Cerveceria La Tropical

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Cerveceria La Tropical

It All Started in Havana

Cervecería La Tropical was the largest and most popular brewery in Cuba for seven decades. The Blanco Herrera family founded it in 1888 on the banks of the Almendares River in Havana, on land purchased from Federico Kohly. The family created a destination with live music, dancing, a tropical garden, and even a baseball stadium with infield dirt made from crushed beer bottles. The main attraction, of course, was the brewery’s signature creation, La Original Ambar Lager.

By 1958, the brewery was responsible for more than 60% of all beer production in Cuba. The Cervecería La Tropical brand was famous worldwide. After the Cuban Revolution, the company’s assets were seized and the Blanco Herrera and Kohly families fled to Miami.

In 1998, Manny Portuondo embarked on a plan to bring Cervecería La Tropical back to life. This was a passion project tied to his family’s history – Portuondo is the great-great grandson of Federico Kohly. He teamed up with Ramon Blanco-Herrera to form Three Palms Holdings and gain control of the Cervecería La Tropical brand (and recipes). They launched La Original Ambar Lager, inspired by the original 1888 formula, at a local Wynwood brewery in 2016. It was a hit. This success led to a deal with Heineken, which purchased land in Wynwood to build a new brewery. Portuondo stayed on as CEO to manage the operations.

A Tropical Beer Garden

The 28,000-square-foot space opened in February 2021, with capacity for 800 guests. It features a taproom, a restaurant and a stage for nightly live music. Outdoors, a 10,000-square-foot tropical botanical garden – Jardines La Tropical – recreates the magical feeling of the original in Cuba. Guests can wander through the garden while sipping beer and taking in murals by local artists.

Cervecería La Tropical takes sustainability seriously. They collect rainfall to water the plants in Jardines La Tropical and use spent grain from the brewery for fertilizer. The company is partnering with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden to support the Million Orchid Project, which plants and restores native orchids throughout Greater Miami.

Local Flavors

The highlight, of course, is the beer. Portuondo hired Brew Master Matt Weintraub, who made a name for himself at the Florida International University Brewing Program, to manage the operation. Weintraub has concocted a menu of 20 handcrafted beers infused with local ingredients, with the flagship La Original Ambar Lager as the centerpiece. It’s a refreshing Vienna style lager with subtle notes of honey and a clean finish. Another highlight is the Nativo Key, a refreshing session IPA with hints of mango, pineapple, passion fruit, lemon and lime. For those who want something more hearty, the Gasolina is a high-octane tropical Double IPA with citrus, pineapple, guava and grapefruit flavors.

Fans of legendary Coral Gables restaurant Ortanique on the Mile, which closed in 2020, will be thrilled to learn that Chef Cindy Hutson is in charge of the kitchen at Cervecería La Tropical. Her Cuban/Caribbean menu complements the beers with “Cerveza Bites,” small and large tapas, and entrées with tropical flavors. Several dishes incorporate beer, such as the Caribbean Fish Escabeche with La Original Ámbar Lager sweet onion, red and yellow pepper.

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