Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hatuey Cuban Style Ale Celebration: De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean

Last week I received an invitation to attend El sabor de tu Tierra, a celebration for the relaunch of the Hatuey beer brand taking place at De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean on June 16. Hatuey is a beer brand owned by Bacardi. Yeah, I know. I was surprised and a little worried, too, when I heard that such a well-known spirits maker was going to try their hand at brewing. And brewing a premium craft beer!

Guess what? After learning that the Hatuey brand has existed for nearly 100 years, it didn't seem so far-fetched. A brief history lesson shows the Hatuey brand was registered in 1914 and later transferred to current owner Bacardi in 1925. Two years later in 1927, Cerveceria Hatuey in Santiago de Cuba brewed its first batch of Hatuey beer. Hatuey was always the premium beer brand in Cuba and captured over 50% of the Cuban beer market by 1959. That's when the Castro government in Cuba nationalized all private companies (I really wanted to be sarcastic here, but I'm using my better judgment tonight). For a long time after that, it seems everyone (maybe including Bacardi) forgot about the brand for several decades. But an archive does exist, as you can see here... These compilations and original art were under glass housing--No Drunks Allowed!

"So how did a non-Spanish-speaking Gringo from Pennsylvania get invited to a Cuban restaurant in South Beach, Miami for the launch of a renowned Cuban-Style Ale?" I know but will never tell. Seriously though, I was invited by Newlink America, the media company representing Bacardi for the Hatuey brand. They were responsible for the success of the launch party, but also took the time to schedule an intimate gathering where local writers and media would have the chance to taste the beer and learn about the history and vision of the brand moving forward. And I somehow qualified as "media". I have finally and certainly made it!

It was there that I met the awesome Newlink team as well as Bacardi's Anler Morejon, Brand Manager for Hatuey, and Patricia Suau, Archivist and Historian for Bacardi. That is Patricia below in the blue dress holding that irreplaceable bottle of Hatuey beer from 80 years ago. She also created the display photographed above.

1930's Hatuey Pilsener. The bottle is still there.
1930's Hatuey Pilsener. No touching allowed!

Now I don't mean to shock you, but the tasting didn't start on time. My Colombian wife told me I should have known better with Latin people. Plus I think the organizers totally did it on purpose, wanting us to be really desperate for some of those beers chilling in front of us.

But once the tasting began and we got on a roll, Anler and Patricia gave excellent presentations and answered a bunch of questions. Our host, Chef Douglas Rodriguez then got to drink the first drops of the new Hatuey Cuban Style Ale as the Hatuey Girls poured a glass for the rest of us. He let us know about the menu and the appetizers and described why he thought the Hatuey beer would marry wonderfully with his offerings of the evening.

I met a terrific group of people from radio and other food blogs. The cameramen were also awesome, lending their giant lights for the amateur photogs.

Now some of you know how much I adore brewery art. I love the creative stuff and despise the unoriginal. Check out this awesome poster from the Bacardi Archive, and let me tell you how hard it was to delay showing you the menu until now!

Do you see that menu above?  I had a little of EVERYTHING. The awesome staff started serving us hors d'oeuvres before we were even allowed to drink the beer. Talk about teasing. I think I at least tried each of them. My favorites were the Smoked Marlin Tacos, which were spicy, the Snapper (and I think the server said Conch) Ceviche, and the Sugarcane Tuna Skewers, pictured below. So. Damn. Delicious. Oh, and I didn't even mention the Caja China main course yet. Check out that whole roasted pig and then imagine eating it with some black beans, plantains and paella. Yep! Oh, and you'd also be drinking Much More Hatuey beer with this feast.

So are you ready to hear about some Hatuey Cuban Style Ale drinking? I guess so. I mentioned that the Hatuey Girls handed each of us a glass when we got started at the tasting. I immediately took a big whiff or two and started drinking, and here is what I wrote down, of course now written with better grammar and more interest...

Faint aroma. Refreshingly bitter and hoppy right from the beginning. Very smooth. Light malty and fruity sweetness provides a nice balance so it's not overly bitter. Carbonation is good and adds to the refreshment. The 5.5% alcohol is only slightly noticeable, just fine. Not watery or thin but rather medium body.

Pale Ales are a style that anyone can enjoy as they are not usually too bitter, and Hatuey is no exception. Hot weather beer? Hello, yes, of course. This is the perfect beer for the 11.5 months of summer that is Miami! And yes, the rest of the country will certainly enjoy this as well, even in the dead of a Chicago winter! But I digress...

Hatuey Pale Ale is a very enjoyable beer. I certainly had more than my share of samples! And I took some home, too, compliments of the Hatuey Girls' gift bucket. I'm pretty sure that Bacardi will be sending me more (hint) sometime soon.

One of the most remarkable things of the night, for me, was the attention I got. I was so totally flattered that so many people wanted to hear my opinion of the beer. One lady at the tasting told me that "everyone was looking at [me] and listening to [me] describe the beer and why [I] enjoyed it." And I could feel the leaders for this brand showing tons of interest. That was very satisfying, I will admit. But enough about me...

So Bacardi sent me home with a few bottles of Cerveza Hatuey. If I and half the people in the valet waiting area knew just how long we'd have to wait to retrieve our cars, we might have done this review on the spot, even as the army of armed Black Water security dudes was watching. I know, I'm all talk.

In the end, I did a standard review of this beer at home, the next day, with time to think about my thoughts... and way less boobs to distract me. My notes are similar to the initial tasting, yet a bit more thorough.

Brewed by Thomas Creek Brewery in Greenville, South Carolina, y'all. I learned from the Bacardi executives that this brewery matched their mission with this beer for numerous reasons--family owned, location close to South Florida to keep it fresh, craft beer reputation, ability to meet an expanding demand for Hatuey, etc.

