Modelo Modelito is everything you love about Modelo Especial, shrunk down into a convenient 7-ounce bottle that all but ensures you’ll finish your beer before it ever has the chance to get warm in your hand. The pilsner-style import lager is easy-drinking with a malty backbone and a crisp, refreshing finish, making it a perfect beach or barbecue beer.
Style international pale lager/adjunct lager
Company Grupo Modelo S.A. de C.V
Brewery Location Nava, Mexico
MSRP $22 per 24-pack
Packaged in a convenient 7-ounce bottle
An approachable, easy-drinking pilsner-style lager
Light-bodied and refreshing with a clean, crisp finish
Sessionable ABV matched by sessionable size
Smaller size can cut down on waste at parties.
Can be difficult to find in stores in anything other than case format
Might be too rich for fans of light beer
Novelty of smaller packaging may wear off.
Color: This beer pours dark-straw to gold. It has a more honeyed hue than other popular Mexican pale lagers that you can notice right through the clear glass bottle.
Nose: International pale lagers aren’t typically known for their enticing aromas, and this is no different. There’s little-to-no perceptible hop presence that comes through on the nose. Instead, soft honeyed aromas take center stage on the nose, with hints of fresh biscuits, creamed corn, and a very subtle hit of herbaceousness on the finish.
Palate: What this beer lacks in packaging volume, it makes up for in outsized refreshing characteristics. One sip reveals a clean, crisp profile that soothes the tongue with lively carbonation similar to other imported light lagers. But this beer’s relatively subtle richness makes it feel more substantial and balanced than others in the category.
Finish: Honey-glazed-biscuit flavors come through on the aftertaste. While the brightest flavors dissipate immediately after it’s swallowed, a crisp dryness ultimately leaves the mouth feeling refreshed, making this a fantastic pairing option for salty or spicy foods.
When it comes to the imported beer game, it’s impossible to avoid bringing up Grupo Modelo and its influence on the category. The nearly century-old brewery has been swept up in the last decade’s flurry of acquisitions and is currently under the ownership of the New York-based conglomerate Constellation Brands. This puts it in the same corporate family as Corona, which has held the spot as the best-selling imported beer in the United States for over two decades. But Modelo Especial doesn’t fall far behind: It currently holds the second spot on the list with about $2 billion in annual sales.
Modelo Especial bills itself as a “pilsner-style lager,” which is very much at home in Mexico: imperialism left the country with a partially German-influenced brewing culture. You can also find darker lagers akin to Oktoberfest-style Marzen (similar to Modelo Especial’s beer sibling, Negra Modelo) and doppelbocks. But the light, quaffable qualities of Especial make it uniquely popular among the masses.
But chances are if you’re picking up a Modelito, you’ve enjoyed a Modelo Especial before. You know it has a smooth mouthfeel with plenty of lively carbonation and a crisp finish, as advertised. You’re likely familiar with the nose of creamed corn and cereal grain. And you likely already enjoy the fact that a subtle malty richness balances the beer out and helps it stand out from other watery light options in the cooler. The difference here is the packaging, shrinking itself down to a 7-ounce bottle that almost tricks your muscle memory the first time you grab one.
Modelito’s big leg up isn’t that the beer inside is any different: It’s that it’s smaller than other bottles and cans of beers in its category (and in a strange, philosophical way, even itself). This could come in handy when you’re looking to finish a beer before the sun can warm it up on a hot summer’s day. Maybe you’re looking for something refreshing, but you can’t commit to a full bottle. Perhaps you’re throwing a get-together, and you know that full-sized bottles will lead to too many half-empties left behind. Bars love to sell them for the novelty, too, working them into cocktails such as a Michelada (for which Modelo Especial is especially well suited, in this reviewer’s opinion) or as a bucket or combo deal. The slightly smaller size allows for a somewhat lower price point, which usually keeps them very popular for groups ordering rounds.
Whatever your reason for buying Modelito, it’s nice to know that beer in fun-sized packaging can be every bit as enjoyable as a full-sized serving. As we’ve said before, this beer’s popularity precedes it for a reason: It’s a well-made take on a globally popular style that still manages to offer a bit more in flavor than its competitors. The novelty of its packaging may wear off, and its usefulness may not apply to all situations, but pound for pound, this mini Modelo will make anyone looking for that famous crisp lager happy about their decision.
Modelo Especial’s famously clear, foil-topped bottles do absolutely nothing to protect it from becoming lightstruck (or “skunked”) if not stored properly. This is a sought-after spoilage flavor for some, but anyone looking to taste the beer in its original state should opt for aluminum cans instead.