“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.
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.
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,
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
“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.
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.
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!