Lonely Planet Writer

Breweries struggle to meet increased demand as American tourists drink Cuba dry

Are you one of the many tourists planning to visit Cuba over the coming months? A cold bottle of Cuban beer might be difficult to find, one of unfortunate consequences of the recent upsurge of visitors to the island.

This bar in Camaguey, Cuba, might find it difficult to stock enough beer.
This bar in Camaguey, Cuba, might find it difficult to stock enough beer. Image by David Ogden / CC BY 2.0

The nation’s signature brews- Cristal and Bucanero – are suddenly under huge pressure as a record number of tourists arrive, many taking advantage of the newly-relaxed US travel restrictions.

Both brands are manufactured by the same state-run brewer (also called Bucanero), who have had to consider other methods to keep up with the thirsty tourists. Bucanero has confirmed they will be opening a new plant to increase production capacity. There are also reports it is considering importing 3 million cases of beer from nearby Dominica to keep pace with demand in the meantime.

If you are planning a trip to Cuba soon, the best bet for satisfying your thirst might be to visit one of the private bars or restaurants. These often have fully-stocked fridges since they source supplies themselves, whereas state-run venues are restricted by the amount of stock the government gives them. Small private enterprises have cropped up all over the island in the last five years after changes in the law surrounding small businesses.

Beer is not the only product under pressure. Hotels are also struggling with the huge increase in visitors and there have been reports of a lack of luggage trucks and passenger stairs in Havana’s international airport.  In 2015, visitor arrivals to Cuba rose more than 17% and that record is expected to be shattered with the recent easing of restrictions for American visitors and President Obama’s historic March visit.

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