For Cinco de Mayo, Skip the Tequila; Head for the Sierra Madre

Not everything is Tecate and tequila with a smattering of high-pitched mariachi howling on Cinco de Mayo -- not anymore at least, thanks to the rise of Mexican craft breweries.

The individuals behind these operations aren't going the usual lager route, as the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month. They're going against the establishment, much like the Mexicans who fought off the French in the Battle of Puebla, what Cinco de Mayo commemorates. Brewers are producing Belgian-style selections and, something that made me thirsty, an ale aged in tequila barrels.

A little less adventurous is the pilsner by Sierra Madre, based out of Monterrey, Mexico, and founded in 1998. The beer, made with Saaz hops, has a moderate alcohol content (4.6 percent) and is packaged in a can, the vessel du jour of craft breweries, which goes to great lengths to make certain the consumer knows what he or she is drinking. The phrase "craft beer" appears nine times in English and Spanish combined.

When I came across a display at my local Whole Foods, what first attracted me was the yellow can. What sealed the deal was the price point. At $3.99, a six-pack of the pilsner was irresistible, especially considering I stumbled upon it the day before my birthday. Huzzah...I mean, Hijole! The reason for the low price is that the distributor needed to unload remaindered stock, and the good people at my supermarket were more than happy to oblige.

That translates to an additional option for Cinco de Mayo, one that pours light amber with a slender head. An initial malt slap to the mouth is followed by a rough finish that quickly morphs into something satisfactory for a crushing hot day. It's thin and light, yet more substantive than Corona. It's nowhere near the caliber of Victoria. Nevertheless, it kicks the pants off myriad margaritas and Sols.

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José Ralat Maldonado