Bienvenidos a Mexican Dining Week on OnMilwaukee.com. This week, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, we're spicing things up with daily articles about Mexican restaurants, foods, drinks, sweets and more. Enjoy a week of sizzling stories that will leave you craving Milwaukee's Latin offerings. Olé!
We don't really need reasons to drink beer in Milwaukee. It's Wednesday? Yeah, I'll have a Riverwest Stein, same as Tuesday.
Sure, when a day like St. Patrick's comes along Irish Americans and their beer-drinking allies may have a few more Irish beers than usual, or at least some green-tinged High Lifes or Miller Lites, and the same goes for Cinco de Mayo, when Mexican Americans, along with lots of other Americans, purportedly set out to celebrate Mexican culture and more generally just drink a lot of beer.
So it's understandable if you want to kick back and enjoy a few beers this holiday week, but here's something different. Why not challenge yourself to try a different Mexican beer this Cinco de Mayo? In an effort to encourage you, here's a quick guide to many of Milwaukee's Mexican cerveza offerings.
Corona Extra, which is often simply "Corona" to most people, although there is a Corona Light, is the obvious choice for Mexican beer. First produced in 1925 in Mexico City, Corona Extra is the biggest selling product for Grupo Modelo, the brewing group that also produces Modelo Especial, Negra Modelo and Modelo Light, along with Pacifico, Estrella and a number of other brands.
This leading brand from Anheuser-Busch's similarly sized big beer sister to the south is the largest-selling beer in Mexico and the No. 1 import in the U.S. Not just the No. 1 Mexican beer import: the No. 1 beer import.
So, if you've never tried one, go ahead. Typically served with lime wedge, they are exceedingly good on a hot day, and we might just have one of those this week. If you've had plenty of Corona Extra already, try it with a lemon for a change, like they serve them at Conejito's Place, 539 W. Virginia St.
If you've had enough Corona Extra for a lifetime already, read on.
Corona Familiar, which only used to be available in Mexico, seems to be Corona Extra in 32-ounce brown bottles. Many folks who grew up in Mexico and even some distributors for Grupo Modelo will verify that Corona's brown bottle has a long history in Mexico.
"Corona Familiar has only been available in Milwaukee for four months, although they were sold in Chicago earlier and people have been bringing them up," says Ryan Rehan, owner of Fine Vineyard, 601 S. 1st St.
You can get a bottle of Corona Familiar at Fine Vineyard, where it sits in the cooler right alongside its best-selling cousin and many other Mexican beers.
Familiar is supposedly packaged to share, to be put down at the dinner table like a bottle of wine. Many beer drinkers know the benefits of brown over clear bottles (which is how Corona Extra comes), but might question if this matters with a good 'ol mass-produced yellow beer.
Regardless of the possible reasons why, Familiar does taste different. And hey, organizing your own taste comparisons can be fun.
Another Grupo Modelo beer worth trying is Victoria, which was brewed by Cervecera de Toluca y Mexico until 1935 when it was swallowed up by the ever-expanding Modelo. An amber-colored Vienna-style beer, Victoria was first exported to the U.S. in 2010.
Other Mexican beers popular in Milwaukee are Dos Equis Amber and Dos Equis Lager, which are made at the Moctezuma Brewery in Monterrey, Mexico. Like Corona Extra, these are also often served with lime wedges.
Dos Equis is owned by Heineken International, which owns about a kajillion other breweries worldwide, including another old Mexican classic, Tecate. The brewery was founded in 1890 and makes other brands widely available in Milwaukee liquor stores, such as Sol, Carta Blanca and Bohemia.
A pale pilsner, Bohemia is interesting not only because it's often overlooked on the liquor store shelves but also because it's won the most awards of all Mexican beers.
Cucapa Brewing Company is a micro-brewery located in the Mexican state of Baja California. The brewery started with a brew pub in Mexicali in 2002 and has grown to offer 14 beers, five of which are often available at Discount Liquor, 5031 W. Oklahoma St. or at Discount Liquor's other store at the corner of Barstow and Main Streets in Waukesha.
"They are well made, nice beers. It's good to see something micro come out of Mexico," says Marie Greguska, import and micro brew consultant at Discount.
Greguska has carried Cucapa's La Migra Imperial Stout, Low Rider Rye Ale and Green Card Barley Wine, which come in 22-ounce bottles, as well as Chupacabras Pale Ale and Obscura Brown Ale, which come in six pack cans.
But back to big beer. Just for fun, and if the rain holds off long enough, enjoy a bucket of Coronitas, seven ounce bottles of Corona Extra, which you can enjoy in tin pails on the patio at Barnacle Buds, 1955 S. Hilbert St.
Or take a six pack and what's called a "loose" 12 pack of them home from Discount Liquor or the big El Rey at 1023 S. Chavez Dr. and put them in your own pail full of ice in the backyard (they're "loose" because there's no cardboard separators between the bottles in the package).
And not to miss out on Mexican-style beers, both Miller and Budweiser offer variations on a theme, from the Miller Chill, available with either lime or lemon to Bud Light Lime.
If you're going that route, then you might give the new Bud Light Lime-a-Rita a try. At eight percent alcohol in an eight-ounce can, the "margarita with a twist" is surprisingly good.
Royal has taught courses in critical pedagogy, writing, rhetoric and cultural studies at several schools in Wisconsin and Minnesota. He is currently Adjunct Associate Professor of Humanities at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
Royal lives in Walker’s Point with his family and uses the light of the Polish Moon to illuminate his way home.