Reader Question: Why is there citrus fruit in my beer?

Reader Melba asks:

Excuse me Fervere…can you explain this common practice of a lemon or a lime with a brew?

Paulaner Weißbier served with wedge of lemon

Paulaner Weißbier served with wedge of lemon in a classic pilsner glass.

Wheat beer (weizen or weißbier) tends towards citrusy in flavor and was traditionally a spring beer, because the wheat was harvested in late fall, and the beer fermented over the winter. When these Märzens were served, to complement the citrusy flavor and to celebrate the good weather, a round slice of orange or lemon was put in the beer.

Because it tasted good, it stayed. It isn’t served like this everywhere, but it’s a nice touch.

What about the lime in Mexican beer? This is a bit more controversial. To begin, I will say that lime in a Dos Equis Lager or Amber tastes great, and both are fine beers. But how did the lime end up in there in the first place? Marketing. Limes are associated with Tex-Mex cuisine and tequila. It seemed natural to put a lime into a Mexican beer. But it also had another wonderful quality–it covered up defects in shit beer. The design of a Corona bottle is no accident. The beer is very light in color, golden-yellow, so the bottlers want to show that off by using clear glass. But clear glass lets in light, which breaks down a chemical in beer, which then combines with sulfer in the proteins from the yeast and mash. This leads to skunky beer.

So Corona becomes skunky, quickly. To combat this odor from reaching the nostrils of drinkers, Corona bottles have a bulge in their long-neck. This traps much of the skunk odor. To make it even more difficult to smell, Corona is served with nature’s deodorizer–citrus fruit. The lime further covers up the skunk and makes the beer somewhat drinkable.

Now there are a lot of people who like Corona. That’s great. There are people who pretend to like things like haggis and sweetbreads, too. I like yogurt, and that’s just spoiled, curdled milk. But at least I know what I’m ingesting. All I ask of anyone who might defend the drinking of skunky beer, with or without lime, is that you know what you’re drinking.