Mexican beers are the biggest imported beers in the USA. Pacifico and Modelo are among the best-known Mexican beers, and although the same company owns them, these are two very different Mexican beers. Both of these beers are very popular in Mexico and abroad, particularly among the Mexican diaspora.

Modelo’s best-known beer, Modelo Especial is an international pale lager with a refreshingly crisp, balanced flavor that has just a hint of herby bitterness.  Pacifico is a Mexican-American pilsner with a moderate-to-high level of bitterness. Both of these beers are well suited to a warm day. 

This brief look is far from the whole story, however. In this article, we’re taking a close look at these famous Mexican beers. We’ll look at the major factors like appearance, smell, mouthfeel, and, of course, flavor. We’ll also consider their calories and alcohol content as well as the brewing process of both beers. Read on to familiarize yourself with these Mexican beers.

Tasting is, of course, also part of our research process


Both of these beers are owned and brewed by Grupo Modelo. Modelo was first brewed and bottled in 1925, and is today the second-biggest-selling imported beer in the US. Some estimates see Modelo Especial selling 22.9 million cases annually. 

Pacifico wasn’t always owned by the Modelo group. It’s actually an older beer than Modelo. Pacifico traces its origins to 1900, when German brewers opened a new brewery in Mazatlán, Mexico. 

Grupo Modelo acquired the Pacifico brand and brewery in 1954.


Pacifico – or, to use its full name, Cerveza Pacifico Clara – pours a crystal clear straw-colored beer. It has a nicely white head without much retention. 

Modelo Especial has more of a golden yellow color, with a similar level of clarity. Its head is about a finger wide, with fizzy white foam. The head dissipates fairly quickly. 

Modelo’s distinctive bottle and gold foil label make it stand out. It has a short, wide bottle, very much unlike the tall slim bottles most beer comes in.


Pacifico’s aroma is dominated by yeasty, bready notes, but overall it’s a relatively light smelling beer. It’s mostly lightly malty grains, with just a hint of sweetness. The sweetness is faintly reminiscent of sweet corn.

Modelo has a similar nose, perhaps a little bolder. Notes of toasted grain and, once again, a veyr present yeasty, doughy smell. It, too, has some notes of corn in the smell. Overall this is a very bright lagerish nose and is indicative of the tastes to come.


Pacifico has a very light mouthfeel. It’s crisp, smooth, and highly refreshing. THe beer goes down very easily, and it’s easy to see yourself reaching for another on a hot summer’s day.

Modelo has a typically carbonated mouthfeel. Modelo feels a little heavier in the mouth than Pacifico, with a little more body. Overall, both of these beers are very easy to drink, particularly if you live in a warmer climtae.


Pacifico has a very light flavor. It’s nicely balanced, without any overt corny or syrupy sweetness. The sweetness of this beer is very light and doesn’t overstay its welcome at all. Any notes of yeast in the palate of this beer are very clean, with just a touch of bitterness on the finish. This aftertaste refuses to stick around too long, however, leaving a crisp, clean finish ready for the next sip.

Modelo’s flavor is fresh and malty, with more of a corn character than Pacifico. Any doughy or yeasty notes are minimal in comparison to the corn, and there’s a nice interplay between the bitterness of this beer and its innate sweetness.

The roasted grains and sweet corn, although light, that provide a nice balance to this beer. The finish on this beer is crisper and cleaner than Pacifico’s, and a slightly pronounced hint of bitterness in comparison to many other Mexican beers. 

Both of these beers are very nicely balanced overall. 

Some drinkers love placing a slice or wedge of lime in their Mexican beers. While you might prefer your beer without fruit in it, it’s worth a dry! The addition of citrus certainly helps bring more flavor and character to both beers.

Both of these beers are well balanced and light, but if you want more character from hem, the addition of a lime wedge will really bring out the best in both, giving them a bolder, more assertive flavor. The citric acidity and sweetness helps complement the naturally corny flavor of these beers.


A bottle of Modelo Especial contains 150 calories, 14 grams of carbs, and one gram of protein.

