This is our first take on what we plan to be a regular feature. We are pitting two similar beers against each other in a Beer Battle. We will rate two beers at a time and pick a winner, or since there are two of us it could end in a tie. The pairs will have something in common, and likely be the same beer style.
First up will be a couple American craft brewery’s takes on Mexican lager. Session beers have been a thing for a couple years now, so it’s not surprising to see craft breweries take on Mexican lagers as they creep into new beer style territories. Mexican beers have a long history that is heavily influenced by German immigrants. Mexican beers tend to be lagers brewed with corn, and a fairly uniform profile. You’ll find light lager, lager, premium lager, and Vienna lager from the large Mexican breweries. While some craft Mexican breweries are starting to show up they rarely make it to Chico, California. It is interesting to see what American craft breweries will do with the Mexican styles. Will they make a Corona clone? Will they hearken back to the German roots? Will they radicalize the Mexican styles like they’ve done with IPA and some of the other European styles? Two beers is certainly not representative of this recent trend, but I think we picked a couple good breweries that will give us a good idea of what’s going on.
I have been looking forward to tasting El Sully for a few weeks now. The El Sully tastes just as I expected it would, only better. This beer is easy to drink, light bodied, with a nice lager finish. The sweet corn flavor that is the hallmark of the Mexican lagers is very present, but balanced nicely by the higher than expected hop bitterness. If you enjoy Mexican lagers like Corona, this beer is the slightly more hoppy, but just as easy to drink.
The packaging received my lowest score. It is eye catching, colorful and totally in line with the branding for 21st Amendment. It also relies heavily on the poncho = Mexican stereotype.
Beerito poured amber and delivered chocolate. I thought I was a little crazy, my palate is pretty good, but getting chocolate (think: Hershey bar) gave me a moment of doubt. The Beerito would be nearly perfect if not for that chocolate. It is absent from the aroma and clashes with the lagery sulfury finish.
I would be able to pick out any Oskar Blues beer, their branding is so distinctive. I think using the commonly used “-ito” was clever. It is “Spanglish” to be sure, but it isn’t a poncho or sombrero.
Overall I think the El Sully wins the battle. It is more drinkable and more in line with the Mexican lager style. It’s packaging is problematic, there is no doubt for me on that issue. The beer itself is a great summertime, lawn mower, beach blanket, just about perfect for any summer activity beer.
The El Sully cans and the six pack box are both eye catching. It seems a little weird that 21st Amendment, located in San Francisco, went with a psuedo-Spanish name and a goofy pancho on the packaging. I’m guessing if I was Mexican I would be rolling my eyes. The beer pours a very pale yellow with a small amount of white head. The aroma is sweet with corn notes. The flavor is typical for a Mexican lager. It is sweet up front with lemon, and a floral hop flavor in the finish. It is light bodied with medium-high carbonation.
If you handed me a glass of El Sully and told me it was Corona or one of the other macro Mexican lagers that I haven’t had in a while I just might believe you. I think I would be surprised at the quality, but I can’t claim I would know it was made by a brewery that makes some fantastic American craft beers. I guess that means they nailed the style, but I’m not sure that’s a compliment. It might be a little on the sweet side, and not as much sulfur as there tends to be in some lagers. Overall El Sully would be great on a hot day, but it’s not a beer that I will seek out.
Beerito has the typical Oskar Blues packaging, which isn’t eye catching but it is distinctive. At first glance I thought I was looking at Ten Fidy, their delicious Russian Imperial Stout. Distinctive branding is a plus, but it doesn’t stand out on the shelf. The Beerito name may have actually topped El Sully’s poncho in it’s goofiness. Beerito pours a deep amber color with little bit more head than the El Sully. The similarly colored head lingered longer than El Sully’s. Beerito has a subdued bready malt aroma with some spicy notes. It has a really nice nutty malt flavor with a spicy hop and caramel finish. It is not as light bodied as El Sully, but still refreshing. The Beerito can’s only style description is “Mexican Lager” but I believe it is a Vienna Lager, like Negra Modelo. It compares favorably to Negra Modelo with a richer flavor.
I preferred Beerito with a total score of 22 to El Sully’s 21. I’m surprised the totals are that close because I enjoyed Beerito a lot more than El Sully. They’re both good beers so I think it comes down to the style difference for me. They were both well within their respective styles, but despite being labeled “Mexican Lager” and “Cerveza” the Beerito is actually a Vienna lager and El Sully is a pale lager. I prefer the more robust flavor of a Vienna lager. I’m more likely to order a Negra Modelo than a Corona.
Our first Beer Battle ends in a draw. Both of these beers are well made, and both would be refreshing on a hot day but we’re split on which one is superior. We agree that Beerito strays from its intended style, but we’re split on our preferred flavor.