Don't get us wrong: Few drinks go better with a hearty Mexican meal than an ice-cold bottle of Negra Modelo with a squeeze of lime. But if you're looking for some Mexican beers that veer off the beaten path, local beer sellers can quench your thirst for adventure with options that go beyond Corona, Tecate, and Dos Equis. When we checked, most of the following beers were in stock at Bottles in Mt. Pleasant and Total Wine & More in West Ashley.
Chili Devil Chili Beer
When we opened our bottle of Chili Devil, the little green serrano pepper inside immediately floated to the top and started releasing fizzy bubbles. Bracing ourselves for a daredevil beer, we poured a splash, took a whiff of the spicy aroma, and tentatively sipped. Surprisingly, it wasn't that hot. The pepper flavor does lend a pleasant afterburn that you can feel in the back of the throat, adding some fun to an otherwise standard-issue light yellow lager. It's a novelty beer, to be sure, but it does go well with some tortilla chips and a bowl of guacamole. As a bonus, you have the option of eating the beer-soaked pepper at the end and looking muy fuerte in front of your friends.
Brewed in Mexico City at the same cervecería as Modelo, Corona, and Pacífico, this is a no-nonsense Vienna lager. Smooth, light, and crisp, it has no hop flavor to speak of and only the faintest hint of malt. Victoria, first brewed in 1865, is considered Mexico's oldest beer brand. While a step up from Corona flavor-wise, it's the equivalent of having an exotic American Budweiser while visiting a pub in England. A novelty, sure, but not that interesting of a beer.Day of the Dead Immortal Beloved
A familiar point of comparison for this flavorful hefeweizen is the popular wheat beer from Blue Moon. You still get that coriander kick but with more pronounced notes of orange zest. Actually, it tastes suspiciously similar to Sierra Nevada's Kellerweiss, which ain't a bad thing. It's a worthwhile offering brewed at Cervecería Mexicana in Tecate, Mexico. And the bottle art, inspired by traditional Día de los Muertos illustrations, is beautiful. Be sure to check out the full line of Day of the Dead craft offerings, including Death Becomes You (amber ale), Death Rides a Pale Horse (blonde ale), and Hop On Or Die (India pale ale).
Day of the Dead Pay the Ferryman
Don't let the foreboding bottle art scare you off. There are much darker porters out there, and this one could work as a gateway drink for light-beer lightweights. You'll notice a heavy smell of coffee grounds right off the bat, and coffee is the most prominent flavor in this relatively thin brew. But notes of caramel and butterscotch provide a reprieve from the American one-upsmanship of daredevil dark beers.
This strong barley malt, brewed in the German maibock style, is advertised on the back of the bottle as an "EXTREME beer" that "will give you an experience you will never forget." We wouldn't call it extreme, but it is a memorable take on the maibock tradition, with plenty of toasty malt flavor followed up by a dry hop aftertaste that leaves you thirsty for more. Unlike some of the other Mexican samples, this one maintains a nice head when poured into a glass. It would pair well with savory food — we're thinking about cracking open a few bottles to go with our Christmas ham.
Like Victoria, this inoffensive light-yellow pilsner has no hop flavor, but it does have a touch more malt. We think of it as a beer for alcoholics who are trying to hide their drinking from a spouse, as it is virtually odorless. Overall, it's a refreshing beer for hot afternoons, and it comes in a rather stylish bottle with gold foil. Stick a lime in it, and you're in business.
Mexicali Special Dark
The first thing we noticed about this beer was that it smelled kinda like weed. The taste is oddly reminiscent, too. It's not a bad thing, especially since it doesn't have that lingering sickly-sweet aftersmell, but it certainly sets it apart. Although it's labeled as a dark beer, it's actually more of a light brown. Beer Advocate identifies it as a Munich Dunkel lager, so if that's your bag, it might become a new, unique favorite.