The global march of the 'Mexipops' continues

  • @timwalker

Let's call them "Mexipops": Mexican-style light lagers, served in clear glass bottles with a slice of lime.

Last week, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's biggest brewer, coughed up $20bn to buy the remaining half of Mexican firm Grupo Modelo, which brews Modelo and Corona Extra, the best-selling Mexican beer in the US. Despite a slump in UK beer sales last year, Corona added 11 per cent to its value on this side of the Atlantic, too.

Other big brewers seem to have spotted a trend. In January, Heineken acquired the UK rights to market, sell and distribute Desperados, a tequila-flavoured lager originally from Spain, and now brewed in France. The Spanish beer brand San Miguel has launched San Miguel Fresca, which it describes as "a refreshing, crisp sunshine lager, best served chilled with a wedge of lime". And Carling has gone one step further, pre-infusing its limited-edition "summer lager", Carling Zest, "with a hint of natural citrus".

Sol, the original imported Mexican beer, was introduced to the UK in 1986. Corona first arrived from Central America in 1995, but began advertising on a grand scale only as recently as 2008.

Beer expert Melissa Cole, a blogger and author of Let Me Tell You About Beer, is baffled by its new slew of imitators. "I think they're seeing a decline in beer sales, and are trying to capture people who don't drink lager," she says. "But these [Mexipops] won't attract people into the beer-drinking category, because they taste so far away from what good beer is. It's cider-over-ice territory, alcopops. It might capture a market for a couple of years, but it won't last."

Meanwhile, legend surrounds the lime in a Mexipop's bottleneck: Mexicans supposedly stuck the wedge there to prevent flies landing in their drink; the rest of us then decided it would taste nice if we pushed it down into the beer.

But the truth, Cole explains, is a lot less romantic: "If beer is served in clear bottles, the sunlight instantly destroys any aroma hop. It's called 'light-strike'. It produces a compound that smells like a damp dog, or wet cardboard. Only about a third to a half of the population can actually discern it, but sticking a piece of aromatic, zesty lime in the top covers it up. It's a marketing ploy to disguise the fact that the beer is in an inappropriate container."