Corona Extra, often simply known as Corona, is the bestselling imported beer in the United States. It is a pale Mexican lager heavily associated with the beach lifestyle and is widely enjoyed among Mexican-Americans and non-Mexican drinkers alike. Corona’s enormous popularity has led many to wonder when it came out and why. Here’s our abridged version:
Corona Extra was first brewed in 1925 to launch Cerveceria Modelo. Corona benefited enormously from the American Prohibition era, as American drinkers crossed the border in droves to enjoy drinking. It has been synonymous with beach culture and Mexican pride ever since and remains popular in Mexico and all over the world to this day.
That’s the brief answer to when Corona Extra came out and why, but there is plenty more to consider. In this article, we’ll take a close look at how and why Corona Extra became the flagship Mexican beer, where it was first brewed, and why it’s so popular.
Why Did Corona Extra Come Out?
Corona Extra was first brewed in 1925 as one of the two flagship beers of the newly founded Cerveceria Modelo. It was launched alongside Modelo Especial as part of a push among Mexican brewers to make beer a widely consumed beverage in Mexico. Unlike in the United States, beer was not a massively popular drink among Mexicans.
There were a variety of reasons for this. Chief among them was that, during Mexico’s colonial era, local beer and wine were heavily taxed by colonial authorities in Spain to force Mexicans to import Spanish beverages. This made any locally made beers very expensive and out of the reach of most Mexican people. Another was the distinct preference among Mexican drinkers for traditional, native beverages, like pulque, the fermented sap of the native agave plant.
However, the later years of the 19th century saw a major influx of German immigrants into Mexico. As they had done in the United States beforehand, Germans in Mexico brought with them both an appetite for beer and an impressive amount of brewing knowledge. Various breweries opened in Mexico’s urban centers, largely headed by German Mexicans. With the establishment of railroads in the 1890s, machinery and brewing equipment could be imported from the United States, and Mexico began to enjoy a brewing boom.
In 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed, making the sale and possession of alcohol illegal. American drinkers in the border states flocked to Mexico and shared their appetite for beer. American beer was expensive to import, and local brewers took advantage of this, with a local beer market coming to life in Mexico. This largely took place in areas surrounding Mexico’s northern border, which it shares with the United States. Cerveceria Modelo, previously named Cerveceria Toluca, launched Corona in 1925, partially to cater to an increasing market for beer in Mexico and partially to further encourage Mexicans to drink beer over native beverages. Not only did Corona prove popular in Mexico, Americans visiting the country wanted a taste of Corona at home in the US, and Cerveceria Modelo was only too happy to oblige.
When Did Corona Come Out in the United States?
American drinkers, already accustomed to lagers thanks to German-American brewers like Anheuser-Busch, loved drinking Corona by the beach on holiday in Mexico. The economic boom years in the United States following the Second World War also saw many Americans enjoying the Mexican lifestyle while on vacation. American drinkers, and Mexican immigrants to the United States, wanted to rediscover the feeling of sipping a cold Corona on the beach in Mexico.
To cater to demand, Corona was first imported into the United States in 1979. At first, Corona Extra was available in the Mexico-adjacent South and Southwest areas, where there was a notable Mexican-American population and plenty of non-Mexican Americans who had enjoyed time across the border.
The initial appetite for Corona continued to expand, and this easy, beachy Mexican lager continued ever further north. Corona was the fastest-growing imported beer in American history. Today, Corona Extra is the sixth-best-selling beer in the United States overall, competing not only with other imported beers but against domestic lager stalwarts like Budweiser and Coors.
The international success of Mexican beer continued throughout the remainder of the 20th century and into the new millennium. In 2003, Mexico became the world’s largest beer exporter, displacing Holland. The biggest market for Mexican beer is still the United States, with Grupo Modelo, who brew Corona Extra, reporting that 80% of their exports go to the USA.
Why Is Corona Served with Lime?
Is there any stronger imagery in beer marketing than a cold bottle of Corona on a beach with a wedge of lime in the neck?
Corona has long been served with a lime wedge as a garnish, typically on the neck of the bottle. Many drinkers, even Corona enthusiasts, might wonder why. Curiously, there is no real answer to the question of why Corona is served with lime.
One theory suggests that Mexican drinkers began putting lime in the neck of their corona bottles to prevent flies from crawling into their beer. Certainly, flies are attracted to the sugar in beer, so this is one plausible explanation.
Another theory is that the acidity of the lime counteracts the skunky hop flavor of Corona that has been exposed to sunlight. Corona is sold in a clear bottle, which allows ultraviolet light to penetrate the beer. This causes the hop oils in the beer to spoil, leading to a characteristic “skunked” flavor that some drinkers find unpleasant. The citrus flavor of a lime wedge can cover this up. Lime certainly makes Corona taste a little better, and the ritual of adding lime to a bottle of Corona Extra adds plenty of refreshing citrus character.
Another theory is that a Mexican bartender bet a friend that he could start a trend and began adding lime to the beer when he served it.
Whatever the reason, the lime ritual remains a huge part of the Corona drinking experience to this day.
Where Was Corona Extra First Brewed?
Corona Extra was first brewed at the Cerveceria Modelo in Mexico City. Mexico City, the capital city of the country of Mexico, was a hub of business and population in the early 20th century and was unscathed by the world war that had ravaged Europe seven years before Cerveceria Modelo was founded.
Many European immigrants fleeing the war moved to the United States and Mexico, and the established city attracted new arrivals in their droves. German immigrants, in particular, settled in Mexico City and brought with them an appetite for beer. The established population and access to railroads – allowing for widespread expansion – in Mexico City allowed Corona to expand quickly.