SCENE AND BE SEEN

22

Aug
2022

A beer lovers paradise

By Peter Martin 3544 0
2022

Puerto Rico provides an endless array of postcard settings to soak up some of life’s simple pleasures – like kicking back with a few cold ones under the Caribbean sun, toes in the sand and an icy cooler close at hand.

The shining star of Boricua beers is still Medalla, a light and easy brew that pairs perfectly with Puerto Rican Street food and the fare at the island’s celebrated open-air chinchorros but can also hold its own with more complex culinary offerings in chic city hotspots. The Mayaguez-brewed beer is ubiquitous across Puerto Rico and has been making inroads into stateside markets.

But if one thing is clear in Puerto Rico it is that there is always room for more at the party. That generosity of spirit among islanders is matched by the stunning menu of fun on tap around the Enchanted Isle.

A great bet for brew lovers, or most anyone with a thirst for adventure, is to call on one of the growing number of craft beer bars that have been popping up in Puerto Rico in recent years. From cool locales carved out of Spanish-colonial townhouses, to sudsy chill spots along the coast, to hideaways high in the central mountains, Puerto Rico plays host to an impressive array of bars where beer plays the starring role.

And while these oases may be known for a dizzying range of international labels, homegrown microbrews are increasingly elbowing their way onto the ample lists of libations for thirsty travelers and locals alike.

Cervecera de Puerto Rico, the brewery that long-ago made its mark with Medalla Light and with Magna Premium Lager, has also tapped into the craft brew craze with Del Oeste, a line of small-batch beers created from top quality ingredients and named after island locales and lore. At last count, Del Oeste was producing nine different varieties: Bucanera Whiskey Bock; Bramadero India Pale Ale; Isleña Pilsner; Passiflora Passion Fruit Ale, Litoral Helles, Oktoberfest, Residente Tripel, and Residente Maibock.

A new wave of Puerto Rico craft beer makers can be traced back to 2017, where an entrepreneurial spirit mixed with drive to showcase the power of islanders, and to support local producers emerged. The island legislature even took note, passing legislation to foment small breweries with tax breaks and other incentives.

But there is no room here to keep tabs on all the branches of the budding brewery landscape. Suffice it to say that tasty cervezas are currently taking shape in far-flung corners of Puerto Rico. In the meantime, there is no shortage of stellar craft beer bars to satisfy all tastes.

Bienvenidos has listed some of our favorites below. Be sure to also check out PuertoRicoBeerGuide.com, which includes an updated map of bars, breweries, restaurants and shops that boast a good selection of beers.

Puerto Rico’s craft beer scene is in full bloom and a great place to stop and smell the hops is just minutes from the airport at Ocean Lab Brewing, a brewery and gastropub that really lives up to its slogan: Born on the Beach. Anchoring the Vivo Beach Club, a gleaming day resort on an otherwise undeveloped strand of sand in Isla Verde, Ocean Lab does all of its brewing onsite and its six-packs, cases and kegs are sent out to retailers and eateries around the island. No need to look too far afield though as Ocean Lab also operates a popular restaurant with its full range of roughly a dozen beers on tap. Making this hotspot even cooler is the option to tour the brewery and pick up a little something at the gift shop.

Still among the best beer bars is La Taberna Lupulo, a pioneering open-air establishment in historic Old San Juan that is short on luxury but long on atmosphere in the thick of Calle San Sebastian, the cobbled street that is the epicenter of the party that is Puerto Rico.With 50 taps and 150 bottles from the finest craft breweries in England, Germany, the United States, and Belgium and beyond, simply making your way through the menu is a trip. An increasing number of Puerto Rican beers are on offer. Ask your server for advice on pairing with the great pub food.

La Taberna Boricua shines along the “Golden Mile” as San Juan’s financial district is known. Big on business, the area was not celebrated for its nightlife but that has changed in recent years with an infusion on new bars and eateries. With live music, an ample interior and a roomy outdoor patio, La Taberna Boricua draws a diverse crowd including students, young professionals and other businesspeople. Add 300 beers on offer and killer bar bites it’s not hard to see why fans keep coming back.

