Cristal, the National Beer that Became Unattainable for Cubans

The terrain lost by national beer has been filled by foreign brands that don’t maintain stability either. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 13 November 2022 — At another time, Havana’s Malecón would have been filled with lines around the kiosks that this weekend sell drinks and different dishes as part of the 503rd  anniversary of the founding of the town of San Cristóbal de La Habana. Now, however, most customers pass by the counters, read the prices and leave without buying. The prices that are the most frightening are those for beer: 250 pesos for a can of Cristal, the brand that once accompanied so many family parties and that filled Cubans with pride.

“Now it’s easier to find a Corona, a Heineken or any other imported beer than a Cristal. When you find it, calm yourself, because it’s the most expensive,” according to one of the curious people on Saturday who approached a small makeshift bar under a blue canvas with a metal platform, a few meters from the National Hotel. “No one can explain why a product that is made in this country is more expensive than another brought from Holland or Mexico,” added the man, who finally left empty-handed.

Known as “Cuba’s favorite,” Cristal has been disappearing in recent years from the shelves of shops and restaurant tables. Its national production, in the hands of the joint venture Cervecería Bucanero S.A, isn’t doing well due to the lack of liquidity, the instability in the arrival of raw materials and the devaluation of the Cuban peso that, increasingly, pushes Cuban beers to exclusive sale in markets in freely convertible currency or to online commerce portals.

The terrain lost by local drinks has been filled by an infinity of foreign brands that don’t maintain stability either. “You come one day and there is a good German lager, and the next day it’s no longer there and instead there’s a Chinese beer,” complained another customer who finally chose to drink a national production malt, also at 250 pesos per can. “When has there been a popular celebration in which people aren’t standing around the drinking kiosks? It’s just that they get scared as soon as they see these prices,” he remarked.

Inflation and the economic crisis have been combined so that the capital commemorates its birthday with dull parties that raise little enthusiasm among the Havanans. The city of fast-paced nightlife and bars that never seemed to close has been filled with phrases like “Do you remember?” Or “Before we had…” Cristal beer, which refreshed so many throats and fueled the revelry, has also been added to the long list of nostalgia. The drinkers, who once exalted its flavor, have changed the epithet that accompanied it. It has gone from being “Cuba’s favorite” to become “Cuba’s loss.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.