Corona Beer – The History of Mexican Beer

For better or worse modern marketers have done such a good job in associating images with their brands. That consumers can’t help but think of the brand name even if the product isn’t there. In the world of beer if you see a bottle of beer with a juicy lime tucked in the neck on a sunny sandy beach. Your mind is probably trained to jump immediately to one brand. Corona.

A pretty simple brew that emerged from the crowded pilsner market in Mexico. To become one of the top-selling beer brands in the world. We are going to look into the nearly 100 years history of Corona and see how this clear bottled brew became an absolute juggernaut.

To learn more about another global beer brand check our The fall of Budweiser – No longer America’s Favorite.

How it all came about

Two bottles of Corona Beer on a sunny beach.

Corona was first brewed in 1925. But the true beginning of this refreshing brew began in the mid-1800s. Across the sea, the last remnants of the Holy Roman Empire were falling and the Greman states were beginning the process of unification. Like almost all major political changes riots and persecutions were unfortunately too common.

So many minorities throughout the German states decided to emigrate to the new world. The United States provided to be a really popular destination for protestant Germans. But since many German states were persecuting the catholic citizens those immigrants wanted to avoid the majority protestant US.

Many of them found that Texas was a great landing spot. Then still under the control of catholic Mexico. Within a decade of most Germans arriving in Texas, the Mexican – American war broke out. And although this didn’t create too much hardship for those German immigrants, many Catholics had to pick up and move again to the Southern States of Mexico.

An old photo of German immigrants in Mexico.

Opening the first breweries

Today, many of the Southern states of Mexico have more people of German descent than Spanish, which makes Germans a pretty sizeable minority in southern Mexico. While most of these immigrants were farmers or laborers, some catholic nobles and industrialists found Mexico a more appealing place than turbulent Germany. When they emigrated to Mexico they didn’t just bring their wealth with them. They also brought their thirst for beer.

There are several stories of wealthy Germans bringing their favorite brewmasters with them to Mexico. In order to establish breweries and give their fellow immigrants a taste of the strong beer culture that they left behind.

By the late 1800s, Mexico had several breweries churning out pilsners which were all the rage for German drinkers at the time. Over the next few decades, the Mexican beer market slowly grew with local and regional breweries. First focusing mostly on serving immigrants but the refreshing lagers quickly gained popularity with native Mexicans as well.

A bottle of Corona with a piece of lime on a sandy beach.

Corona production starts

As industrialization swept Mexico in the 1920s a large new brewery was founded in Mexico City to serve the booming population there. In 1925 the brewery opened and began producing a Mexican style pilsner called Corona. Unlike many of its more traditional European cousins, this lager was distinctly Mexican.

with less noble hop bitterness and slightly higher levels of carbonation, Corona could provide sufficient refreshment and respite from the hot Mexican sun. It wasn’t just the taste of this beer that was uniquely Mexican. Its marketing was a great distinguishing factor as well.

While many Mexican breweries were comfortable with marketing focused on their German heritage Cerveceria Modelo positioned itself as a high-quality alternative to a Mexican drink called Pulque. It is an indigenous alcoholic drink made from the fermented sap of the agave plant. And while there were many producers of pulque in Mexico the traditional nature of the product meant the quality was inconsistent.

Pouring pulque a traditional Mexican drink from a clay pot to a bowl.

Corona and marketing

Coronas marketing not only boosted their beer brands’ popularity but is largely credited for the steady fall in pulque consumption over the coming decades. From the beginning, Corona was put in clear glass bottles which gave it a really distinct look in the marketplace. The brewers did consider darker bottles in the early years which would have improved the preservation of the beer flavor. Ultimately sales were improved much more by clear bottles that show off all the beer.

The 1950s, 60s, and 70s were a time of great expansion for Corona. This expansion not only allowed them to meet the demand for beer domestically but they also began to export abroad. In 1976 Corona began crossing the border to the north into the US. Modelo had previously made entry into the US in the 1030s. But World War One was a major disruption to the supply chain. This reintroduction to the US was a great success.

A bucket of Corona beer.

Corona as a global beer brand

By 1996 Corona held the number one import brand in the US beer market and its held that number one spot ever for nearly 25 years. The 80s saw Medlo begin shipping to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and many other European nations.

Corona is an interesting story from a macro perspective. It has managed to build upon its German roots to become something uniquely Mexican. Corona might not be the greatest representation of beer in terms of quality but its history leaves no doubt in our mind. As a brand, it does an excellent job representing Mexico as the cultural crossroads the nation has become today. Cheers.

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