. Let me take another sip though just to be sure. (Gag!) Yes, I’m sure. “Hey Heather – try this and let me know what you think.” “Gross!” Dumped. Tasting notes of metal and bile. Reminiscent of the Natural Ice Light (Natty Light) that I may have subjected myself to a few in college, only this was much much worse. Maybe I got a bad can that got baked in the hot Mexican sun, but I’m not brave enough to try a second. There is a Light and Titanium version too but I will not subject myself to trying either.
- Negra Modelo – Bottle, 5%, Amber Lager. Score: 5
I’m pleasantly surprised. I expected something similar to the Dos Equis Ambar but this has much more flavor and is fuller bodied. A bit more malty and sweeter, but not too sweet. Solid, not bad at all. I suppose this is my new favorite for now.
- Corona – 4.5%, Bottle, Pale Lager, Score: 2
I’ve never really been a fan of Corona and I don’t find that is tastes any better when in Mexico. Maybe I needed to drink it on a beach under a palm tree. Taste is bland and a little skunky. Lime helps but something still tastes a bit off. The entire time in the Yucatan I never saw anyone local drinking a Corona, although it’s found pretty commonly everywhere.
- Superior Rubia – 4.5%, Bottle, Pale Lager. Score: 5
Hooray – this one actually has a tad bit of flavor to it. Pretty well balanced and with a faint sweetness. Not quite as watery. Very drinkable and much better than all the other pale lagers so far. I never got a chance to try the regular Superior but I can vouch that the Rubia version truly is ‘superior’ to all the pale lagers I’ve had to date. This may be my new favorite.
- Modelo Chope Clara – 4.5%, Draft, Pilsner, Score: 4.
Tastes like a pretty standard American pilsner. Drinkable, refreshing, but nothing special at all. It was quite nice to have a draft beer here though.
- Modelo Chope Obscura – 4.5%, Draft, Amber Lager, Score: 4
Didn’t taste much different than Negra Modelo. It was perhaps a bit more light and watery, but not necessarily in a bad way.
- Modelo Chope Campechana – Unknown ABV, Draft, Score: 4
Really I couldn’t tell the difference at all between this and the Obscura. We ordered them both and tried them side by side. Maybe our server accidently poured us the same thing. I really tried but could not taste a difference. Was it the same beer? It tastes like it.
- Victoria – Bottle, 4%, Amber Lager, Score: 3.
A Meridian working at the Bierhaus said this was his favorite beer of Mexico. My high hopes were crushed when I tasted another bland watery beer. This was extremely light for an amber. Still, it was drinkable and refreshing.
- Sol – 4.5%, Bottle, Pale Lager. Score: 3
This seemed to be what Mexicans were drinking the most. I found it to be a pretty standard, bland, watery pale lager. Nothing new here, but I’d choose it over a Corona any day.
- Bohemia Clara – Bottle, 5.3%, Pale Lager. Score: 7
What was that!? Did I… just… taste… hops? No, it couldn’t be. Wait, it was! How refreshing! Grassy, slightly spicy, and slightly sweet. Light-to-moderate hop bitterness, but almost tastes like a hop explosion, given all the bland beers I’ve been subjected to the past week. Pairs excellent with Mexican food cuts right through some of the spicier dishes. Wish I had discovered earlier. At first I had written that this was a “very good beer for Mexico,” but I’m going to retract that and just say it’s a good beer – period. I would drink this back home and come to think of it I seem to recall seeing them sold in the States.
- Bohemia Obscura – Bottle, 5.5%, Amber Lager.
I loved Bohemia, so had high hopes for the Amber version. Although it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t for my taste. A bit of caramel sweetness to it and I also picked up on raisin and dark fruit flavors that just don’t work well for me. But the fact that I could even taste a flavor, I’ll bump it up from to a: 4.
- Leon – 4.5%, Bottle, Amber Lager, Score: 4.
About as good as the Dos Equis Amber and tastes similar but I’d probably give Dos Equis a slight edge over this. Definitely lighter and less flavor than the Negra Modelo.
- Montejo – 4.5%, Can, Pale Lager, Score: 2.
This one is slightly offensive. Could barely finish. Would not have another.
- Ceiba Pilsener Dorada – 4.5%, Bottle, Pilsner. Score: 4
This was the first of Ceiba beer I tasted, which is the only truly local Yucatan beer I could find. I was very excited to find and taste. Their pilsner offering was an extremely malt-forward beer, probably too much so. Heavy and powerful malts that left a lingering taste. Nonetheless, it was nice to have a Meixcan beer with some flavor. Decent effort.
- Ceiba Ambar Mestiza – 4.8%, Bottle, American Amber, Score: 5
This was better than the Pilsner but honestly I can’t recall too much about this one because I was drinking it along side Cucapa’s Chupacabras (see below), which was stealing the show at the time.
- Cucapá Chupacabras – 5.8%, Bottle, Pale Ale, Score: 7
Server brought this to me and proudly acknowledged that it was their strongest beer, which at 5.8% was somewhat laughable. But, wow, I did not expect to find something like this in Mexico. This was pretty damn tasty! I thought the heavily hopped flavor of this beer drank more like an IPA rather than a Pale Ale. Hops had a nice citrus bitterness, picked up a bit of grapefruit and lemon, which is really to my taste. I really liked label too. I want to know where I can get more and would love to try other varieties from the Cucapa Brewing Company that makes this.
- Ceiba Imperial Stout – 5.0%, Bottle, (Imperial?) Stout, Score: 6
To my taste I would probably just categorize this as a stout rather than what I’ve come to know as an imperial stout. Nonetheless, its good and a very welcomed change from this land of pale and amber lagers. Lighter bodied, dry stout with some slight hints of dark chocolate, coffee and a nice lingering roastiness to it. Good effort and definitely my favorite of the three Ceiba brand beers.
- Pacifico – Bottle, 4.5%, Pale Lager, Score: 3
Standard bland pale lager. Give me a lime wedge with this and I’ll be fine.
- Modelo Especial – Bottle, 4.5%, Pale Lager, Score: 3
There’s nothing especial about this. Tastes about the same as most of the Mexican pale lagers.
Thanks for stopping by and coming along for a journey of Mexico beer. Now, go grab a cerveza! Perhaps see if you can snag a Bohemia.
And for more about other drinks in the Yucatan including our top three picks to have a drink, see Drinking Around the Yucatan.