Cancun Mexico







How to drink beer in Cancun Mexico


“What’s this?” I can hear you saying, “HOW to drink a beer in Cancun? Don’t I just order one and it comes to the table and I drink it?”


Well, yes it can be that simple. But it doesn’t have to be. And then there’s the choice of WHICH beer to drink…there are choices involved here, though not nearly as many as you are probably used to back home, since there are really only 2 brewers in Mexico and imports in Cancun are rare. Beer-on-tap is extremely rare, and micro-brews are COMPLETELY non-existent.


Let’s start with the basics: The Spanish word for beer is “Cerveza” (say ‘Sair-Vay-Zsah”). If you run a bar or store in Cancun, you may only serve the beer from ONE brewing company. The brewery ‘sponsors’ your store or bar and provides coolers, signage, tables and chairs, and even the painting of your premises in exchange for your loyalty to their company.


The biggest brewery is Grupo Modelo, who’s main beer brands in this part of the country are Montejo and the famous Corona. The other brewery makes Tecate and Sol, as well as lesser-known brands such as Bohemia (very malty and tasty), and XX (pronounced 'Does-Eck-Ees'). And except for Bohemia, your tastebuds will hardly notice which one you drink, they are all light pilsner beers along the lines of Budweiser (who actually owns about half of Grupo Modelo) or Miller or Pabst, etc.


Corona is a famously Mexican beer which we’re sure you’ve heard of. Down here, it’s considered rather a ‘tourist’ beer, while more of the ‘locals’ drink the brown-bottled Montejo. The clear glass bottle of Corona allows it to get ‘light-struck’, a bad thing for beer as it tends to develop a ‘skunky’ odor and taste. For some reason, the clear-bottled Sol doesn’t seem to suffer from this problem. In any case, the habit of squeezing a bit of lime (“limon”) into a Corona solves the problem, and many beer drinkers get into the habit of a little lime juice in whichever brand they drink. Almost any bar or restaurant in Cancun will automatically serve a plate of cut limes and salt with your beer…if they don’t, simply say “limon, por favor” (‘lime, please').


The ‘other beers’ from the Big-2 brewers are Modelo, Modelo Light, and Negra Modelo, and Estala from Grupo Modelo…Modelo is a typical beer but in a can; Modelo Light is possibly the same beer in a different can, and Negra Modelo is a ‘dark’ beer in a foil-labeled bottle that is only slightly richer in taste, and it’s possible it merely has a few more hops and a bit of coloring added to it. From the other brewery is Tecate Light, again in a can and VERY light; Carta Blance is also popular. Indio is a darker beer, not quite as rich in flavor as Negra Modelo, and if you were holding a blindfolded taste-test, you might be hard-pressed to identify this as a ‘dark’ beer.


Budweiser, Bud Light, and O’Doul’s (non-alcoholic) are available in some Modelo establishments, and Heineken can be found in some of the nicer restaurants, but really, as you can see, your choices are limited. There are, however, some variations in beer-drinks in Cancun to make up for lack of variety…these are worth trying, and you might find yourself hooked by the time you go back home.


The “Michelada” is the most common deviation. It’s a beer with a healthy portion of lime juice and worcestershire sauce served over ice. Very refreshing, and it stays cold! Another option is to order a glass of Clamato (tomato juice and clam juice…who ever thought of mixing those two things together???) and mix it with your beer. It’s common to have it over ice as well, and as weird as it may sound, is very tasty and refreshing.


Buying beer at the store shouldn’t be tricky, but it can be. Let’s cover the big Grupo Modelo brands first. Corona and Pacifico are purchased by-the-bottle, and come in three sizes: the “Ballena” (‘whale’) or Cayuama (about a quart); the “Medio” (‘1/2’) which is about 12 ounces; and the “Quarto” (‘1/4’) which is about 6 ounces.


The latter is usually only served either in the summer when a ‘normal’ (medio) beer tends to get too warm to be enjoyable before you get to the bottom, OR by establishments who offer what seems like a killer deal for a bucket of beers and then delivers the little guys when you expected the ‘normal’ size. See a great deal on a bucket of beers? ASK FIRST if they are ‘medios’ or ‘quartos’.


In any case, if you buy Corona or Montejo IN BOTTLES at a store, you will also pay for a deposit. No big deal, right? WRONG. The deposit is a big money maker for beer sales. You must KEEP your receipt showing the beer deposit, and bring the bottles back ONLY TO THAT STORE for a refund. No other store will refund your bottles for you. A different store WILL exchange your empties for fresh beers without charging the deposit, but no cash-back.


If you are only buying 6 beers at a time, then this isn’t a tradgedy. But if you get your beer a case at a time for parties on your balcony, this can add up to be some substantial money. The deposit on a ‘medio’ bottle is typically 3 pesos or almost $0.30 (usd), so the deposit on a case of 20 is about $6.00. Deposits on the ‘ballena’ size bottles is double or more that amount. By the way, while Corona is a ‘clear-bottle’ beer, it comes in a brown bottle in the ‘ballena’ size.


As with all rules, there is an exception to the above, being the ‘Corona en Baril’, sold in six-packs of disposable brown barrel-shaped bottles.


Moving onto the Tecate brewery, Tecate and Sol are usually served and sold in non-returnable (no deposit) twist-off bottles, as well as cans. However, Sol also is available in stores in a totally unique (in Mexico) ½-liter bottle on which you will need to pay a deposit. You can also buy Sol and Indio in ‘ballena’-size bottles, which require paying a deposit.


Finding a place to buy beer is not difficult…nearly every other street-corner market sells beer. Modelo has beer-and-snack stores called ‘Modeloramas’, and ‘SIX’ and 'OXXO' stores which sell Tecate brews are all over Cancun. All the SIX and OXXO stores and some of the Modeloramas have a large plastic ice cooler near the front of the store stuffed with chipped ice and beer…if you ask for a bit of ice to keep your beer cold, you can grab a few chunks and put them in the bag. Regardless of whether cans or bottles are wrapped in some sort of six-pack container, feel free to take just one or a few beers if that’s all you want.


There are four other 'regional' beers made by Grupo Modelo, and you may find these brands in larger 'Modelorama' stores: Estrella is a Pilsner type beer sold primarily in the state of Jalisco. León is a Munich style beer, dark with a full bouquet and body, sold mainly in southeastern Mexico. Pacifico is the favorite on the western side of the country.


The Grupo Modelo product with the longest tradition is Victoria, a Vienna type beer. Its history goes back to 1865, the year in which the "Toluca y México" Brewery was founded in the city of Toluca.Victoria beer has been present at many of the great events of Mexican history, especially the Revolution. Lithographs still exist of Emilio Zapata's followers in which the Victoria logo can be seen. Unique for its strong, bitter taste that immediately convinces the most demanding consumer, Victoria beer has kept its original label, showing Gambrinus, King of Beer, holding his beer mug.

Most SIX and Modelorama stores also sell a limited selection of liquor, primarily tequila, rum, and vodka, as well as ‘cana’, which is HIGH-potency cane alcohol, along the lines of ‘Everclear’.


Now that we’re clear on all this, enjoy your beer in Cancun!


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