Cocktails & Spirits

Hatuey Beer Returns as a Microbrew

The new Hatuey (pronounced ah-TWAY) Beer returned to bars, restaurants and liquor stores in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties this past summer. The original Hatuey was first produced in Santiago de Cuba around 1927. By 1959 it was Cuba's favorite cerveza to the tune of 12 million cases sold per year. Bacardi introduced a different Hatuey Beer to the United States in the mid-1990s, but it was taken off the market nearly two years ago in preparation for the rollout of this new brand.

"The previous version was a Lager style beer, a bit lighter," explains Anler Morejon, Hatuey's brand manager. "This one is a Pale Ale with more color, body, and flavor." In a way, Mr. Morejon is understating his case. Hatuey is micro-brewed by Thomas Creek Brewery in Greenville, South Carolina, and despite the name and history it can now be considered a premium American craft beer...and yet, the flavor is said by older Cubans to bear a close resemblance to the iconic original.

Morejon was born in Cuba, but left the island in 1990 at the age of 13. Because he was a minor he has no memories of the beer, and "my father is not a drinker, so we never talked about it." Now it Anler's job to talk about it.

"Hatuey is available all over the city and in the Keys. The rollout plan for the rest of the state will be early to mid-2012." It won't go national right away, but the second expansion, planned for later 2012, will bring it "to certain markets, i.e. New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Illinois." Hatuey Beer retails for about $8.99 per six-pack.

Craft beers are the fastest growing segment of the beer industry, and upscale Hispanic purchasing clout is likewise on the rise. When production of the last Hatuey was halted, sales were at around 15,000 cases annually. That's the sales projection for the first year of the new brew. "We would like to pick it up where we left off," Anler explains.

There are light and dark versions of Hatuey. "At one point in Cuba we had a light and dark version of the beer, so both releases in the U.S. have been based on both original formulas from Cuba." When Morejon is asked which beer on the market is closest to Hatuey in flavor, he perhaps predictably replies "There's no other similar beer that I've tasted."

"Craft beer" implies a brew that matches well with food. Morejon's favorite Hatuey pairings are "roasted chicken with white rice and beans, or roasted pork with moros. And for dessert, a good flan con coco." I'm not certain whether Mr. Morejon really thinks flan con coco pairs best with beer, or if he just can't resist having that treat for dessert regardless of his beverage.

Not only does Hatuey go well with food, it apparently also goes well in it. Tomorrow, a Hatuey chef will share a couple of recipes with us -- including a beer glaze for roast ham, just in time for the holidays.

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Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein