There is nothing moderate however about the glass beer towers featured at the Cerveceria Antiguo Almacen de la Madera y el Tabaco brewpub in Havana.  Called Tarros, these delightful dispensers top out at 3 liters- or  just over 100 ounces.  True, some U.S. establishments feature the "table tap"- slide your credit card, turn on the meter and consume.  But since Americans already spend enough time at a pump filling their big cars, working down the beer in a Tarros would seem to be a lot more fun.

American brewers and bars take note:  No act of Congress necessary to begin importing this Cuban innovation.

Gone however are the once vibrant trade and economic collaborations between the U.S. and Cuba in the beer industry revealed in this report.  One hundred years ago, the U.S. was the number one exporter of barrel beer to Cuba and the number two exporter of bottled beer (with Britain holding the top spot in that category with its popular ales and stouts).   Not only did the U.S. supply Cuba with “import” beer, it provided its breweries with critical inputs for the manufacture of domestic beer including machinery, bottles and barrels. 

In addition, due to disruptions in supply from Germany and Austria during World War I, the United States became Cuba’s key supplier of malts and hops.  And  more, private investors from the United States held a significant stake in two of Cuba’s three major brewing companies.  What a difference one hundred years can make...

As the political and economic relations between the U.S. and Cuba thaw, will beer return to prominence as a source of mutually beneficial trade and investment?  Stay tuned…

100  Years Ago - A Vibrant Beer and Hops Trade Between Cuba and the U.S.

Dos Tarros - That should do it for these friends gathered around a table at Cervecería Antiguo Almacén de la Madera y el Tabaco (Former Lumberyard and Tobacco Warehouse Brewery)​ in Old Havana.

They say everything is bigger in America - its cars, its stores, even its people.   Not so when it comes to beer pitchers.  Partly owing to a Puritan heritage and the unique legacy of Prohibition, “moderation” is the ideal of the American alcohol marketplace.  A typical beer pitcher found in the U.S. is 48 ounces, with some as small as 32 and others as large as 60 ounces. 

Local craft breweries have become leading symbols of American entrepreneurship.  According to the Brewers Association, the number of breweries in the United States has risen from 2,456 in 2012 to 4,269 in 2015.  It was fitting therefore that a brewery play host to an Entrepreneurship Summit held during President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba.  On March 21, 2016, Havana’s La Cerveceria  provided the venue for a highly visible cultural exchange celebrating the power of American capitalism and its potential for Cuba.

President Obama began his remarks by thanking his host.  “This is my very first visit to a Cuban cervecería.  I hear they’ve got some great pollo -- Moros y Cristianos.  And, of course, cerveza.  But today, we’re here to work.”   Accompanied by several American business executives now leading the charge into new commerce with Cuba, the President lauded American capitalism, noting that the United States was “built on entrepreneurship and market-based principles” that have produced “unmatched” wealth and prosperity.  In a discussion moderated by Soledad O’Brien, President Obama and his envoy expressed their optimism and pledged their support for the growth of private sector industry in Cuba to an enthusiastic and largely younger crowd.

Today about one third of Cubans are employed in the private sector.  Under changes initiated by President Raul Castro in recent years, opportunities for business ownership have expanded significantly. Cubans are now permitted  to obtain licenses for self-employment in categories including beauty salons, barber shops, art galleries, clothing and taxi/livery service.  Also among the private business opportunities for Cubans are restaurants and cafes.  Although all domestic beer production on the island is controlled by a joint venture between the Cuban government and Canada’s Labatt Brewing Company, and indeed, although La Cerveceria is state owned, conditions are emerging that may eventually foster a new “revolution” of sorts in Cuba’s beer market. 

In the coming months and years, Cuba is expected to see exponential increases in American investment, a dramatic influx of thirsty American tourists, and a loosening of restrictions on food and agricultural trade, which may include American hops.  When these changes and influences mix with a free restaurant and café sector in Cuba, it would not be surprising to see growth in tourist oriented brewpubs take hold, especially given the apparent success of the government’s La Cerveceria.

The President expressed concluding optimism at the Summit that the coming changes in Cuba – U.S. relations, along with increases in internet access on the island, would begin to build a critical “constituency” for the ending of the embargo.  The entirety of the Entrepreneurship Summit at La Cerveceria can be viewed above.

Time for some refills...

April 26, 2016

By David Hardy

March 20, 2016

By David Hardy

Published in The Brewers’ Journal  from March 1, 1916 is a fascinating report from the U.S. Commerce Department on “Cuba’s Beer Industry and Trade.”  The report details a robust level of beer consumption on the island while noting that “[t]he Cubans do not like a heavy beer nor one high in alcohol.”  It appears not much has changed on these scores over the past century.

Going Big:  Cuba Takes the Beer Pitcher to the Next Level

March 27, 2016

By David Hardy

Tarros in formation, awaiting their next deployment. 

Havana Brewery Hosts President Obama's Cuban Entrepreneurship Summit

The American table tap- not sure if you can pour your own in New Jersey.