My first drink was a Corona and to this day it’s still my favorite beer. The pale lager is extremely refreshing, and something about it being topped with a lime wedge just reminds me of summer. Corona Extra has been brewed and bottled in Mexico since 1925 and is the number one selling imported beer in the United States. Originally, the crisp blend of malted barley, hops, corn, and yeast was served without garnish, like most beers. But somewhere along the way, the practice of sticking a fresh lime wedge into the mouth of the clear glass bottle became the norm.
Anywhere you go, whether it’s a beachfront tiki bar, an upscale rooftop bar or even old school pub, the bartender will serve you a Corona with lime and cerveza lovers will squeeze the lime juice into the brew and let the little green fruit float around the bottle. But how did this habit of adding a lime to a Corona start, and stick? There are a few theories out there, so we decided to do some digging and reached out to beer expert, Mickey Alexander from Hop To Beer, a school for beer appreciation and education, to find out which stories brewing behind our favorite beer were true.
It Keeps Away The Flies
The first theory is that bartenders starting sticking a lime wedge in a Corona to keep flies from crawling along the mouth of the bottle.
“I was told the story of the flies by a couple of beer industry experts that I trust so I had always gone with that story. However, after looking a little deeper it appears that it's one of many theories. The more you delve into beer the more you will come across conflicting histories so that doesn't mean it's not true but it also doesn't confirm it.”
While we can’t know for certain if this is the sole reason behind the little green wedge, there is some proof to back up the effectiveness of this practice. Many manufactured bug repellants contain citrus extracts, not only for the fresh scent, but because citrus oil is a natural bug deterrent. Many home and garden experts recommend using fresh citrus peels as an all natural method of keeping bugs away.
It Combats Skunked Beer
I’m partial to this theory, because I have fallen victim to a “skunked Corona,” more than once. Most beers come in a dark glass bottle, usually brown or green, this is to protect the brew from light exposure. One of the main ingredients in beer are hops, the flowers of the Humulus lupulus plant, which work as a flavoring and preservative agent in beer. Hops are very light-sensitive, and when exposed to too much of it, a chemical reaction occurs that releases a foul “skunk-like” scent. Because of its crystal clear bottle, this is a common problem for Coronas. It is believed that their advertisers suggested that consumers drink their Corona straight from the bottle — the narrow opening makes it difficult to smell — and with a lime wedge — the citrus fruit cancels out the bitterness and masks the scent.
Alexander feels that Corona has an incredibly mild flavor even when it’s skunked, so adding the lime does give it a little extra tartness that he and others enjoy. He also recommends a pilsner style lager that already has enough flavor and won’t need anything added to it.
“Or I typically seek out ‘Corona Familiar’ which tastes a little richer to me than ‘Corona Extra,’ and also comes in a brown bottle, so it's better protected from the light. “
It Kills The Germs
Another theory for the lime is that it serves as a natural disinfectant for the mouth of the bottle. Since Corona is almost always consumed directly from the bottle, its drinkers have a higher chance of coming in contact with germs from possible unsanitary bottling conditions. In the past, bottle caps were also known to leave behind a rusty residue sometimes, the lime was used to wipe it away. Whatever the reason, there is evidence that because of its high acidity, lime can neutralize certain bacteria, especially ones found in improperly stored foods. Studies show that lime juice can help improve our immune systems and even protects against cholera, so we say keep in it in our Coronas!
There are a lot of other theories surrounding the infamous lime. Some tell the tale of a bartender who made a bet that he could start a trend of adding limes to a Corona and it stuck. Others believe the origin of the lime was purely a marketing ploy to create a more visually appealing product and boost sales. Some theories suggest that putting lime in a Corona is a Mexican tradition that Americans emulated. Meanwhile many Mexicans argue that they never put limes in their Coronas and simply started to do so to humor tourists. Lastly, a lot of people think the lime is just in there to enhance the flavor and make it taste better.
“As far as ‘ruining the true taste,’ is really all subjective. If you like it that way then who am I to tell you you're wrong,“ Alexander said.