El Tap has earned a place as a must-stop spot along the bar-hopping trail that is Loiza Street, a fascinating and ever-expanding focal point of San Juan’s foodie culture. With roughly four dozen taps and counting, this hip watering hole also serves up great music and tasty eats. The local ethic is on proud display, with more than a dozen taps set aside for Puerto Rican brews. Can’t stick around, then no worries as El Tap is happy to serve growlers to go. And if beer just isn’t your thing, a solid wine list and excellent sangria has you covered.

Aficionados of sport and entertainment can now celebrate the triumphs of our local athletes and favorite teams in ‘La Casa del Triunfo Boricua at Arena Medalla situated at DISTRITO T-Mobile. This sports bar is the ideal location to watch sports, play arcade games, billiards, sing your heart out in one of three karaoke rooms, and more! With Medalla beer as the star offering, and pairings of wings, grilled burgers, seafood, cuts of meat, locally inspired dishes, and more there is always something for everyone to enjoy!

Craft beer bars are not confined to the capital city.

Known as the Ciudad Criollo, Caguas is a former agricultural hub located at the bottom edge of the San Juan metroplex, marking the start of the long climb up the backbone of mountains that, separate Puerto Rico’s northern and southern flanks. It’s also home to a variety of bars and eateries that feature craft beers. Try El Grifo, one of Puerto Rico’s best vegan restaurants which also boasts a couple dozen craft beer taps, showcasing the products of island microbreweries including Caguas’ FOK Brewery, Ponce’s Senorial Brewing Co., San Lorenzo’s The Aviator Brewery, Cabo Rojo’s Boqueron Brewing Co., and Aguadilla’s Boxlab Brewing.

Head further into the “cordillera central” mountains to the Aibonito Beer Garden and Restaurant, which serves up an impressive list of international and local craft beers in a downtown setting. You’ll find something tasty to wash down from an eclectic menu that ranges from Puerto Rican finger food to sushi.

High in the mountains of Morovis is Casa Bavaria, a rollicking good time and home to annual Oktoberfest. A good selection of bottled beers goes well with the German and criollo cuisine.

Ponce, the cultural hub of Puerto Rico’s Caribbean coast, is known as the “Pearl of the South.” In addition to playing host to a world-class art museum and a charming Spanish-colonial downtown area, the city also boasts Birriola, where the beer is served from taps as the kitchen cranks out tapas and bar bites such as ropa vieja sliders, fish tacos, and codfish fritters.

The Atlantic Ocean coast west of San Juan is also dotted with establishments that go big on beer. PIGS Beer Garden in Manati serves them up ice-cold.

Arecibo’s Al Lado has built a solid following for its cool vibe, with DJs and live music frequently on the menu at this dimly lit chill spot. At least 20 taps and a good selection of bottled craft beers — along with scrumptious beer bites — keep people coming back from around the island.

One town over is Hatillo, the longtime hub of Puerto Rico’s dairy industry that is increasingly known for its cosmopolitan attractions including Dylan’s Biergarten, which boasts more than 200 craft beers from around the globe. Don’t miss their chicken wings.

The craft beer wave has reached the island’s northwest coast, which is now home to a number of perfect spots to kick back and sate your thirst after a day of challenging any in a string of world-class surf breaks along this celebrated stretch of coast that earned Puerto Rico the title of the “Hawaii of the Caribbean.”

Among them is The Beer Box in Aguadilla, a landmark where more than a dozen taps and a plethora of bottles and cans highlight both emerging and established Puerto Rican craft breweries. Save some room for any of the growing number of great restaurants in this emerging culinary capital.

Just around the corner is Rincon, a vibrant but laid-back town that anchors the island’s northwest coast. The Rincon Beer Company has a solid selection of brews and good food. Much like the rest of the establishments in the region, this place does not do stuffy. No need to kick all the sand off your flip-flops before dropping in.

Rock N Go Booze & Grub in the southwest coast beach and offshore fishing hotspot of Cabo Rojo is not just another burger and beer joint. The wide variety of burgers is only outpaced by a truly impressive list of more than 100 beers on tap or bottle.

These days, beer lovers can enjoy a wide variety of local beers thanks to Puerto Rico’s emerging craft beer scene.