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Make Your Best Mexican Lager

Brew up this beer now so you’ll have it on hand when the dog days of late July and early August start beating down.

Josh Weikert Apr 30, 2017 - 7 min read

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If it’s early May, then it’s time for my neighbors to host their super-loud Cinco de Mayo party—no real objection here, as it’s on a Friday this year. All the same, I think a much better use of your time would be to blow off the neighbors, stay home, and brew a style that has been increasing in popularity lately: the Mexican lager. I know, I know: many of you are picturing a certain clear bottle with a lime wedged in the neck, and I have two responses. First, let’s be a little less judgmental: lots of people have good memories associated with those bottles since they’re ubiquitous in sunny, sandy locales. Second, let’s revisit our stereotypes: craft brewers have embraced Mexican lager and are making some really incredible versions of it, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t, too!


Strictly speaking, there’s no actual “style” here (it’s undefined in both the BJCP and BA Style Guidelines), but we have enough examples in the marketplace to start narrowing it down for ourselves. Typically, these are pale lagers (though some versions are darker and flirt with Vienna lager or even dunkel territory). Almost all have restrained flavors across the recipe. We find light honey or grain malt flavors (and maybe some light corn, either from DMS or actual flaked maize additions), low IBUs, and not much in the way of flavor or aroma hopping. Even the darker versions tend to be darker in color only and rarely exhibit rich caramel or roast flavors. Most examples are light in mouthfeel, pour brilliantly clear (you’ll need to either filter, aggressively fine your beer, or wait it out and let time do its thing), and are refreshing on the palate (even the darker versions)—unsurprising, when we consider drinking them with the sun on our faces and the sand between our toes.


This recipe is a tiny bit on the darker side compared to the “classic” Mexican lager but is still on the “pale” end of the spectrum (it should be a pleasant lighter gold color). It’s a variation on a clone of Flying Dog’s Numero Uno (Frederick, Maryland), with what I think are some good modifications! We start with 6 pounds (2.7 kg) of Maris Otter and 3 pounds (1.4 kg) of flaked maize, which lends the beer a nice grainy background with a touch of corn flavor, like a fresh corn tortilla. To that we add 4 ounces (113 g) of Munich malt to bump up the breadiness just a bit and add some richness. If you find that your version is too rich or heavy, then cut in Pilsner malt at the expense of the Maris (say, 1 pound (454 g) of Pils to 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of Maris) but leave the Munich in there. Without it, you run a risk of getting a beer that’s thin and dilute in malt character (rather than “light”).

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