The Indian Warrior Hatuey, a Taino Chief fighting the Spaniards in the 16th century, is depicted on label. This is the traditional image for Hatuey beers as well. The neck label says Hatuey Marca Establecida 1914. Finally, the beer contains 5.5% alcohol and they make sure you know it Contains Sulfites.

Light, fruity aroma. Great orange flavor up front gives way to a nice hoppy bite. Some sharp carbonation is quite prickly in the mouth. There is just enough malty sweetness to balance the beer to a perfect bitterness. Quite refreshing. Flavorful. Oh, BTW, don't drink this beer too cold. It's better a little warmer, dudes and dudettes. And leave the chilled glass out of the equation altogether. "Oh, Jeeves, please fetch me another Hatuey." Very nice beer!

Hatuey Pale Ale is a real small-batch craft beer creation. It may sound like a lot, but 800 cases at a time is a very small amount, especially when you use a bunch of it to fuel a Jon Secada and Miami Housewives crowd! Yes, I do have photos. Thanks for challenging me about that. I just choose not to publish them right now. 

Photo of beer coaster. Great artwork right?
As a brief recap, I had an excellent night with some very nice people. The Hatuey beer launch was a total success, and I'm certain that Bacardi could not have chosen a better agency than Newlink to organize this event. Chef Douglas made some awesome appetizers, and the roasted pig was so succulent and juicy.

The people I met from Bacardi were also smart and sharp, knowledgeable people that showed their passion for this brand. And to be honest, I've never seen so many people drinking any beer in one place at the same time, let alone one particular beer. Sure, Bacardi had their other spirits available, but almost everyone was drinking the star of the night...

Hatuey Cuban Style Ale!

I took a few more photos to show you some of the extra stuff that was done for this launch and the Hatuey Brand. Here's a pimped out Nissan Xterra (eat your heart out Xzibit) with the great artwork and a dry ice mountain full of Hatuey climbers! Below those you will see the Hatuey light show that was projected on the awning by the pool and the band that played great Cuban music!

Finally, if you have somehow made it all the way to the bottom of this awesomely written and reported piece of journalistic work, I'd like to mimic the Bacardi line. Enjoy Daily Beer Review responsibly.


Bill said...

Not a beer drinker but a great review of the night.

Beer Drinker Rob said...

Hi Bill. Thanks. Yes, it was a lot of fun.

jbmia said...

Having read another article about the relaunch a while back, I saw this in the store and picked up a 6 pack. Frankly, I'm dissapointed.. it tastes just like any other IPA out there... I've never been to Cuba, certainly not pre '59, but I live in Miami and married a cuban and I've drank my shared of latin beer.. It's not that it's bad beer, it just taste like a british IPA, which is a completely different style.. way too hoppy for a latin beer.. I was expecting less hops and a bit more of a malty flavor. At $10 bux a 6 pack.. it'll be the last time I buy it. jbmia

Beer Drinker Rob said...

Hi jbmia.

Thanks for commenting. I never had Cuban beer before, but like you, have had my share of beers from Latin America. My opinion of them is that they are mostly boring lagers or pilsners that pretty much taste the same.

The new Hatuey is a Pale Ale, so it's supposed to be slightly less hoppy than an IPA. British IPAs are usually sweeter and maltier, so I'd compare this to a lightly hopped American IPA.

For sure, it's not like other Latin American beers. But I'm pretty sure Bacardi wanted to distinguish this beer from that pack of drones. I believe they were successful in that.

Yeah, it has similar flavors to other Pale Ales and IPAs, but I'd compare it to the leaders in those categories. Nicely crafted in my opinion.

As for the price, yeah $10 for a six pack is a bit steep. I heard the suggested price was to be around $9, which is in the range for a quality six pack. It's not available here in Broward yet.

I have done exactly what you did here. Weighed enjoyment with the price and decided not to purchase a beer again. I totally respect that, and you should drink what you love at a reasonable price.

DIMITRI said...


Beer Drinker Rob said...

So let me brush off my Spanish a bit. You bought today for $6 something. You think this new Hatuey is not bad but too hoppy, and not as you remember the one made in Cuba to be?

I'm sure I never had the one made in Cuba, so not sure what that was like, but this is supposed to be lightly hoppy, as it's a Pale Ale.

mentz said...

Just tried it in S Miami.It is more of a American Pale Ale then a Latin beer like Tona.Easy drinking thought

Beer Drinker Rob said...

Hey mentz. Glad you liked it. It is totally an American Pale Ale. I don't know how much it compares to the original stuff from decades ago, but supposedly there was some research put into it. For sure it's a new breed of Hatuey this time though.

I'm glad they changed things up too b/c I don't really enjoy the typical Latin beers that much. My wife is Colombian and I've had many from there and other LatAm countries. Pretty much all taste the same, grainy lager pils kind of stuff. For me. :)

Anonymous said...

Beer Drinker Rob, I just tried this beer last week while visiting my (Cuban) parents in Miami. I have had plenty of the 'old' Hatuey (90's Bacardi) and always found it lacking in real taste. This new version sent me into orbit! I absolutely loved it and I wish I could find it up here in PA. Hopefully it will come around where I live soon enough. Thanks for the review.

Beer Drinker Rob said...

Hey Anonymous. Glad you got to try it and glad I have a live witness to the older stuff.

If the older stuff is anything like all the rest of the garbage in the Caribbean, I can see why it didn't have a great reputation. But the new Hatuey Pale Ale, I am hoping it catches on b/c it really is flavorful.

We don't even get the beer in Broward County, just north of Miami, yet. But soon. I am in touch with both the Brand Manager at Bacardi and the leadership at their communications agency for what's next to come.

Hope it's exciting!