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The Craft Beer scene in Puerto Rico - September 2012 Archives

Puerto Rico
Posted Thursday, September 20th, 2012 by rhoadsrage

This is an interesting time for craft beer in Puerto Rico as it has only been about 2 years since importers brought in anything except BMC.  The places I went to, had good selection but it wasn’t always managed the best but it was very nice to see more than Medilla light. 

 As with any good society, I like to measure it by its street food.  Here is a handy starter decoder of Puerto Rican Fried food.   (If you are in Chicago, Las Palmas is worth a stop.  Especially on the weekend, you can get some of the offal meat stews.)


Fried food decoder

Alcapurrias- plantain/root vegetable (potato, batata, yucca)  mash wrapped meat, fried.   I had several that were filled with rice and red beans which were really good. 

Arepas-  flat corn meal dough meat inside, ground beaf or crab are both nice.

Empanadas- flour dough stuffed meat pies

Mofongos-  plantain dough stuffed meat pies



No fried food is complete without pique, the PR hot sauce, served in Don Q bottles.  It has a nice arbol pepper heat with the classic PR spices of cilantro and culantro like their sofrito.  


Jose Enrique

This is a great little place.  A chef turned a house into a restaurant, just focuses on market fresh inspired food.  He has 4 main dishes and 4 dishes that are whatever excites him from the market.  The beer list is about a dozen craft beers.  The menu is on a dry erase board that they bring around.  Great local spot.  Waiter new the beer list.




Pizza and Beer

So much of Puerto Rico’s craft beer scene goes hand in hand with pizza.  Pirilo is a long narrow bar/restaurant in Old San Juan.  They have a big beer selection but they don’t know what they have, and there are no beer menus past the keg rings around the tap handles for the 4 beers on tap.  If you ask for an IPA they will bring you several bottles and ask you to pick.  The have coolers behind the bar and two sets of fridges in the back of the restaurant with more beers.  Finally I asked to just go look in the fridge and pick what I wanted.  They had a lot of the big American names,  Sam Adams, Rouge, Stone, and a few European classics, Dupont saison, etc.  The pizza was a good thin crust pie but it had a huge chewy crust that wasn’t worth eating.  I decided to try the tap beer  which were Old Harbor Brewpubs, as many places now have several of there 5 year round beers on tap, and I hadn’t tried any of them yet.

The conversation went like this.   

The bartender (in Spanish):We have the Pilsner and the Lager.

 Me: (To myself)A Pilsner is a Lager.  (out loud) what are they like?

 Bartender:  Pilsner is Santo Viejo, Lager is Coqui.

Me:????OK I’ll have the Coqui first???

Bartender with beer:  Here is the Santo Viejo, we are out of the Coqui.

At this point, I was happy I could just dig through their fridges to find what I wanted.  Didn't notice the Kona brews until we were ready to leave.  I never did figure out how they had them organized but I suspect it is just stocked as there is space.

Side note:  If someone opened a bar, with lots of coolers in which you can just grab the beer you want and bartender opens/pours it in glassware for you.  I will be first in line.


Hang over food is an essential part of vacation life.

I have spent many mornings (pre kids) making my way to some great sandwich shops for cuba libres, or media noches and (jugo de China) OJ, around the island.  I found some great treats on the sweet side this time.

Mallorica sandwiches: Café Espana has some of the best Mallorica sandwiches.  It is like French toast made into a sandwich, fill it with eggs, ham, other meats then dust it with powdered sugar. Complete with cafe calles it can bring you back to life.  Many people were eating the stews with various pig parts and beans which also looked very good.  Next time. 


Pan Sobao is the other sweet bread, but it is more like a sweet Italian loaf and not as French toast sweet.  Filled with fried eggs, ham and mortadella and just enough white farmhouse cheese and mayo to make a nice sauce, it really hits the spot.



German Puerto Rican food was a first for me.

This is an interesting mix.  The one German restaurant/bar close to San Juan and one of only 2 on the island.  They have a big long row of about 20 German beers in bottles and you point to the one you want.  Then the owner will tell you if they have it in stock or not.  Sausages was good as was the sauerkraut but the spetzel tasted frozen.  They also had classic PR dishes served right along side the german food. Tostones, and saurbraten are not bad.  I actually enjoyed a good Weizen beer in the hot tropical weather but the German lagers were pretty nice after a big meal.  We were the only ones in the restaurant on a Wed. night but the owner says they pack the place on weekends.  They hoped to have the first Oktoberfest as they just opened.  The owner said they typically go through a dozen bottles of Jagermiser each weekend.  Finishing the night with a port, because they didn't have any German schnapps?



On to the microbrewery

Old Harbor is the only brewpub on the island.  It is 2 blocks from where all the cruse ships dock but I had heard it made some good lagers.  I was let down.  It reminded me of a lot of brewpubs in the Midwest in the early 90’s you have a stock lager, stout, amber ale, and pale ale, and all are blah.  They had an odd mix of pirates hanging from the ceiling and fancy steak/lobster restaurant blend with the big copper kettles in the middle of the room.  I bought some bottles to take to the hotel but I wasn’t up for a big heavy meal, so we just got appitizers at a little bar down the road.


If you go to PR,  between trip advisory and yelp they have most things covered for all your needs and we got around by my wife’s iphone maps and directions.  (Siri still hates me though).


I usually go down every few years, as one of my good college friends lives there so I will see how it has changes in a few years.