Beer Shortage in Cuba | Debbie's Caribbean Resort Reviews Forums

Hey, I just got back from a long trip to Cuba and I just wanted to know if anybody here knows about the beer shortage. It was really difficult to find beer in Havana at most retail stores. All the little state shops were out and the supermarkets too. Paladares were stocked pretty well, but the prices were slightly above average. Still, most of the paladares that I went to were pretty packed with locals, all drinking beer. I assume they all came mostly for the beer since these same places were generally empty on all my other visits (when there was no shortage).The state stores are stocking mostly soft drinks, energy drinks and non-alcoholic malted drinks. The stores also have lots of imported beers. They are not super expensive, but definitely not as cheap as the regular Cuban brands. I could not find any Mayabes or Caciques anywhere.I visited 3 hotels in Havana and 4 resorts in Varadero, and there was no shortage. The beer was on tap and flowing freely. Also the beer service in the rooms (2 complimentary beers per day) was consistent. I assume that what little domestic beer is available was/is being diverted to fulfill the demands in these tourist locations.I have checked the online news and most are reporting that the shortage was caused by shortage in malted barley. My friends in Cuba are saying that they hear the problem is because there is not enough aluminum for the beer cans. Both seem like plausible explanations. When I was able to find Cuban beer in Havana, I could only find it in glass bottles and not cans.Anyway, I’m just wondering if anybody knows more about this. The situation is not super critical, because, as I said, you can still get slightly more expensive imported beer at most locations, and paladares and larger restaurants seem to have been able to source some local supplies. But the retail locations and many bars in Havana had no Cuban beer.
The beer shortage has been going on all summer. The shortage of malt was finally announced on Cuban television almost a month ago.I was told the supply was cut off because Cuba is defaulting on payments, but of course that can’t possibly be true…Cheers,

Terry

Is that all the information we have? I honestly don’t know much about the beer making process, but are the malts they use for beer the same as the malts they use for the non-alcoholic malt drinks? One is Malta, the other is Hyper Malt (I think). Because they had tons of those. Each state store and convenience store was overflowing with those drinks. That’s why I thought maybe the malt story might not have been accurate. But maybe that malt is different? From wiki, I see that it says the Malta is brewed from "barley, hops, and water much like beer." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malta_(soft_drink))Do you know where they get their supply from? Can we guess? I see from this report that the Czech Republic seems to ship a lot of malt to Cuba (http://eagri.cz/public/web/file/109294/Akt._trendy_EN_final_full.pdf). I would also assume that Canada is a major exporter.From this site (http://atlas.media.mit.edu/explore/tree_map/hs/import/cub/all/show/2012/) I see that, according to their information, Cuba imported Malt totaling a value of $14.8 million in 2012. That amount does not seem particularly high. I know that I should never make assumptions, especially not when talking about Cuba, but is it realistic to think that they would make their whole beer production system grind to a halt over such a relatively small bill (assuming that the bill could even be this high, and assuming that these numbers are accurate.)Plus, does anyone know if Cervecería Bucanero S.A is still operating the joint venture with Labatt (now Anheuser-Busch InBev). I know that as of 2012 the JV was still going well. (http://www.ab-inbev.com/pdf/factsheets/Cuba2012.pdf)…. It would surprise me that this joint venture, operating with the largest brewer in the word, would somehow have supply chain problems, or financing problems. I know, I know, in Cuba things are just that way sometimes, but, I can’t help but think that this story about not having enough malt is not the whole truth. There may be more to it. Plus, if the story was explained on Cuban television a month ago, would we really expect them to say the complete truth about it? The people I know in Cuba insist that it’s not a problem with the malt, but rather the cans. That story has it’s own flaws and I have no way of substantiating it.Maybe we will never know the real reason for all this. Maybe it is just the malt and the inability to pay bills on time. It’s a strange story in either case. Do you know if there has been a beer shortage like this before?
The beer shortage has been going on for months now. Will continue for a while yet. Cristal and the other local Labatt inspired brews aren’t that great and a couple of local brews are popping up.

Best advice is to switch to Mojitos, Por favor, LOL

I am actually continually surprised that a resource limited country like Cuba does not have a more organized beer can/bottle and other recyclables process in place.

Staying in Havana and other parts of Cuba during July I did not have any issues to buy beer. It is true that there is loads of Heineken brand on the shelf with higher prices. This issue was in May and I guess again in August. One of popular soft drinks that Cubans love to drink is MALTA and I saw that it was shortage of this soft drink made in Cuba but instead they had imported Malta brand from Germany.

Phew the heading of this topic scared me! Glad to read that the resorts don’t seem to have the shortage problem. Would definitely be a disaster if I can’t get my daily fix of Cristal and Bucanero!

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