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Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Short Review of Beer: Negra Modelo

Though its owned by Anheuser-Busch, Modelo (the largest brewery in Mexico and brewer of Negra Modelo) still keeps their operation homegrown. Pic found here

After finishing up my Stella Artois, it was time to get a new buffer beer. Buffer beers are the store-bought mainstream beers that I consume in between fill ups of my growler. Stella Artois had been my previous one, but this past weekend had me hankering for something a bit closer to home. I had my answer after a trip to one of our regularly frequented Mexican grocery stores revealed that they had Negra Modelo on sale.

It may surprise you to learn that Mexico is one of the largest brewers of beer in the world (I believe it ranks second or third in terms of production). While Mexico has always had its homegrown alcoholic beverages (pulque, tequila, etc) and a bit of localized domestic brewing since the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors, beer brewing really came of age in the 19th Century with German immigrants from Bavaria who arrived to work in the mines in northern Mexico. These miners discovered that the water there was identical in quality to the water they used back home to make their beer. Thus, a new industry was born.

Negra Modelo (Spanish for "Black Model", likely for its dark color) is not the first Mexican beer I've consumed. That distinction goes to Corona, which I found positively disgusting the first (and only!) time I drank it. No amount of lime juice could take away the pissy flavor of that beer. My husband, after supporting my displeasure at Corona, recommended Negra Modelo as his preferred Mexican beer.

I admit, the first time I drank Negra Modelo, I did not like it. It was too bitter for my novice palette. But time, variety, and persistence have paid off and I was ready to reapproach Negra Modelo with a new perspective.

According to the website of the Crown Imports, a US-based importer of foreign beers, Negra Modelo is characterized as "made with filtered water, malted barley, hops, rice and exceptional yeast varieties, which give way to the balanced flavor and remarkably smooth taste you can only find in a Negra Modelo. Hints of caramel sweetness and dark chocolate balance out this smooth, medium bodied beer."

My take: I smell and taste the malt (and it smells wonderful too!), it's still a bit on the bitter side for my liking, but I do detect just a tiny bit of sweetness if I let the beer sit in my mouth for a bit. It goes down pretty smoothly too. While technically Negra Modelo is a lager, it's a dark lager thanks to the roasted malt (the roasting process is called Munich Dunkel, which involved slow-roasting malts in the style of south German dark beer). It's definitely better this time around than when I tried it for the first time three years ago. At 5.5% ABV, there is a slight buzz, but it does not last long.

My trusty beer mug modeling Negra Modelo, back-lit by my computer screen. That dark mass in the mug is the lime floating around inside

While I'm a die-hard purist and normally avoid adulterating my beers in any way, shape or form, I do recommend adding some lime juice to Negra Modelo. I find that half a lime adds just enough zip to edge off the bitterness but not overwhelm the taste of the beer. Traditionally, Mexican beer drinkers would add lime in addition to chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, clamato (tomato-clam juice), seafood, fruit, salt, etc. to their beers, depending on region and personal preference. I don't particularly care for clamato as I find the tomato flavor overwhelming, but if you don't mind pretending you're drinking a hard tomato juice, by all means add it.

One thing to be said about Negra Modelo is that it's a fairly good all-purpose beer. It went well with everything from seafood gumbo to sandwiches. That sort of one-size-fits-all practicality is hard to pull off and it's something I value in beer. Previously, that all-purpose void was filled by Steel Reserve but since I've gotten away from drinking that shit, my other quest (aside from finding a good IPA) is to find a good quality all-purpose beer.

For more on the history of beer brewing in Mexico and the brands its produced, check out Wikipedia or this site for information.

As always, please enjoy responsibly

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