Beer Shortage in Cuba Is Causing Unrest With Locals
I just got back from a long trip to Cuba and I wanted to make a quick report on the beer shortage on the island. 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 (independent restaurants) were stocked pretty well, but the prices were slightly above average(about $1.50 to $1.75 per beer). Still, most of the paladares that I went to were pretty packed with locals, all drinking beer. I assume the people came mostly for the beer since these same places were generally empty on all my other visits (when there was no shortage).
The state stores are stocking other items, such as soft drinks, energy drinks and non-alcoholic malted drinks. The retail stores also have lots of imported beers. They are not very expensive, but definitely not as cheap as the regular Cuban brands (Most Cuban beers cost 1cuc (about 1$) at a retail level and some brands cost even less). I could not find any of the cheaper Mayabes or Caciques branded beers anywhere.
Lots of Beer For Tourists
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 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 a 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.
Local Cubans Are Upset With Beer Shortage
Locals are definitely not pleased with the situation. While shortage of certain products are definitely not rare in Cuba, beer has never been hard to find. The average Cuban has no air conditioning in their home, and on hot summer evenings it is common to gather in parks or on balconies and to have a few beers with friends. For many, it is their only reprieve from the sweltering heat. Many locals are complaining about the shortage and about how some independent restaurants have been hording beer supplies and selling them at inflated prices. The locals can only sit and hope that the days of plentiful beer will return as soon as possible.
Cuban Rum Sales Are Higher!
Although the situation is annoying, it is still far from critical. 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. On the up side, there is still lots of rum available and prices are as low as they have ever been. You can get a 750ml bottle of Havana Club for only about $3. And lower quality rum can be had for less than half that price at most local government stores.