A bottle of Pacifico, on the other hand, contains 140 calories and the same volume of carbs and protein as Modelo.

Alcohol Content

Pacifico has an ABV of 4.5%, while Modelo has a slightly lower ABV of 4.4%. These are so close that it doesn’t much, if any, difference, which beer you choose to drink.

What Do Other People Think About Both Beers?

Below, we gathered the scores of both beers and compared them to each other. Ratings are on a scale from 1-10.

Average Score6.256.26

These two Mexican beers are razor-close across the board. On average, drinkers preferred Modelo, but only by the narrow margin of 0.01! It’s clear that these two Mexican beers are enjoyed to similar extents by most drinkers.

Of Modelo, one Beeradvocate reviewer said:

Its crisp, clean and light. Light bitterness and light hints of malt. The aroma has a hint of the malt and a very small wift of alcohol. There’s really no off putting notes though in the palate. The taste does tend to linger a little bit. But for me this is a easy sipping beer I can go for any occasion, any time.


Brewing Process & Ingredients

Pacifico is bottom fermented at cold temperatures between 35 and 50 F. Pacifico is brewed using corn as an adjunct in quantities up to 30%, as are most Mexican beers.  In fact, Modelo Especial is also brewed with corn as an adjunct, and is similarly bottom fermented at cold temperatures. 

Pacifico is made using  Bavarian lager yeast, soft water, pale malt, and Saaz hops. 

On the other hand, Modelo is brewed using a combination of liquid malt extract, corn sugar, flaked corn, and German crystal malt. Hallertau Hersbrucker hops are used in the production of Modelo. 

Pacifico is best classified as a Mexican-American pilsner. Its IBU of 15-18 falls short of the Beer Judge Certification Program’s recommendation of 25-40 for an American Pilsner. Its pale yellow color is spot on, however, for an American pilsner.

At 4.5% its alcohol content is spot on for American pilsner, too. As it only misses American pilsner classification due to its relatively low bitterness, it’s easiest to classify as a Mexican-American pilsner, adjacent to the broader American pilsner category.

Modelo Especial, as a lager, is best categorized as an international pale lager. This is thanks to its IBU of 18, appropriate for the Beer Judge Certification Program recommendation of 18-25. Similarly, its color falls within Beer Judge Certification Program guidelines, although its ABV of 4.5% is slightly short of the recommended 4.6 – 6%. 

Brand Image

Both of these Mexican beers enjoy similar brand identities. They’re marketed as fun, light, easy drinking beers perfect for a summer’s day. As they are owned by the same company, they are branded slightly differently, however.

In particular, Modelo has been aggressively marketed in the US, and not just among Mexican Americans. Pacifica is seen more as an “authentic” Mexican beer for Mexican drinkers, while Modelo is very widely enjoyed among non-Mexicans.

No small part of this is Grupa Modelo’s pursuit of a young, hip demographic. For example, last year, Modelo inked an eight-figure deal with the UFC in an attempt to appeal to the young fanbase of the sport.

Modelo is frequently advertised during sporting events such as the UFC, and as a market leader of imported beers in the US, it caters heavily to drinkers of imported beers, who tend to be younger, avoiding the classic middle-American beers of older generations.

Modelo therefore enjoys a reputation outside the Mexican diaspora as a beer for college aged drinkers, although within Mexico and Mexican communities its brand image is still that of a standard, highly drinkable Mexican beer.

Pacifico vs Modelo

Overall, Pacifico and Modelo Especial are quite similar. While they are technically in separate beer categories – Mexican American pilsner and international pale lager – these beers are overall quite alike. They are both crisp and refreshing, best enjoyed with a wedge of lime on a hot summer’s day. They trace their heritage to early German-Mexican brewing, and this is most tangible in their grainy palates.

Overall, Pacifico has a little more subtle complexity than Modelo. Its slightly bitter finish offers more breadth and body than Modelo’s, but ultimately the contest between these beers comes down to the preferences of the individual drinker. Next time the sun’s out, reach for a cold bottle of either, slice up a lime, and enjoy!