Cuba’s Oldest Brewery Is Now One of Miami’s Youngest…Cerveceria La Tropical

Hello Foodie Friends,

I know it’s been a while since my last blog post and I do apologize for that but we have been super busy the last few months with several group bookings in both South and Central FL. It appears that many companies that had to postpone their travel plans have now been given the green light to take their teams out and for many of them who have been working remotely for the past two years, this is their first opportunity to bring their remote staff together for some team bonding/building activities which they are booking like crazy right now. The size of the groups that are being booked now, as compared to prior to the breakout in 2020 has increased quite considerably. Up until 2020, the average size group was around 20 people. Now the average is 40+.

At any rate, I happened to see a post on my Instagram feed highlighting this place called Cerveceria La Tropical nestled in an Oasis nestled in Wynwood and it definitely caught my eye. So much so, that I reached out to them and scheduled a visit to check them out. Not only so that I can share my find with you, but so I could hopefully plan some fun events there for my groups. Gloria, the Event Manager was off on this particular Sunday when I arrived, so she arranged for me to meet with Mike, one of the restaurant managers on duty on this day. I drove down from Boca and soon after I arrived, I met Mike who was expecting me. We bumped into Gloria of all people, who came on her day off with her family, to celebrate her birthday (now that sure is a testimonial to how much she loves this place!)

Cerveceria La Tropical is a “Tank to Glass” concept where they pour their brewed-in-house beers right from the tanks in the main dining room that also happens to have a great back story.  On July 21, 1888 The Blanco-Herrera family establishes Cervecería La Tropical on (Cuban) lands once owned by Federico Kohly. Cuba’s Oldest Brewery grows and grows, and by 1958 La Tropical accounts for over 60% of all beer production in Cuba, making the brand world-renowned. La Tropical stands alongside cigars, rum and music as the pride of Cuba.

“La Tropical founded the Cuban beer industry. La Tropical comprised acre upon acre of a brewery, tropical gardens and a baseball stadium, whose in-field sand was made of crushed La Tropical bottles. There were many owners, but my family held majority ownership. As a kid, I loved going to the brewery with my father. I can still smell the sweet and thick malty scent coming from the brewery.” RAMON BLANCO-HERRERA 4th Generation La Tropical Family Member

In 1896 Florida’s First Brewery is founded in Ybor City/Tampa, Florida, by Cuban cigar industrialist family: Martinez-Ybor. In 1897 La Tropical beer is produced and distributed in Florida. The Florida La Tropical brand has an affiliation with the La Tropical brand from Cuba. In the early 1900’s La Tropical in Ybor City produced 80,000 barrels of beer at its’ peak. The Cuban embargo and new Florida competition from Anheuser Busch and Schlitz forced the shutdown of the brewery in 1961. Dale Swope, a Tampa attorney, acquires the old La Tropical brewery in Ybor City in 1999 and embarks on a historical preservation project to save the building after years of neglect.

in 1904 The La Tropical beer gardens are opened, near the banks of the Almendares River, and quickly become a must-go destination for cold cerveza, fun, music and dance. Designed by Cuban architect Ramón Magriñá, the gardens were inspired by the Spanish gardens of Gaudí. Los Jardines de La Tropical included a botanical Tropical garden with a multitude of concrete structures designed in a modernist and organic style, as well as a replica castle of the Alhambra de Granada in Spain.

SYLVIA MUÑIZ DE MURAI

Daughter Of La Tropical General Manager In Cuba (1922-2016)

“My father was the General Manager of the brewery and we lived in an exquisite castle within Los Jardines de La Tropical. They were the happiest days of my childhood.”

1960 marks the arrival of the revolution in Cuba begins and La Tropical’s assets are seized. The Cuban exodus begins and over one million Cubans flee the island, including the now impoverished Blanco-Herrera and Kohly families. Miami welcomes them with open arms.

“It was Christmas Eve, December 24, 1960, when our world changed forever and our family was forced to flee our Cuban homeland. The Castro government stole our home and investment properties. My mother was widowed, with three young children, and landed in Miami with only $5 in her pocket. It was very tough at first. Sixty years later, Miami became our new home and where my children were born and raised.” GRAZIELLA RODRIGUEZ-KOHLY 4th Generation Kohly And Mother Of Manny Portuondo

1960 – 2020

The Disappearance

Inside Cuba, La Tropical is now run by the revolution. La Tropical is eventually lost, but never forgotten.

“They came at gunpoint to take the brewery. I was one of the last senior managers at the brewery that day and was forced to hand over the keys. They knew about managing a brewery, what I knew about going to the moon.”

JULIO FERNANDEZ-SELLES Last Master Brewer Of Cervecería La Tropical (Pre-Revolution) 1917-2002

In 1998, The Comeback Begins…

Manny Portuondo, great-great grandson of Federico Kohly makes it his passion project in life to bring La Tropical back. At the age of 32, after a successful career with Anheuser-Busch and the Brahma Brewery of Brazil, he mortgages his home and raises capital from the prominent Cuban American community in Miami, including Ramon Blanco-Herrera.Three Palms Holdings is formed and for two decades Manny Portuondo fights to secure control of the La Tropical brand in key markets throughout the world.

