Colorado craft-brewed Mexican lagers on tap before Cinco de Mayo

Mexican-style craft-brewed lagers are set to make a splash in Denver this summer, with a couple of new ones joining the fiesta in the run-up to Cinco de Mayo.

Because of its lighter, more mellow profile, Mexican lager isn't a style that's common among craft brewers, who typically push the limits with bigger, hoppier, bolder beers. But that is changing as craft-beer drinkers look for some gentler fare.

Tomorrow, as part of its third anniversary party, Vine Street Pub will debut Chupacabra, an imperial Mexican pilsner made with agave nectar. Coming in at 8.3 percent ABV, it's roughly twice as strong as a typical Mexican-style beer.

"We were looking to do something fun and something different, and we're always looking to push the style guidelines," says Brian Hutchinson, head brewer for Vine Street and its sister pubs, Mountain Sun and Southern Sun. Hutchinson had considered aging the beer in oak and adding lime-soaked hops to the recipe, but decided against it.

"We felt it was kind of delicate and that would have completely overwhelmed it," he explains. Chupacabra will be on tap at both Mountain Sun and Southern Sun on Cinco de Mayo.

And while Chupacabra is only available on draft, Durango's Ska Brewing started shipping its canned Mexican Logger statewide about two weeks ago. Until now, the beer had primarily been available only in the Durango area -- in part because Ska didn't have the brewing capacity to supply the entire state, and also because the old logo, which featured a brilliantly mustachioed Mexican man in a big sombrero napping under a tree, probably wasn't palatable from a social perspective.

Now Ska has substituted another image of the same man carrying two large chainsaws (the brew is made with Saaz hops!) and looking to do damage. The beer, at 4.2 percent ABV, comes in a lime-green, Mello Yello-like can.

Then there's Top Rope, a lower-alcohol Mexican lager made by Boulder's Upslope Brewing Company exclusively for the Big Red F restaurant chain, which serves it on tap at Lola in Denver and Centro Latin Kitchen and Zolo in Boulder.

Top Rope debuted last summer with a Mexican wrestling theme and is now permanently on tap, says Big Red F spokeswoman Bryce Clark.

And on the horizon is the possibility of a Mexican-style amber from Renegade Brewing, a new brewery and tap room that plans to open this summer at 925 West Ninth Avenue, just off Santa Fe Drive. Owners Brian and Khara O'Connell have said they want to brew a beer that complements the local eateries nearby.

But the king of the Mexican craft beer in Colorado is undoubtedly Del Norte Brewing in Denver, which focuses exclusively on the style. Founded in 2008, Del Norte makes four kinds of Mexican beers: Manana, Orale, Cinco and Luminaria.

Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan.

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