While not as familiar (get it?) as Corona Extra in the United States, Corona Familar has long been recognized in Mexico by its 32-ounce brown bottle. The jug-style bottle not only is in stark contrast to the clear 12-ounce bottles of the rest of the Corona brand lineup, but represents a much fuller flavored Corona; one meant to be shared.
If you’ve never tried – let alone heard of – Corona Familiar, consider this your introduction and invitation to a Corona beer that is just different enough to seek out the next time you’re in search of your own personal beach.
History: When was Corona Familiar released?
While Corona Extra was introduced to the US in 1979, the 32-ounce brown bottles of Corona Familiar stayed in Mexico. There, its size and flavor were special, perhaps more rustic, and made to be shared by working class families. I would not go as far as to say it was Corona’s special reserve, but it must have resonated more with consumers in Mexico rather than the US.
In 2017, Familiar was finally introduced to the US market in 12-ounce bottles. It joins Extra, Corona Light, Corona Premier, an expanding line of Corona hard seltzer, and Corona Refresca in the Corona family. Though Corona Extra is the most well-known, those in the know may reach for a Corona Familiar for its fuller flavor.
All Corona beers are pilsner-like, but a more appropriate categorization for the beers is an International Pale Lager category, BJCP category 2A. International Pale Lagers are described as a balanced lager beer and thirst quenching. Though these styles are often labeled as pilsners, they are marketed as a more drinkable version of the style.
Corona Familiar fits this category very well, as does regular Corona. If there were a beer category just for Mexican lagers, this would be it, but it encompasses a variety of international lagers, some with adjuncts. The key to these beers is that they are well-balanced with a crisp finish to quench thirst.
Familiar’s brown bottle protects it from the light, but even in the case of Corona’s clear bottle or even green bottles, these beers should not be light struck or skunky. A vegetal taste in these styles is a fault.
While most adjuncts are used to lighten, the cereal sweetness in Corona Familiar is a welcome change. The flavor profile, when served cold, starts as fresh white bread and gradually develops a whole-grain bread taste. Though low, these tastes include a biscuity flavor profile, light caramel, grain, a crisp minerality, and finishes with a clean, refreshing hop bitterness. The difference between Familiar and Corona Extra is a slightly fuller flavor, but in the world of thin, grainy Mexican beer, they are not the same beer.
Appearances are deceiving. I expected this beer to be thin and watery, but it has a noticeable roundness on the palate. Corona Familiar is billed as a Mexican lager with a richer flavor, and the mouthfeel certainly adds to taste perception. While not quite full bodied, it is a noticeable departure from other beers in clear bottles. The slightly higher abv is not detected in the smooth finish. However, a refreshing bitterness from the hops makes this beer perfect for a hot summer day.
The initial whiff of a freshly poured Corona Familiar is inviting. Light caramel contrasts with a bit of minerality. Minerality is beer geeky speak that may provide a clue to the water character. It is reminiscent of pavement, and I don’t find it unpleasant. As the beer warms, a subtle hint of herbal hop character can be detected.
Corona Familiar is pale straw. If you pour it into a fluted glass, like a pilsner glass, the beer almost turns clear towards the bottom. While an initial pour will yield brilliant white bubbles, the foam cap of this beer quickly dissipates to a minimal head, at best. Only the tiniest line of fine carbonation clings to the beer’s surface along the glass.
Corona Familiar Calories and Nutritional Information
While other beers in the portfolio, like Corona Light, are marketed toward calorie-conscious consumers, Familiar is more geared toward taste. It has more calories than Corona Extra, but not by much; 156 compared to 148 (see here for more info on how many calories there are in various Corona beers).
Corona Familiar Alcohol Content
In addition to calories, Extra and Familiar have very similar ABVs, too. At 4.6 percent versus 4.8 percent, you might wonder if they are the same beer, but the sweet flavor of the Familiar Corona gives it away. Both ABVs are appropriate for the International Pale Lager category and are considered low to average compared to other Mexican lagers.
Brewing Process & Ingredients
Corona beers are lagers. The lager brewing process is the same as brewing lagers. The process begins with the mash where malted grains and adjuncts are mixed with hot water to activate enzymes. These enzymes will transform long-chain starches into fermentable sugars.
Once the mash is complete, the sugary liquid called wort is separated from the grain solids and transferred to the boil kettle. There the wort will receive additions of hops before being cooled and transferred to fermenters.
Once in the fermenters, Corona and other lagers will be inoculated with a specific type of yeast. Lager yeast thrives in cold conditions. Lager means to keep in German, and the beer will undergo extended storage as the lager yeast works its magic. After which, the beer will be conditioned, carbonated, and ready for packaging.
Serve this Corona beer right out of the fridge. It’s brewed for drinking in tropical weather. If you started drinking it at the optimal temperature, it would be too warm by the time you finished. Instead, savor the flavor development as it warms.
Can, bottle or glass?
You do you. I’ll not chastise you for drinking an entire 32 ounces straight from the bottle, but remember it’s meant to be shared. Choose a clean beer glass like a schooner or classic pilsner glass. The fluted shape helps save the minimal head or gives you a wider target to squeeze your lime.
Food Pairings for Corona Familiar
The additional body and sweetness allow this beer to handle more spicy foods from Latin America. Sweet calms the heat of chili peppers, so look to pair it with any dish with a good amount of heat. I paired it with a trio of beef tamales and green chili on a bed of Spanish rice and black beans. The beer perfectly complemented the meal.
Don’t just focus on the main dish; I can see the crisp effervescence and the sturdy bitterness being quite helpful with dessert. Think flan or creme brulee as a great contrast.
Corona Familiar Would Suit?
Familiar is for beer connoisseurs on vacation in Latin America. When you’re stuck at a resort, and they don’t have your typical choice, Familiar is the Mexican beer with a bit more flavor and less mass appeal you can drink in confidence. No need to waste your international data plan to jot down tasting notes; just remember you can find a solid Grupo Modelo beer that’s delicious, crisp, and has a bit of sweetness to enjoy.
Similar Beers to Corona Familiar?
As I tasted this beer, another beer kept popping into my mind. Victoria is another of the classic Mexican lagers that are exported. Victoria is crisp and clean. I always considered it a lighter version of a Vienna Lager, but it falls perfectly into the same category as Familiar. Victoria is also part of Grupo Model, and it should be easy to find where Corona beers are available.
What Do Other People Think of Corona Familiar?
Most rating sites rank Corona Familiar as average or slightly above average. Non-beer-focused sites, namely Influenster, like it better.
|Untappd||3.28 out of 5|
|Rate Beer||3.3 out of 5|
|Influenster||4.6 out of 5|
|Beer Advocate||3.3 out 5|
Final Thoughts: Is Corona Familiar a Good Beer?
I was honestly impressed by Corona Familiar. It had some body and flavor. It’s not the same beer as Extra, but I can envision myself in a little restaurant in Mexico, enjoying some ceviche or spicy Chapulines at a little table near the beach. It’s a beer that does not get the attention it deserves. So the next time you’re in Mexico or even at the beer store, keep a look out for the large brown bottle of Corona beer.
(Feature image courtesy of Paul Sableman/Unsplash)