The second in our series of posts dedicated to mixing beer focuses on the concoction from south-of-the-border known by many names. Weather you call it a chilada, a michelada, or a chevada, these cerveza preparadas can be a spicy and refreshing change-of-pace. They’re also great for a party, say a 4th of July BBQ, when you can easily whip up a pitcher for your guests!
The Michelada Basicos
There are several versions of the Cerveza Preparada, but they all have some common parts: lager beer, acid, and salt. Usually the acid is a mix of lime juice and tomato juice. Sometimes Clamato gets used for the clammy-tang, sometimes Worcestershire sauce is used (as in a bloody mary) and more-often-then-not some hot sauce is used for saltiness and spice. However the drink is constructed, the objective is to add some layers of south-of-the-border flavor to what is usually a cheap Mexican light lager beer.
Cerveza Preparadas are enjoyed throughout Mexico and Central America, and the most classic formulation uses about 1/2 beer, 1/2 tomato juice, the juice of 1/2 a lime, and a few dashes of seasoning. Hot sauces native to the local region, worcestershire-sauce (also known as “English Sauce”), or Maggi (a soy-sauce like dark seasoning) are common additives depending on where the Michelada is being prepared. The drink is then served on the rocks in a salt (and sometimes chili-powder) rimmed glass and garnished, bloody mary-like, with any variety of fresh produce.
Sobre la Cerveza
Mexico is not yet known for its craft beer producing breweries, and until that scene develops more the beers that people think of when they hear “cerveza” range from passable alternative to light lagers to undrinkable skunk-piss. As much as the adulterants added to a michelada will mask offending beer flavors, we would recommend staying (far) away from the most offensive beers from Latin America.
If you want to stay traditional leave the Coronas, Sols, and Caguamas in the cooler and reach for a higher-quality macro-brewed cerveza instead. Our choices would be Bohemia Pilsner (named the Best Mexican Lager by Serious Eats) or our favorite slummin’-it beer: Tecate. The classic michelada doesn’t call for a pilsner, but we find the citrusy hop-punch of the Bohemia to be a good match for the tomato + lime combo of the mixers.
Michelada’s usually use a light-lager, but the Federales are not going to come after you if you decide to go with a darker beer instead. Negra Modello or Dos Equis Amber are the two darker Mexican beers that are probably your best bet. Both of those beers usually rank among the top in “Best of Mexican Beer” articles, and the LA Weekly Ranks them #2 and #3 after their top choice – Bohemia. We like the cerveza preparada made with the amber lagers as the malt-flavors hold up to the adulterants better than their lighters cousins.
Craft Beer & the Michelada
This is a craft beer site, and you don’t have to use macro-brewed Mexican beers to make these savory and spicy beverages. There is no reason you can’t mix-up your micheladas with some cerveza artisanal, and your options are nearly limitless.
Mexican craft beer options are limited, but there are a few out there! Finding them in the states might be tough as they seem to be rare even in Mexico, but here some Mexican craft brewers to watch-out for:
- Cervecería Pública Condesa: This Mexico City brewery makes an American Brown Ale called Poe that might serve as an interesting malty background for a cerveza preparada.
- Cerveceria Minerva: There are a few options from this brewery that could work in a michelada; they make both a light and an amber lager.
- Cerveza Cucap: Of the bakers-dozen different beers produced by Cucapa, the Kolsch-style Baja Buggy might be an interesting option.
If you’d like to try a michelada with some easier-to-find craft beers you can start with one of the lager styles. Some ideas to get you going:
- Helles is a German style that is light and refreshing and could work as a base for a cerveza preparada that uses a more mild mix. Maui Brewing Co’s Bikini Blonde is a widely available version.
- A pilsner will bring more hop character to the mix, and your craft options are greater. Victory’s Prima Pils is a Beer of Tomorrow favorite, but the Lagunitas Pils or even the Sierra Nevada Summerfest would work well.
- Another lager option that adds more malt sweetness and body and that will stand up to more spicy additions is a Vienna Style Lager like Boston Beer Co’s Samuel Adams or Coney Island Lager by Schmaltz Brewing.
Lots of craft beer fans turn their noses up at mixing beer, and many would especially scoff at mixing good craft beer with anything. However, we at Beer of Tomorrow don’t think that mixing beer should be looked down on. Mixing beer is a great way to make a cheap brew that you might not normally drink more palatable and interesting, and if you’re into shandies or micheladas, why wouldn’t you want to use a delicious craft beer instead of the common macro-brewed lagers?
“Drink what you like” is our unofficial motto, and while we don’t always make craft-beer micheladas, when we do this is how we like to do it:
The Beer of Tomorrow Way
Bracing yet refreshing, once of these salty-and-spicy cerveza preparadas and a plate of huevos rancheros might be just what you need to get your legs back under you on those shaky mornings. Here is our personal favorite preparation:
In a pint glass combine:
- 1/2 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
- 4oz Tobasco-brand Bloody Mary Mix
- The Juice of 1/2 lime
- A squirt of Siraccha sauce & a dash of soy sauce
- A generous grind of black pepper
If you are not the dive in and try it type here are a few more recipes and detailed instructions for putting together a cerveza preparada:
- The Girls Guide to Good Beer: How to Make a Michelada in 7 Very Simple Steps
- Chow: Michelada Recipe
- Serious Eats: Time for a Drink: the Michelada
- Zagat: Rick Bayless’ Red O Michelada Recipe
They are all pretty similar, so we’d suggest making an afternoon of gathering the supplies and trying different combinations and ingredients until you hit on your own cerveza preparada perfecto! Let’s hear your best recipes in the comments!