This blog documents my attempt to drink a beer from every country in the world and every state in the United States.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Country #35: Puerto Rico

Beer: Medalla Light

Brewery: Compañía Cerverca de Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

ABV: 4.2%

Don't let the robust head fool you: there's not a lot going on here.
Writing this blog has been fun for me not so much because I’m a beer nerd, but because I’m a geography nerd. Getting to experience different beers from all over the planet has been great, but many of them don’t taste very interesting, and beer from Asia often tastes exactly like beer from Africa, which tastes exactly like beer from Europe.

Um, North America, and... is Puerto Rico a continent? And I guess one more too.
Every now and then, though, I have a beer that tastes truly unique. Most recently, I had a bottle of Medalla Light from Puerto Rico. Medalla isn’t available in most places. Despite Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. dependency, and the lack of any importation taxes or tariffs to ship it to the mainland, I’ve only heard of it being available in places with large Puerto Rican communities, like New York and Florida, which is where I found mine. If you live somewhere without many Puerto Ricans, but still want to try Medalla Light, you’re in luck, for I have devised a recipe! Just follow these simple steps:

1)   Get a Budweiser
2)   Pour out 1/3 of it
3)   Fill the vacated space with water
4)   Voila! Enjoy your approximated Medalla Light!

For those of you who prefer your recipes in visual form.
Of all the crappy light beer I’ve had in my life, I have never tasted anything as flavorless and punchless as Medalla Light. It wasn’t really bad. I’ve had many beers that made my taste buds recoil in horror, and this one didn’t elicit such a reaction. It literally tasted like nothing. It wasn’t even very fizzy, which would have at least leant it a refreshing character to pair well with Puerto Rico’s warm weather and spicy cuisine. It was just… barely there.

This is an island that is very exuberantly proud. Just not of their beer.
Puerto Rico deserves better. In constant political limbo, teetering between the dependent status quo, possible independence, and even more possible statehood, it has developed a vibrant culture all its own, full of mofongo, salsa music, and crazy parades. Not quite country, not quite state, it is certainly a place all its own, and it’s made many interesting cultural contributions to the world.

But it also contributed Medalla Light to the world: the bottle claims that it is “premium,” “recognized on 3 continents,” and that it is an “award winning beer.” It even depicts a bunch of medals that it apparently won. Indeed, the beer is even named for a medal, which begs an interesting question: did they name the beer Medalla, and then hope that it won some medals, or did they re-name it after it won, like Pabst did after earning their glorious blue ribbon in 1893? Either way, it’s typical of the false braggadocio given to beer branding in the Caribbean basin, as seen in Famosa, Presidente, Prestige, and others. Regal name, no substance

If a beer tries to tell you that it's "premium," you can probably take it to mean that it's terrible. Premium is an empty adjective, devoid of any real meaning in the context of beer, and is often used as a marketing distraction for bad product.
After trying Medalla Light, I wondered to myself if regular Medalla might be a little bit more interesting. There are plenty of “light” versions of already-light beers from tropical countries, like Red Stripe Light and San Miguel Light, so I figured this was one of those. It turns out there is no such thing as regular Medalla. My theory is, after concocting what would become Medalla Light, the brewery HAD to label it as a light beer right off the bat, because sooner or later the marketing gurus would tell them they had to make a “light” version, and they couldn’t legally sell a bottle of air as beer.

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