When he opened Cerveceria La Tropical in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood in 2021, CEO Manny Portuondo brought a longtime dream to life, recreating a modern version of a Havana brewery founded in 1888.
But the dream, which included selling a version of the original amber lager recipe made in Cuba, remained incomplete. Due to legal complications involving the name, the brand couldn’t recreate its most popular, bestselling beer, Cristal, first made at the Havana brewery in 1928.
Now, after finally winning approval from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Cerveceria La Tropical can make and distribute the beer using the original recipe under the name Tropi Crystal.
Portuondo, who opened Cerveceria La Tropical restaurant and taproom in partnership with Heineken, points proudly to the label “La Auténtica” on the redesigned can. That label is important and was a key part of the delay in the brewery producing the beer: The “authentic” registration had to be approved by the patent and trademark office.
“There are a lot of imitators out there,” Portuondo says. “And now we actually have stamped on all of our cans that we are the authentic one. This Cristal has been brewed by the same people who created it in 1928.”
Portuondo’s great-great-grandfather Federico Kohly developed the Havana neighborhood that included the original La Tropical brewery. In 1998, he partnered with six others, including a descendant of the Blanco-Herrera family, which owned Cuba’s Cerveceria La Tropical, to buy the trademark.
He describes Tropi Crystal as a “Caribbean Pilsner,” the sort of beer you can drink and not feel full.
“It’s light, easy-drinking,” he says. “It’s perfect for our climate. It’s the beer you want to have when you’re at the beach or hanging out at the pool, when you’re finished mowing your lawn or when you’re done gardening.”
Cerveceria La Tropical will launch Tropi Crystal on April 4 at the Wynwood taproom and restaurant, where beer lovers can order it on draft or purchase cans. It will also be distributed to local bars, restaurants and supermarkets.
For Portuondo, the arrival of Tropi Crystal means more than a business opportunity. It’s a piece of authentic Cuban history that has been restored for new generations.
“The Cuban government can try and erase history, but at the end of the day history can’t be erased,” he says.
Cerveceria La Tropical
Where: 42 NE 25th St., Miami
Hours: Noon-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; noon-1 a.m. Friday; 11:30-1 a.m. Saturday; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
More information: www.cervecerialatropical.com