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!
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.
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?|
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.