Man, there are some times I wonder how I can get out of bed and face my working days. One such was yesterday. When our feared Web editor Keith Plocek sent out a call for “volunteers” to go taste the new-in-America draft Modelo beers, I gritted my teeth and took it for the team. As one of the older and more senior scribes here at the Press, it was the least I could do. I figured I would let the kids live a little while they still can.
But seriously, folks…The tasting took place at Escalante’s in Meyerland. I have always been a fan of Modelo, especially the dark Negra style, and all I can say about it on tap is “wow.” On tap, the amber-colored Munich-style lager comes equipped with a beautiful creamy head you don’t get from its bottled counterpart. And the flavor of draft Negra Modelo is to bottled Negra Modelo as hi-def TV is to regular, a drawing out and sharpening of the crisp malty goodness. I drank two, and they went well with the appetizers – chips with salsa, guacamole, and Escalante’s famous queso blanco. (The brewery recommends you try it with steak, pork, poultry and chocolate. That’s right, chocolate. Come to think of it, it does seem just the right brew to wash down mole enchiladas.)
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All I can say to qualify my praise for draft Negra Modelo is that it is a little heavy for summertime quaffing, around these miasmic subtropical latitudes, anyway. But it seems the ideal fall-winter Houston beer.
I ordered ceviche for my lunch and paired it with the light pilsner Modelo Especial, as per its reputation as a good pairing for seafood. (Other recommendations: barbecue, Latin and Asian cuisines.) It’s a better summer beer, but to me, I didn’t notice the difference between Especial’s draft and bottled varieties as dramatically as I did with the Negra. It did go well with the ceviche. (Which by the way, is delicious.) And file this under the “I never would’ve guessed” category: Model Especial is the #3 ranked imported beer in the US, trailing only Heineken and its Grupo Modelo stable-mate Corona.
Grupo Modelo brewmaster Cesar Martinez Guzman was on hand for questions. He said that Modelo wanted to crack the US culture of draft beer and that while the field was full of competition, the Modelo folks knew they had a good product. Houston and our drier but equally sprawling cousin city Phoenix are the only two markets with the draft stuff right now – evidently, we both drink a lot of bottled Modelo and are experienced with Southwestern cuisine. Also, he said that Mexicans like to order black-and-tan-like half-Especial, half-Negra concoctions known locally as Campechanas, like to seafood cocktail. (He said that Campechana in Mexico can refer to anything that is mixed.)
Now that sounds really good – a Campechana beer with a Campechana seafood cocktail and a little Los Skarnales music. – John Nova Lomax