Review: Sol Chelada
Sol Chelada has been on sale in Mexico since 2011, but it’s only in 2019 that a version tweaked for U.S. palates has gone on sale in the country in chunky 24 oz cans. Strictly speaking this should be called Sol Michelada, as it has tomato and spices mixed in, which is what turns a chelada (beer, salt, lime) into a michelada. The two words are often used increasingly interchangeably, though.
So why now for the Sol Chelada? Well, it’s following a trend of rising sales of Mexican drinks in the U.S. Tequila and mezcal are both growing, and sales of chelada/michelada drinks are up 16% in the last year or so.
According to Sol, its chelada contains “water, barley malt, corn syrup (maltose), yeast, hops, tomato paste, inverted sugar, citric acid, tartaric acid, yeast extract, black carrot (for color), monosodium glutamate, salt and natural flavors.” Put like that it doesn’t sound so appetizing, but pop the can, pour it out, and the picture changes. On the nose it immediately offers the smell of a Bloody Mary. The tomato really dominates, with a background of citrus and hints of cherry. The aroma also has some straw or hay swirling around in there.
The palate really packs a punch. The tomato is a little less dominant, and you certainly wouldn’t mistake it for a beery version of a Bloody Mary. It’s slightly sour, but extremely engaging if you like a touch of the sour rather than the sweet, which I do. It resembles a Belgian sour cherry beer, though not so intense on the cherry. If the Belgians made a sour tomato beer — and for all I know they may well do — it could taste something like this.
It’s easy to be snobbish about mass-producers like Sol and its American owners, MillerCoors and to favor craft brewers, but this Sol Chelada shows that just as you can’t judge a book by the cover, you can’t judge a drink by the label.