| Buena Cerveza de México
This month column was written by Bob's friend
Hello to Bob and all his readers. I'm sure Bob won't mind if I tell
everyone I joined him for a fun Cinco de Mayo pub crawl last month.
We both struggle with remembering dates but that's one of the few
holidays -- along with the Fourth of July -- that's difficult to mess up,
calendar-wise. As we enjoyed more than our share of beers we
discussed a few things that a bit of research has finally cleared up. So I
asked Bob to let me share a bit of the results with you.
First, there are a number of misconceptions surrounding Cinco de
Mayo, not least of which is that it's Mexico's independence day. It's
not; that's celebrated on Sept. 16. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the
Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, when Mexican forces, led by General
Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, routed the French army. Their unlikely
victory continues to be celebrated in Mexico, especially in the state of
In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has metamorphosed into a
celebration of Mexican heritage (my background) and pride, and that
includes, of course, Mexican beer. But Mexican beer has its own
curious heritage. Most of the beer produced in Mexico is a European
style first created by Anton Dreher in Austria in the mid-1800s, as
Schwechater Lagerbier. Eventually it became known as Vienna lager,
or Vienna-style lager. I know it is definitely not Bob's favorite style but
it's one I enjoy on occasion.
Dreher pioneered the use of a new malt, dubbed Vienna malt, which is
gently roasted in a kiln, giving it a pale color that's not too light but not
as dark as many others, either. Dreher combined his new malt with
lager yeast to come up with a crisp lager with soft, malt flavors,
complexity and often, a light toasted note, too.
So how did Vienna lager land in Mexico? On April 10, 1864, Napoleon
III of France appointed Maximilian I -- one of the Austro-Hungarian
empire's Habsburgs -- emperor of Mexico. He was the only ruler in the
Second Mexican Empire, and his rule was short-lived. He was
overthrown by Benito Juarez just three years later.
But in terms of beer, his influence continues to this day because
Maximilian I's entourage included a number of Austrian brewers,
notably Santiago Graf. Many of these Austrian brewers continued to
brew in Mexico even after Maximilian was executed, and they greatly
influenced the development of Mexico's brewing industry.
Today, few Vienna lagers can be found in Austria. The majority are
brewed in North America now, and it continues to be the dominant
style in Mexico. In fact, just about every well-known beer is a
Vienna-style lager or a variation on the style -- but you wouldn't know
it from the label. Many of the beers from the two biggest Mexican
brewers have adjuncts or additives that make them less expensive to
produce, but also make them less flavorful, as well as lighter in color.
These include Carta Blanca, Corona Extra, Modelo Especial, Pacifico,
Sol and Tecate. They're immensely popular, but I generally avoid them.
Two of the better Mexican Vienna lagers that I like on occasion are Dos
Equis Amber and Victoria, which has only recently started being
imported into California. Another favorite -- and an exception to the
not-too-dark standard -- is Negra Modelo, a Vienna lager variation
pioneered by Graf. It's a great example of slightly tweaking one style to
create another. The slightly darker lager has become one of Mexico's
signature contributions to the world of beer.
Here in the United States we're awash in good examples of this style.
One of the most popular beers sold in America, Samuel Adams Boston
Lager, is actually a Vienna-style lager. Other fine examples include Abita
Amber and Karl Strauss Amber Lager.
Hey Bob, thanks for letting me write your column. It was fun.
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Bob and Friends Speak of Beer......
My thanks to David for this month's column. See you
next time to"speak about beer".
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