“In my early 30s, I entered a phase where I longed to learn more about where I came from and how my family got to the United States of America. I became fascinated with my family’s past and the La Tropical story in particular. Not long after, I decided to do something about it and fight back.” MANNY PORTUONDO 5th Generation Kohly, Founder Of Three Palms Holdings & CEO Of Cervecería La Tropical

In 2016 La Tropical hosts a teaser beer launch in the heart of Miami under license with the Boston Beer Company. The launch is a great success with customers lining up for hours to taste the original recipe of La Tropical’s award-winning La Original Ambar Lager at a local Wynwood brewery. Very quickly, La Tropical becomes a best seller. La Tropical generates local and international attention that leads to interest from many of the world’s largest brewers.

After two decades of fighting to save La Tropical, Three Palms Holdings completes the majority sale of La Tropical brand to Heineken NV. With no physical brewery, Heineken makes a significant investment to build a Miami home for Cervecería La Tropical. Scouting begins for the perfect site. A ¾ acre site in the Wynwood Arts District is acquired and construction begins in 2019 to include a 32 thousand hectoliter per year brewery, tap room, restaurant and beer garden. A true destination brewery for beverage consumers everywhere.

Cervecería La Tropical has a new Miami home, a testament to perseverance, passion, hard work and the belief that all is possible if you dare to make your dreams come true. Over a century in the making, and inspired by the tropics, Cuba’s Oldest Brewery is now one of Miami’s Youngest.

Manager Mike was happy to give me a tour of the place which included the brewery and the tropical garden (which is an extension of the Fairchild Tropical Gardens I learned). Tropical trees such as guava and herbs can be found in the gardens and are labeled with each tree or bush’s description and a QR Code to hover over to learn even more. He informed me that Chef Cindy Hutson was expecting me and was preparing to have a number of their popular dishes brought out for me to try. Funny thing is I have been following Chef Cindy for years. I first heard about her work at Orantanique on Miracle Mile in Coral Gables (which sadly closed this location after 21 years in business.) I was super excited to finally meet this chef who I have the utmost respect and admiration for. First up on the tasting menu was my choice of beer. Whenever I see a “Sour” on the menu, this is my go-to. I ordered the Dulce Sour and got to choose a flavor to infuse it with; I went with my server Brittany’s suggestion, guava, and man o man, was this beer ever so refreshing, it really hit the spot. So much so, that even though I had only intended to consume one, I just had to have another.

Cervecercia just began offering brunch on Sat, Oct 1st and this was only their second day when I came that Sunday. They had a live band that was setting up to go on at 1pm. They have a weekly live music line up which can be viewed on their website. Live bands throughout the week nights and during Sunday Brunch from 1 -4pm.

First dish brought out for me to try was a sample size portion of their popular guava and cream cheese French Toast with vanilla bean cream cheese drizzle and blood orange maple syrup and guava compound butter. Went terrific with my guava sour beer! (If you like guava like I do, you will love this place as guava makes its appearance throughout the menu.) I think this might have been my favorite dish of the afternoon.

Next, came the Caribbean Avocado Toast. This was a very unique version of an avocado toast. It came with toasted pepita seeds, charred shishito peppers, tomato marmalade, cojita cheese and topped with a soft cooked egg. I really enjoyed the flavor profiles and they combined perfectly to create a balanced bite. It was a little top heavy for the bread though, so it became a little soggy and a little messy as a result.

Next came the Harnish de Maiz con Queso – Cheesy Grits…(again, the pic below is a smaller portion than what is typically served). This one pot wonder consisted of chorizo sausage, onions, peppers, and served with a side of Cuban toast for mopping up all the deliciousness.

Something on the menu caught my eye. It was “woo aioli”. I asked Brittany what was this and she brought me out some plantain chips with a side of this secret sauce. It way yummy. I could have ingested a whole container of this stuff . LOL

My final two tastings were the Ham Croqueta and the Cuban Sandwich Empanada. Both were very tasty and I can see why they are crowd pleasers.

Manager Michael Moss was most accommodating. He is pretty new to the Cerveceria La Tropical team but not new at all to the restaurant business. He had recently joined the team having been with a large restaurant group for many years prior.

Brittany, my server was so cute and super helpful.

It was so great to finally meet Chef Cindy in person. She is so creative. Super talented chef!!!

There is a $10 cover to enter on the weeknights there is a live band performing, but that fee also includes one complimentary cocktail that will be served inside the “Birdcage” as guests enter on the right.

Cerveceria La Tropical is an ideal spot for casual dining for brunch, lunch and dinner and is a perfect venue for group events too!

They are closed on Mondays and are open Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday: 4PM-11PM, (Kitchen until 10PM)

Friday: 12PM-1AM, Kitchen until midnight (limited menu past 10PM)

Saturday: 11:30AM-1AM, Kitchen until midnight (limited menu past 10PM)

Sunday: 11:30AM-10PM, Kitchen until 9PM

Until we eat (and drink) again…

I send you delicious wishes, xo

Denise