The Budweiser Chelada Goes National

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder, as the infamous author-political candidate-country singer-all-around -Texan dude Richard S. "Kinky" Friedman once put it. He wasn't necessarily referring to the actual beer, but the truth is that "beer" comprises a wide and wild universe. And within this domain of ales and lagers exists a "beer cocktail" of singular delight, which a piquant and bright drink that's just right with classic Tex-Mex enchiladas: the Mexican-born michelada. While its name roughly translates as "my beer," the michelada is a concoction of cold beer spiked with tomato or Clamato juice and plenty of fresh lime. Usually served in a salt-rimmed glass, the beer-tomato juice formula has acquired many variations: sometimes it's spiked with Worcestershire or soy sauce; sometimes it contains Maggi, an MSG-ish paste that's actually hydrolized vegetable protein and tastes like the remains of a steak; sometimes it's got a dash of Cholula or Tapatìo hot sauce. No matter, because the end result is always a bubbly pink-coral spicy-savory thirst quencher—a Bloody Mary's teenage sister.

Food historians debate the michelada's origins: Some say Mexicans have been drinking such beer blends since the days of the Mayan Codex, while others believe that beer blended with tomato juice and lime only became popular in the last decade or so, inspired by a similar drink favored by oilmen visiting the Mexican port town of Veracruz. There's probably not a soul who believes that the michelada was invented by Anheuser-Busch. But what's to stop America's largest brewing company from recognizing a good thing and hoping to popularize it? Not much. That's why they launched the Chelada, a michelada-inspired bottled product, in small release in California and Texas in 2008. (The terms chelada and michelada are used almost interchangeably in Mexican bars; in some establishments a "chelada" is just a beer with fresh lime juice and salt without the tomato or Clamato juice, but in others it's the opposite....the vagary makes you want to drink just thinking about it).

Bud's Chelada, which comes in cans — 24-ounce tallboys — isn't quite the whole Chelada: It's just Bud (or Bud Light) plus Clamato, lime, and sald; you have to add whatever else you want yourself. The result, while not as fresh and lip-smackingly delicious as from-scratch version, is nevertheless utterly habit-forming — an intense South-of-the-Border kick in a can.

You can judge for yourself: The Chelada was so successful in its test markets that Anheuser-Busch has made it available in supermarkets and convenience stores nationally. It's not always easy to find, but some 7-11 and Costco outlets stock it, and it's also sold at Dodger Stadium. To find out where it's available, call 800-DIALBUD. Or get up off the couch and make your own.