Head-to-Head: Cinco de Mayo Brews

After taking a one week ciesta to deal with a sudden issue back home, I’ve returned just in time to delve into the unique offerings the American beer scene puts out come Cinco de Mayo.

For the most part — much like St. Patty’s Day and Guinness — supermarkets, gas stations and high end beer stores and bars alike will be flooded with the big Mexican brews like Corona, Modelos, Negra Modelo, etc. Again, much like St. Patty’s day, for the adventurous beer-drinker, these next few post-holiday weeks will be a feeding ground for a slice of the beer-niverse we don’t normally get to see and chances are good it’s all going to be on sale.

In the true spirit of Cino de Mayo, I’ll be pitting offerings from two American breweries together to see who will be the French and who will be the Mexicans. Only one will emerge the victor but who will it be?!

El Sully

El Sully 

ABV: 4.9%
IBUs: 13
Style: American Light Lager
Brewery: 21st Amendment Brewery

In the first corner we have El Sully from 21st Amendment Brewery. Weighing in at 4.9% ABV, this light fizzy, straw-yellow brew fits perfecting into it’s light lager class. Much like the big name Mexican beers out there, this beer offers a simple grainy taste with a lot of fizz.

What it seems 21st did to kick their Cinco offering up a notch is they added some lighter flavors that play into the blank slate that is light lagers in general. Instead of just smelling the bland starch you’d get off a Bud Light or a Coors Light, 21st gives you a little bit of lemon. Not a ton but just enough for you to get in your nose and stay there while you’re drinking the beer. On the tongue, the beer is grainy and dry, dry, dry, but in a good way … the sort of way that makes you pound through two or three beers.

Overall, the beer does what it was supposed to do and that is offer a tastier alternative to a Corona packed with salt and the crummy lime wedge your drunk friend hacked up with a steak knife.



ABV: 4%
IBUs: 21
Style: Vienna/Amber Lager
Brewery: Oskar Blues Brewery

And in the other corner, this malty, roasty and toasty glass of Vienna lager comes at you from a different angle. Where El Sully comes at you with a Corona-esque build, Oskar Blues decided to riff off a style that’s most recognizable from Negra Modelo or Samuel Adam’s Boston Lager.

Everything that is crisp and refreshing about El Sully is swapped for warm, semi-sweet malts and grains that produce a full yet creamy mouth-feel and a taste that, to me, is more reminiscent of fall than May.

Ready …. 3… 2 … 1 … FIGHT!

Immediately, El Sully comes out the gate with an advantage since that is the beer I would go with if I was downing tequila shooters and chimichangas. The citrus and cripsness of the beer lends well to the delicate yet bold flavors of Mexican food and the light body is something I could sit around and drink all day.

Making up for lost ground, Beerito strikes back with a deeper and more developed flavor. Unlike El Sully, Beerito offers a flavor palate that stays true to the delicious and well-executed beers Oskar Blues is known to put out. The layers of malts and bready sweetness blow the simple straw-yellow and corny flavor of El Sully clean out of the water.

El Sully takes the flavor uppercut on the chin and counters with a one, two punch of drinkability and style. After one or two Beeritos, I want something else. But with El Sully, I just want another El Sully. Beerito’s deep flavors do not lend well to the notion that come Cindo de Mayo, people want to have several beverages and who wants to bring two or three different beers to the party because you know you’re going to get sick of one quickly? Nobody. And style wise, sure, Beerito is a more nuanced style than the light lager but my warped Caucasian view of what a Mexican beer is tells me I need something light, fizzy and refreshing in order to feel like a true gringo. Beerito does not make me want to dawn a poncho and sombrero. Beerito makes me want to put on a jacket and sit by the fire. Not necessarily a bad thing but Cinco de Mayo is in Mayo, not Octubre.

Staggered from the tough combo from El Sully, Beerito tries to launch a counter attack with it’s sweet, roasty finish compared to the dry, citrus and hop finish of El Sully but the it misses it’s mark. Instead of finishing soft and sweet with some nice nuanced flavors like Great Lakes’ Elliot Ness, Beerito finishes with just a generic bready sweetness that leaves a filmy taste in your mouth, not something I want from a beer on a hot May day.

El Sully lands the KO punch by being the perfect beer to have when non-Mexican Americans decide to celebrate Mexico’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 … why white America cares and chooses to celebrate this, I’ve never understood. But I like beer and carne asada so I guess I’ll just grin and bear it and try not to think about the history behind the day. Victory to El Sully!

If neither of these beers are to your liking or you can’t find them and still want a trago of something Mexican try out Pacifico Clara.

Pacific Cerveza Clara

Pacifico Clara

ABV: 4.5%
Style: North American Adjunct Lager
Brewery: Grupo Modelo S.A. de C.V. 

Light, fizzy, refreshing and cheap. Pacifico Clara is my personal favorite when it comes to this slice of the beer world. Although it doesn’t differ much in flavor from Modelo or Corona, Pacifico just has that something that makes me enjoy it a little bit more … probably because it doesn’t need to be filled with salt and lime in order to be consumable.

Depending on where you are and what your local distributor is carrying, a six pack of Pacificos can be fetched for as little as $6 or $7 but I’ve seen them go as high as $10 before tax and deposit.

Thanks for tuning in this week! I’m going to be publishing on Fridays from here on out so please come back next week. The jury is still out on what next week’s topic is going to be so if you have any ideas, please let me know!

And if you happen to catch either of these special, seasonal offerings PICK THEM UP! They won’t be around forever, it is just a beer.



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