modelo beer

Modelo Especial is the second best-selling imported beer in the United States and one of the fastest-growing in the beer world over the last decade. Fans of this beer would not be at all surprised, considering its immense quality and versatility. Despite the beer’s popularity worldwide, many still don’t know what kind of beer it is. Let us change that with this short answer.

Modelo Especial is classified as an international pale lager because of its medium level bitterness (IBU of 18), moderate to high carbonization, pale straw to gold color (SRM of 3.6), the alcohol content of 4.4%, the use of corn in the brewing process as an adjunct, and Modelo Especial being bottom-fermented rather than top-fermented.

That’s the short answer, but it doesn’t do the question enough justice. As such, we will detail the reasons and logic behind Modelo Especial being classified as an international pale lager below. Additionally, we will briefly consider if the other types of Modelo beers also classify as international pale lagers.

Let’s get started!

Of course, we also have to taste the beer while writing about it 🙂

Is Modelo Especial A Lager Or Ale?

There are different classifications of beers today. In fact, it is difficult for even the top beer certification organizations to keep track of them all. However, all beers fall into two broad categories – ales and lagers.

The distinction between the two broad classes is simply how brewers ferment the beer, either top or bottom fermentation.

For starters, ales are brewed using the top-fermentation technique. For this, a special top-fermenting yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is used at warm temperatures (60˚–70˚F). Meanwhile, lagers are brewed using the bottom-fermentation technique. This is done using bottom-fermenting yeast, Saccharomyces pastorianus, at cold temperatures (35˚–50˚F).

Since Modelo Especial employs the bottom-fermentation technique, it is a lager.

What Kind Of Lager Is Modelo Especial?

After the broad initial classification is out of the way, beers can be grouped into several sub-classes. This is nowhere as simple as the classification as an ale or lager, and beer certification organizations usually consider various factors.

For the sake of this article, we will use the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines, one of the most reputable certification organizations today. According to the standard guidelines of the Program, Modelo Especial is an international pale lager.

Below, we will examine why Mexican-made Modelo Especial fits this bill.

Why Is Modelo Especial An International Pale Lager?

The Beer Judge Certification Program assesses five major properties when sub-classifying beers. They are bitterness (measured in IBU), color intensity (measured in SRM), original gravity, final gravity, and alcohol by volume of the beer. The next thing to do is to examine each of the following in relation to Modelo Especial’s properties.

First off is the bitterness of the beer, which is simply how bitter the beer is. The International Bitterness Units (IBU) is the scale used to gauge this parameter. As we move up the IBU scale, the beers become more bitter.

According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, the IBU for international pale lagers ranges from 18 to 25. Modelo Especial complies with this requirement as it has an IBU of 18.

The second major property is the color intensity of the beer. Practically, this is a measure of how dark beer is. The unique metric used to measure this is the Standard Reference Method (SRM). The higher the SRM value of a beer, the darker it is.

Just so you have a reference of the color we’re talking about we poured Modelo Especial in a glass.

International Pale lagers should have an SRM between 2 and 6, as per BJCP recommendations. The SRM of Modelo Especial is around 3.6, which is well within the standard range. Thus, Modelo Especial meets the color intensity requirement for international pale lagers.

srm scale of beer from 1 - 15

Additionally, the classification of the beer is impacted by its gravity. Original and final gravity are the two significant gravity parameters in this case. A beer’s original gravity (OG) gauges how much sugar is present in the wort prior to fermentation. On the other hand, the final gravity (FG) measures the unfermentable sugars in beer that remain after alcoholic fermentation. These gravities work hand-in-hand to help brewers determine the alcohol content of a beer before and after brewing.

The BJCP guidelines state that the OG of international pale lagers should range from 1.042 to 1.050. Comparatively, Modelo Especial’s estimated original gravity is 1.044, which meets the standard requirements.

Further, the Beer Judge Certification Program states that international pale lagers have an FD between 1.010 and 1.015. With a final gravity of 1.011, Modelo Especial is within the permissible range for international pale ales.

Modelo Especial passes the gravity standards for international pale lagers since it satisfies both the BJCP’s original and final gravity guidelines.

The final factor on the list is the alcohol content of the beer. The amount of pure alcohol present in a given volume of beer is expressed in terms of alcohol by volume (ABV). Of all the factors listed here, it is the easiest to determine.

International pale lagers have an ABV ranging from 4.6 to 6%, according to the BJCP. Modelo Especial is slightly below the acceptable range with an ABV of 4.4%. Although close, the beer does not satisfy the standard alcohol requirements for international pale lagers.

Considering all of these, it is clear to see why Modelo Especial is regarded as an international pale lager. Interestingly, the beer does not meet the alcohol requirement as contained in the standard guidelines. This may be why some classify it under other classes, like American lagers.

Are All Modelo Beers International Pale Lagers?

Grupo Modelo, the manufacturer of Modelo Especial, first bottled the beer in 1925. The beer soon became a favorite among Mexicans, and its popularity soon took it into the United States. However, Modelo Especial is not the only Modelo beer on the market. The others include:

  • Modelo Negra: This also debuted in the same year as Modelo Especial and is the most popular Modelo beer not named Especial. Modelo Negra is not an international pale lager. Rather, it belongs to a dying breed of German-inspired beers known as Munich Dunkel.
  • Modelo Light: As you would imagine, this is a light lager with an ABV of 3.7%. Grupo Modelo launched the beer in 1994 as a light lager offering of the original Modelo beers.
  • Modelo Reserva: This is basically Modelo Especial with mild oak, agave, and citrus notes. Also, many refer to it as Modelo Especial finished on aged wood from tequila barrels. It is best classified as a German pilsner.