Images Courtesy of Drizly
Ask a modern American what Mexican beer means to them and they’ll reply not by explaining a flavor profile, but by describing a feeling. They’re beers for hot weather. Beers that go great with food. Beers that necessitate a lime. A cerveza you can drink a lot of.
But there’s a lot more to Mexican beer and brewing history than those simplifications.
What Is Mexican Beer?
As with many countries’ brews, Mexican beer was created and developed through an amalgam of cultures. Its history goes back quite a long way: Evidence suggests that Mesoamericans had already discovered fermented beverages before the 16th century, and, according to The Economics of Beer, the Aztecs made a sort of beer produced from sprouted kernels of maize.
The arrival of Hernán Cortés in 1519 and the ensuing Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, however, took beer in Central and South America in an entirely different direction. The first official European-style brewery was opened in New Spain by one of Cortés’ soldiers, Alfonso de Herrero, in the 1540s, probably in the what’s today south of Mexico City. It was heavily taxed (in favor of native intoxicants) and expensive to make, due to the lack of native wheat and barley. But it did give locals a taste for the stuff. As colonial restrictions waned, beer production and consumption began to rise.