Ernest Hemingway painted vivid depictions of Cuba and spent over ⅔ of his creative life living in it. These depictions live on through the decades, especially in the film about his life: Papa: Hemingway in Cuba.
While Cuban cigars may be the country’s most famous known export, if you’re heading here, you should also brush up on the many types of beer that are available since they’re found absolutely everywhere.
A Brief History of Cuban Beers
Cuban beer history began in 1841, thanks to Juan Manuel Asbert and Calixto García. They opened a small factory in San Rafael and originally used sugarcane juice as a catalyst in the operation.
This did not work well, and they had to import barley. Beer was made in this way until 1888. After this, high taxes on imported goods led to the birth of La Tropical, the first Cuban beer. With some additional touches given to it by hired French and German brewers, production began in earnest and remains the same to date.
What Are The Most Popular Cuban Beers To Try And What Is Cuba’s National Beer?
Cuban beers are a staple after a long hard day of work, something to slake your thirst before a meal at a restaurant, or when sitting and chatting with friends at the local Paladar. There are several beer types available in Cuba. The most popular ones are:
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A rather strong lager, Bucanero has a 5.4% alcohol content and is quite popular with tourists and visitors to the island. It has a very crisp taste, with a hint of sweetness, and a dark golden appearance. It is the second most popular beer in Cuba and is a good choice for nights spent dancing.
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Statistically shown to be Cuba’s most popular beer, Cristal beer has a 4.9% alcohol content and a fine finish, with a crisp, sweet taste and a clear straw colour. The reason for its popularity is due to quality, local ingredients being used, including natural spring water. The beer is made at Holguin Brewery, and a range of Cristal beer choices are available – with Palma Cristal being quite the hit with locals and visitors to Cuba.
While the brewery has moved outside of Cuba, Hatuey Beer has been one of Cuba’s most beloved beers. It is said that in 1959 the beer sold over 12 million bottles. It is found in wide circulation, from beaches to bars in town. With a sweet taste and a medium body, it’s an ideal drink for balmy weather.
Cerveja Bruja Clásica
This pale lager offers a 4.5% alcohol content and is considered a good staple for a quick drink amongst locals since it’s cheaper than the more popular choices like Bucanero and Cristal. There is almost no head to speak of when it’s poured, and its taste is rather bready. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’ll do to help temper the humidity when you’re down on your luck.
This Pale Lager has a 4.5% alcohol content and is aimed more at locals than foreigners. The head is small but noticeable and it has touches of citrus that appear within the hops. It’s a good choice under the sweltering sun.
Another popular local beer, Mayabe is a good choice for great taste and a cheap price. It has an alcohol content of 4% and tends to be a great lunchtime option. It’s usually available to purchase by the cup from street vendors.
The above covers the mainstream beers you’ll discover. However, there are another two regional beers around, which while very cheap to buy are usually only drunk by locals. They are Tinima and Bruja. Most often, after trying them once, visitors will pick a different more mainstream variety to try since these don’t offer that much in the way of flavour.
What Are The Locally Recommended Best Cuban Beers To Try
While classifying the best is subjective, the most requested Cuban beers which you’ll find locals drinking are:
- Bucanero Fuerte
- Cerveja Bruja Clásica
- Tinima Cerveza Clara
- Mayabe Cerveza Clara
What Beers Do Tourists Drink When In Cuba?
While most tourists will try and enjoy the local beers, there are also two non-local beers available to purchase. The beers available are Presidente and Claro. Presidente is a Pale Lager with a 5% alcohol content. It is most often found in touristy sections of Cuba, in the bars and restaurants, with a light body and high carbonation. Claro offers a 4% alcohol content, it is sold only in bottles, and its country of origin is the Netherlands. However, locals would agree that Cristal and Bucanero offer a better taste and overall beer experience.
What Are The Different Styles Of Cuban Beer?
The two main types of Cuban beers that you will find are Lager and Pale Lager. The reason for this is since the global brewer AB In-Bev which is Belgian-based, is in partnership with the Cuban government. They produce the light lagers which are the country’s favourite beer choice. The 4.9% Cristal and 5.4% Bucanero. These beers are both made in a brewery in Holguin, which is located on the eastern side of the island.
What Are The Best Microbrew Or Craft Beers In Cuba?
While microbreweries are yet to take off fully in Cuba, there are two great choices available. The Cerveceria Antiguo Almacen de la Madera y El Tabaco which is located within an old tobacco factory, and the more popular Factoria Plaza Vieja, which is found in Havana.
They each offer only three craft beer choices: Light, Dark, and Black Beer.
While the alcohol percentage in the beers has yet to be printed anywhere online, the waiters who work in the establishments have often said they think the beers are 4.6%.
What Are The Best Cuban Beers To Pair With Cuban Food?
There are numerous great options for Cuban beer pairings. From roast pork and beef, which pair well with ales, to paella and cheese dishes which work incredibly well with IPA’s.
How To Order A Beer In Cuba, In Spanish
While you could try your luck by ordering a beer in English, you’ll have far better service when you ask the bartender for uno cerveza, birra, por favor. This translates directly to one beer please.
Can You Buy Cuban Beer In The USA?
Though there has long been a rum and cigar trade between Cuba and the United States, you’ll quickly discover that very few Cuban beers are available for sale in the USA. The famed Hatuey beer created in Cuba by Bacardi, is produced in Miami, Florida, and is available for sale both in Cuba and the USA.
You are also quite likely to find imitation Cuban beers widely available in the USA, such as Mi Cristal, but it doesn’t quite beat the real thing drunk in Cuba!