Can You Add Lime to Any Beer? (Garnish History, Trends, & More!)

Last time you went out for drinks, you may have noticed a number of beers are served with a lime as a garnish. Lime has always been used as a garnish for mixed alcoholic drinks like gin or tequila. But, how did a wedge of lime become a popular garnish for beer?

You can add lime to any beer as a garnish but they pair best with light lagers and do not pair well with darker, malt-forward beers. Avoid preparing lime in direct sunlight, however, as phytophotodermatitis (lime burn) can cause issues for some people. Traditionally, lime was added to beer to disinfect bottles and cover up lightstruck off-flavors.

Read on to find out the reason why lime was initially added to beer and how it has grown and become a necessary piece of garnish for every bartender. 

Why do people add lime to their beer?

There are a few theories on why people added lime to their beer. These theories are mostly centered around sanitation and disinfecting the beer.

Traditionally, lime was used as a sanitary measure for both the bottle and for the beer itself. Today it tends to be more of a trend and marketing measure. 

Brewing in Mexico was hard. The use of recycled bottles, dust present during storage, and poor quality tap water were some of the issues that plagued their most popular pale lager, Corona.

Initially, a wedge of lime was added to the neck of the Corona bottle in order to sterilize the bottle opening. This was due to the rust left behind from the bottle caps and from any other exposures from being held in storage.

Another reason was to improve beer taste by hiding the skunk beer flavor.  Skunk beer is caused when the beer is exposed to the sun.

When beer is bottled in clear bottles, like the ones used by Corona, it increases the chance of the beer going skunk. Adding lime can help mask that flavor.

Those are all valid reasons, but the main reason for the addition of lime to the beer was that the lime acted as a disinfectant against pathogens that were in the beer. The pathogens were present due to the low-quality tap water that was used to brew the beer. 

Adding the lime wedge down the neck of the bottle into the beer itself was to kill any harmful pathogens that may have been present in the beer. 

Is a lime necessary or is it marketing genius?

A little bit of both.

While a lime is not necessary due to the vast improvements in brewing, many people agree that it can enhance the flavor of certain beers, especially light lagers.

This is not only seen in Mexico but seen throughout the world across many different cultures. Ask for a Corona in Australia, it is served with a lime. Ask for one In Korea and you will get a lemon instead of lime (due to the expense and availability of limes).

Different fruit but the idea is the same, adding a garnish to a beer.

Today brewing has evolved into a very sanitary process where the lime is not necessary for sanitation, so why is a lime wedge still served with your beer all over the world?

Is it due to bartenders keen on keeping up with the trend and image that drinkers have come to expect (since every Corona commercial shows a lime in its beer)?

Or is it that beer drinkers appreciate the tartness and flavor that a lime adds to a beer?

Whatever the reason on why it is used today, it has become a staple for some brands. 

What beers go well with lime?

There are a variety of tastes when it comes to different beers. Lime is usually best served in light beers but can be found in IPA’s and other lagers. Lime wedges are usually served in the neck of the bottle or on the rim of the glass.

Due to its low alcohol and light taste a lime is best served with a light beer or lager.  Some beers to pair a lime with:

  • Corona
  • Pacifico
  • Modello
  • Landshark

Some IPA’s already have some citrus added to them in order to soften the flavor, so adding lime will not hurt its taste. Limes should not be added to dark beers. The combination of lime with the intense aromas found in dark beers would not be pleasant.

Now, let’s check out which beer styles pair well (or don’t pair well) with lime:

Beer StyleDoes it pair well with lime?
Amber AleYes
IPAYes
Blonde AleYes
KolschYes
Pale AleYes
PilsnerYes
PorterNo
StoutNo
WheatYes
Table showing which beer styles pair well with lime

How much lime should you add to beer?

There are a number of different serving sizes of lime used and will vary depending on how it is served. Beers with lime are best served with either a lime wedge or slice, while mixed-beer drinks will have a couple of ounces of lime juice added to the mix.

The most popular serving is that of a lime wedge or slice served in either the neck of a bottle or the rim of a glass. There are some popular drinks where lime juice is added to the beer itself to add a more tart flavor to the beer. 

What is a michelada?

A michelada is a refreshing spicy Mexican beer cocktail made from beer, lime juice, tomato juice, and assorted spices and sauces. Some drinkers even add Worcestershire or tabasco sauce. 

Bottom line, there is no right way to make it, as long as it is spicy and refreshing.   It is best served in a salt rimmed glass and garnished with a lime. 

There are some comparisons between a michelada and a bloody mary since they both are spicy and contain tomato juice. But the big difference is in the alcohol used with a bloody mary having vodka and a michelada made with beer.

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