They may not be known for their complexity or microbrew lineage, but there’s one thing Mexican beers do better than all others: go with Mexican food. The light acidity of brands like Corona cuts through the richness of, say, guacamole, and the maltiness of ales such as Bohemia counters the heat of chiles. And then there’s that feeling of being on a sunny beach that only they can evoke. So why not rate them as you would fine wines? For this task we turned to Rene Ortiz, the executive chef of Austin’s La Condesa, whose restaurant boasts one of the state’s largest selections of cerveza (and tequila too). At our request, he matched eight popular brands with a variety of dishes. Not on the list? Carta Blanca. “It is the Michelob of Mexican beers,” says Ortiz. “I have no idea why people drink it.” He is, however, in favor of the supplemental lime wedge. “The citrus offers such a great contrast to chile.”
Hoppy Czech-style pilsner. Its balanced sweetness goes with complex flavors. Pair it with: mole, tacos al pastor, chile relleno, pescado veracruzana.
Lightly bitter with hints of caramel. Its maltiness tames the spice of chiles. Pair it with: mole, huitlacoche, carne asada, tacos al pastor, enchiladas rojas.
Spritzy with a wheaty aroma. “Its taste reminds me of Communion bread,” says Ortiz. Pair it with: tortas, enchiladas rojas, pescado veracruzana.
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Effervescent, grassy, sweet to the nose. Pair it with: carne asada, pollo en pipián, cochinita pibil, camarones al mojo de ajo, enchiladas verdes.
Light and woody with a dry finish. “I use it to deglaze my pans for soups,” notes Ortiz. Pair it with: pozole, tortilla soup, cochinita pibil, enchiladas verdes.
A perfectly neutral pilsner: not too smooth, not too bitter, with light bubbles. Pair it with: cochinita pibil, fish tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas verdes.
Faintly sweet with banana tones and a subtle bitter finish. Pair it with: chips and salsa, guacamole, ceviche, camarones al mojo de ajo, quesadillas.
Sweetish with light citrus notes. “This one goes down so easy you can drink it all day long,” says Ortiz. Pair it with: chips and salsa, guacamole, ceviche.