Cuba's oldest brewery is now Miami's newest: This week, Cervecería La Tropical will officially open its first brewery on U.S. soil in Wynwood.
Miami’s newest brewery will celebrate its grand opening on Friday, February 19. The custom-built, 28,000-square-foot space includes a taproom, a restaurant, and an outdoor botanical garden, as well as a live-music stage.
Founded by the Blanco-Herrera family in Havana in 1888, La Tropical became a source of national pride, recognized as one of Cuba's largest and most successful beer brands. The brewery was nationalized amid the Cuban revolution in 1960, and the government operated it continuously until sometime around 2010. Owing to a lack of capital and investment, the physical plant, located near a section of Havana known as Kohly, was closed, though the company's beers continued to be brewed in a new facility on the island. (Constructed in 1904, the old brewery's tropical gardens, Jardines La Tropical, are the only aspect of the original venue that remain open for both live music and events.)
La Tropical first became available on U.S. shores in the late 1990s, when the company began selling a Florida-brewed pilsner. More recently, in 2016, the brewery launched its La Original Ambar Lager stateside under licensing with the Boston Beer Company, brewer of Samuel Adams; perhaps not surprisingly, the beer generated excitement, particularly in South Florida.
"It quickly became a best seller," La Tropical CEO Manny Portuondo tells New Times. "That led to interest from the world’s largest brewers to buy the brand."
A great-great-grandson of Federico Kohly, the man who sold the land for the original brewery to the Blanco-Herreras, Portuondo was well aware of the label's historical value. In 2017, he sold a majority interest in La Tropical to Heineken International as part of a joint venture to bring the brewery to the U.S., adding it to Heineken's craft portfolio under the corporation's Lagunitas Brewing Company umbrella.
"It’s been my passion project in life to bring La Tropical back to life," Portuondo says. "My vision was to build a new and permanent home in Miami for La Tropical — a home that would be worthy of our global and culturally diverse city. A beacon of hope for all displaced communities in Miami to gather and celebrate life and new beginnings in this great country of ours."
With La Tropical's historic beer as an anchor, brewmaster Matt Weintraub, formerly of Miami's Tank Brewing, will be working to offer 20 different beers. They include the 4.5 percent ABV La Original Ambar Lager; Nativo Key, a 4.5 percent ABV session "suave" IPA with tropical notes of mango, passionfruit, and pineapple; and Gasolina, a 9 percent ABV double IPA available only in the taproom.
Additional in-house options will range from lagers and IPAs to sour ales infused with local ingredients and barrel-aged brews. The brewery has plans to distribute its beer in cans and on draft at restaurants, bars, and supermarkets from Palm Beach County to Key West, starting in March.
La Tropical's restaurant in Wynwood will offer a Latin Caribbean-inspired menu created by Miami chef Cindy Hutson that features small- and medium-size tapas plates, flatbreads, sandwiches, salads, and main courses. Prices range from starters like plantain chips served with a chipotle aioli ($5); a "Frita Cubano" burger topped with chorizo, ground pork, shoestring potatoes, and tomato marmalade on brioche ($15); and a ten-ounce grilled churrasco steak served with a tropical chimichurri as an entrée ($27).
And as it was for so long in Havana, visitors to the Wynwood brewery guests can roam the property's lush, 10,000-square-foot outdoor tropical garden, which features commissioned art and murals by local artists.
Heineken Americas president Marc Busain calls La Tropical's story a universal tale of loss and rebirth that everyone can relate to.
"The brand also had a proud and award-winning past that made it world famous," Busain says. "Heineken is proud to lead this venture and help La Tropical make it so again."
Cervecería La Tropical. 42 NE 25th St., Miami; cervecerialatropical.com. Tuesday through Thursday 4 to 11 p.m, Friday 4 to 2 a.m. (midnight during curfew), Saturday noon to 2 a.m. (midnight during curfew), Sunday noon to 11 p.m.
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