On a Hot Summer Day, Even Workaday Beers Taste GREAT!
At A Glance
Beer: Carta Blanca
Pros: Light lagers hit the spot on hot sunny days
Cons: Little flavor
I firmly believe that for every beer, there is an occasion. A time and place when no other beer would be quite as good.
I ran into the absolutely right occasion for Carta Blanca last summer. It was a sweltering 95 degree day in Monterrey when I visited the Cerveceria Cuahtemoc Moctezuma — a fabulous brewery in the heart of the city. I was fortunate to be able to get in on a tour being given in both spanish and english for a group of beer writers. We started off in the old 1898 brewhouse — now a museum, then moved across the street to see the ultra-modern gleaming stainless steel brewhouse. We went through the massive lagering facility, admiring the rows and rows of cavernous tanks — each larger than a railroad tank car. Then it was a stroll through the packaging line. Finally, almost two hours after we started, we went back across the street to the fabulous beer garden to sample the brewery’s wares.
It was hot, we were all tired, and drinking a couple of ice cold Carta Blancas while sitting in the shade of the towering old oak trees was heaven on earth! Beer always tastes best at the brewery, and in the hot climate of Monterrey, a light-bodied lager hits the spot like nothing else!
Although I sampled this beer at the brewery, it’s widely available throughout Mexico, and I’ve had it many times, particularly at parties where it’s one of the more popular brands. It’s also available in bottles in the U.S., both in 12-ounce bottles and the large “bunker” or “bomber” bottles.
This is a very light-bodied American style pale lager (an offshoot of the pilsner style). This is, in my view, probably the blandest, least interesting style of beer on the market, although it probably accounts for 90% of beer sales in the U.S. Everyone knows the style — it’s Miller, Coors, Bud, Corona, and a hundred others. In it’s classic form, American pale lager is made using a grain base of 40 to 60% corn, with pale malted barley accounting for the rest. Some beers, such as Budweiser, use rice, although that produces a lighter bodied, blander, less complex beer.
Color is always extremely pale yellow, hopping rates very low, and carbonation fairly aggressive — some say gassy.
Very pale yellow color, less than 2 on the SRM scale. Brilliant clarity with a large, robust, tightly formed head.
Aroma: I get a bit of spicy, earthy hop smell the first time I smell the beer, along with a little bit of fresh corn. Generally clean, with no significant defects. I’ve heard people say they get some oxidation aromas, but I’ve never encountered that in fresh samples, and I’ve never tried this beer outside of Mexico.
Flavor: Extremely light bodied with a slightly sweet corn flavor that I rather like in American pale lagers. In some ways, it reminds me of some of the regional lagers I’ve had in Pennsylvania, such as Yuengling or even Iron City. Slight hops flavor, with just a little peppery edge to it. Extremely light flavor.
Carta Blanca is one of the biggest selling brands of Cerveceria Cuahtemoc Moctezuma — particularly in northern Mexico. It’s generally regarded as an everyday popular brand (not a premium brand) and, although available in the U.S., is not widely exported.
On the day I visited the brewery, I would probably have given the beer five stars if all that mattered was overall impression at the time. But it’s not all that matters, and most of the time, when I sample Carta Blanca, I see it for what it is — a rather ordinary, pale, light-bodied American-style lager. The beer is just too bland and lifeless for my tastes. On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who drinks Bud all the time, and who actually thinks it’s good, then give Carta Blanca a try — it’s just as bland as what you’re used to drinking, so you’ll probably love it. For me, it gets two stars — but I can’t wait until the next hot day that I’m in Monterrey — I’ll be at the Cerveceria’s beer garden — Carta Blanca in one hand and a smile on my face!