In honor of cinco de Mayo, this week I went extravagante and tried out some “south of the border” flavor to go with a bit of a Tex/Mex lunch. I tried out Deep Ellum’s Neato Bandito “Czech-inspired Mexican lager” to go with some Fideo… vermicelli with beef and a few spices to the rest of us.
Deep Ellum is apparently a trendy neighborhood in Dallas, one which came from an industrial beginning and now is a place of cool shops and brick lofts. Deep Ellum Brewing set up shop there fairly recently, in 2011. It now has its brewery there, along with a taproom/restaurant. It also has one of those in Fort Worth. The website shows a rather nice looking brick-walled bar with an outdoor patio as well, but not surprisingly, the taprooms are closed right now due to the pandemic. Maldito! They say they were inspired by a “healthy disdain for the status quo” and want drinkers to “help us annihilate bland corporate beers.” The brewery favors colorful and cartoonish cans, with some of its regular fare including the omni-present (in Texas) Dallas Blonde, Deep Ellum IPA and Blind Lemon, a lemonade spritzer.
For Neato Bandito, they suggest it’s a “high-flying lager brewed with corn, light in color but big in flavor.” They suggest it goes well with chili-topped potato skins.
I cracked open one of the big 19-ounce cans, bright yellow and adorned with cartoons of Mexican wrestlers. Pouring it, I was surprised at how thick and foamy a head it created. It seemed like a beer designed to be kegged at a bar. The color was a deep yellow, with very little carbonization. The head was rather long-lasting and had a nice foamy consistency.
The flavor though, was underwhelming. It came across as a little bitter and strong-ish and watery at the same time, which is a bit of a feat to pull off. As I drank more of it, I thought I could discern a little bit of a chemically flavor that you sometimes find in really cheap lagers. Mind you, it didn’t do badly when consumed with the somewhat spicy pasta-and-meat.
It put me in mind of something like Pabst with a bit more hoppiness or someone trying to make Corona in a mass-market mega-brewery. This might have to do with the corn in it. Most beers typically use barley as the grain, but The Spruce Eats note that rice and corn are cheaper grains and often used in place of the barley (or wheat which is also used in some of the better Euro-beers). Budweiser for instance, uses rice, while some mass market offerings like Busch Lite opt for corn. To be fair, other references suggest that many Mexican beers have used corn all along, so it may be Neato Bandito is a good attempt at being authentically Mexican.
Be that as it may, Neato Bandito was one of the rare beers where I found that the single serving was a bit much, and didn’t even empty the can. There was something mildly disquieting about the corn-based flavor and hoppiness. All in all, I rate it 7 out of 10 for strength (it comes in at a hearty 6.0% alcohol) but only 4 out of 10 for flavor, so overall
Just 2.5 sombreros out of 5.