There’s a great Mitch Hedburg bit where he says “Rice is great if you’re hungry and want to eat 2000 of something.” In this way, I believe rice and light beer have something in common. There are occasions where drinking is an extended affair (or ought to be). An afternoon that starts on the beach, an evening out in the summer heat, St. Patrick’s day, etc. In these long-haul events, maintaining hydration and mitigating over-indulgence requires a beverage up to the task. Enter light beer.
I have, perhaps, been unkind to light beer before. And not without reason — the hyper-sweet, but otherwise tasteless macro-domestics available leave something (good flavor, for instance) to be desired. But this post isn’t about taking down any single brand. No, it’s an impassioned defense of the genre of beer so often malligned by snoots like me. The ’80s action movie, the top 40s track, Domino’s Pizza. There exists a time and a place for all of them — likewise light beer.
This revelation occured to me in Mexico, specifically in Merida, the capital city of the tropical Yucatan province. To the uninformed, you might assume Merida was the birthplace of light beer. More varieties exist side by side at the average supermarket than you’d find craft beers at a decently stocked liquor store in Ontario. And “light beer” in Mexico doesn’t mean sub 5%. Oh no — you’ll frequently encounter 3.8% and lower brews, practically a soft drink. But not. Eat enough of this proverbial rice and you’ll no doubt feel a buzz (and have to pee with egregious frequency).
In Mexico (and other hot climates, like in South East Asia) low ABV beer is king. It’s refreshing, inexpensive, can be consumed over lunch without the deletrious effects of alcohol, or consumed during a night out, offering a quenching oasis in between shots of mezcal. Rather than the main event, light beer so often acts as a partner in good times. The cheeky bell-ring of a hot work day ended, the appropriate refreshment for an early start on the dock.
I drank my fair share of light beer during our month in Merida. And truth told, returning to my craft brews has been a joy. But not once, baking on our deck in the Yucatan heat, did I say “jeez I wish this Modelo was an IPA.” I was pleased as plum with light beer, and when you’re feeling like something with more fizz than funk, you should enjoy it with all the aplomb you deserve.