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Beer Reviews

Negra Modelo

Grupo Modelo
Mexico City

Style: Vienna

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

When most folks walk into a typical Mexican restaurant, they aren’t expecting a quality selection of drinkable beers. In fact, there’s a reason why even some beer dorks are more apt to order up a margarita on the rocks made with a quality tequila instead of even thinking about looking at the beer list: because the modern Mexican beer tradition pretty much begins and ends with a yellow liquid claiming to be beer but is so god-awful that most people cram a wedge of lime into the bottle to kill the fucking taste.

Of course Mexican beer as a whole is actually a bit more interesting than Corona or (gleep!) Corona Light, and a big reason for that is because Mexico, in its national infancy, was passed around by the European powers-that-be like a bad doobie at a college house party. For a short time the country south of the border was ruled by Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, archduke of Austria and younger brother of Austrian Emperor Francis (I’m sure everyone called him Psycho, though). While Maxi didn’t last too long on the Mexican throne—he was nothing more than a puppet propped up there by the frogs and scheming Mexican politicos—his presence did leave a little bit more lasting impression than the donation of his body for firing squad practice seemed at the time. One such impression is the existence of Vienna-style lagers in the heart of Mexico, like tonight’s star attraction, Negra Modelo.

This brew comes from the same global brewing conglomerate responsible for Corona and its interchangeably shitty ilk, but for people used to (ick) Pacifico, Corona, or Modelo Especial, Negra Modelo is on the other side of the spectrum. You know, it’s a “dark beer.”

It does indeed pour a dark brownish amber, darker, in fact, than a lot of craft ambers, and sports a thick, healthy tan head. Mild caramel notes bubble off the foam, along with some spicy hop hints, maybe Hallertau or another Old World variety.

Negra Modelo is a lager, and that fact’s evident throughout the first sniff to the last sip. Although the body is decidedly medium (downright meaty for a mainstream beer) it drinks smooth, making it go down cleaner than even the lightest of craft-brewed ambers. The sip starts with some mild toffee fading into “regular” maltiness, coming perilously close to wateriness before a clip of carbonation calls things to a halt. Tiny but detectable classic hops nip at the taste buds at the end, but the finish is lager-clean, without even a hint of esters.

While not the greatest Vienna-style lager in the world—or the Western hemisphere—Negra Modelo is at least drinkable, and even enjoyable, if you’re in the right mood. And if you do find yourself in a Mexican restaurant and you do order up one of these, you’ll taste another reason why Vienna-style lagers stuck around down there for the last century and a half: they go great with Mexican food. The no-brainer pairing is mole sauce, but the mild maltiness of Negra Modelo is a perfect foil to spicier fare, like the chorizo tacos I had with tonight’s sample. Just remember to tip your glass in memory of poor, naive Maximilian and his four-year reign as the Austrian Emperor of Mexico.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on February 23, 2011.
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