Mexican Microbrews Hit Houston

The first thing that struck me about the cans of Sierra Madre that were delivered to my office was that they looked almost cartoonish, like one of the Simpsons illustrators had created a satirical beer based on an amalgam of a Coors Light can and a Corona bottle. It wasn't necessarily the best first impression for the new beer from Mexico, eager to make a splash in the Texas beer market.

Up until very recently Sierra Madre was brewed, bottled (or canned, in this case) and sold only in Mexico. The Monterrey-based microbrewery -- like so many other things in the sleek, wealthy city -- is immense, expensive and very modern, and happens to brew one of Mexico's most popular brands of craft beers. The company has parlayed that popularity into a chain of brewpubs, with six locations across Mexico and growing. To see the brewpubs themselves is to understand the can design better: playful, fun and definitely targeted towards a 21 to 35 demographic.

Sierra Madre currently makes 14 different craft beers at the brewery, including seasonal flavors such as Oktoberfest and Navidad. And although the beer has been brewed since 1998, it's never been available in the United States. That's changing with Sierra Madre's new distribution company, based in San Antonio, which aims to start stocking Texan shelves with the beer. The first one to hit Houston will be Sierra Madre Pilsner Style.

But how does the beer taste?

The beer we tried is marked as a pilsner-style brew, and that it most definitely is. Similar in taste to its Mexican cousins Pacifico and Bohemia, this would never be mistaken for a German pilsner. There simply isn't enough hoppyness to it. That aside, it's a refreshing beer with subtle earthy flavors -- almost grassy at times -- that would be best served ice cold on a hot day.

The light version of the beer, however, wasn't as big a hit. I shared both cans with our receptionist, Abrahan Garza, who remarked that it was very easy to tell just by sight which of the two clear plastic cups held the light beer. It was quite simply a watered-down version of the regular pilsner, with a taste that Garza compared to Pabst Blue Ribbon. Not in a good way. Then again, I've never met a light beer that I've liked, so I'm not rushing to take any points away from Sierra Madre. Somewhere out there, someone will enjoy this light beer. It just won't be me.

Fans of Mexican beer -- and Mexican-style pilsners, specifically -- will undoubtedly find a new beer to love with Sierra Madre. But this hophead will stick to her Elissa IPA and 512 Pale for now.

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