Cuba doesn’t import many beers, so you’ll see mainly local brews in shops and bars. Here are the best Cuban beers and the top places to try them.
You will see Cristal absolutely everywhere in Cuba, with its distinctive green label emblazoned with a palm tree. It’s a fairly standard lager that doesn’t taste like much, but you’ll still be grateful for a cold one in the heat of the day. You can get them all over the island, but head to the Beatles-themed bar Submarino Amarillo in the Vedado district of Havana for a unique experience.
Submarino Amarillo, Calle 17, La Habana, Cuba +53 7 8306808
This stronger brew weighs in with 5.4% alcohol content and comes in red and black packaging. It has a more distinctive taste than Cristal and often proves more popular among visitors. Be aware that the combination of a higher alcohol content and the Cuban sun can make for some unexpectedly interesting afternoons. Sip a Bucanero at Horizontes Los Jazmines looking over the Viñales Valley.
The Hatuey brand was bought by the Bacardi rum company in 1920 and produced in Cuba until Bacardi assets were seized following the revolution. These days Hatuey is produced in the US , but it can still be argued that it’s Cuban beer. You will find Hatuey in the bars and restaurants of southern Florida and other locations on the east coast.
If you go to state-run restaurants and bars you will likely find Mayabe for sale. It tends to be cheaper than Cristal or Bucanero and is therefore more popular with the locals. There is little to distinguish Mayabe in terms of taste and it only has 4% alcohol. Buy a can from one of the bars along the Malecon in Havana and hang out with the locals.
The Cacique brand is slightly stronger than Mayabe at 4.5% alcohol by volume, but it has a similar light taste. Its silver cans are a common feature at state-run businesses, and arguably the best place to try one is at the baseball bar on 12 Avenue in Vedado, Havana.
This beer is usually served on tap and is more usually seen in the provinces. It’s not that fizzy, but it tastes similar to Mayabe and Cacique. It takes some getting used to, so it might be best to have just one glass for starters. You can get hold of a small glass for around 0.50 CUC ($0.50) from street vendors, and the main square in Santi Spiritus is a lovely place to try one.
Another flat beer that is sold in small bottles or on tap. Its lack of fizz won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s worth giving it a go. One of the harder to find beers in Cuba, it is well worth trying whenever coming across it. And as one of the cheapest beers on the island, it’s perfect for the budget traveler.