Hatuey Beer

Bacardi president Enrique Schueg determined early that Bacardi must diversify to grow. In 1920, the company purchased the Santiago Brewing Company that made Hatuey Beer, and hired German brewer George J. Friedrich to perfect the recipe. The brew won a gold medal just seven years later at the 1927 Cienfuegos Exposition.

Schueg then sent Joaquín Bacardí, Don Facundo Bacardí Massó’s grandson, to Copenhagen to learn brewing from the masters in Germany. The Harvard graduate became Hatuey Beer’s first brewmaster and technical director of the company. The beer’s popularity exploded in Cuba, and by 1959, Hatuey Beer had captured more than 50% of the Cuban beer market, selling over 12 million cases per year. Two additional breweries were built in 1947 and 1953 to keep up with growing demand.

When the Cuban government illegally confiscated all of Cuba’s private business holdings, Bacardi shelved Hatuey Beer, focusing instead on its globally recognized BACARDÍ rum products. It wasn’t until 1995 that Bacardi resurrected the brand, this time in the United States. In 2011, the brewery returned to its small-batch roots and the malty, hop-infused pale ale joined the craft beer movement.

With typical Cuban patriotism, Bacardi kept the original name of the brew at its purchase in 1920. Hatuey was a Taíno chief considered to be Cuba’s first patriot and martyr. Conquered by conquistadors in his native Hispaniola, Chief Hatuey escaped to Cuba with some 400 men, women, and children. Although he warned the indigenous tribes in Cuba about Spanish colonists’ greed and cruelty, few believed him. Hatuey and his people waged guerrilla attacks on the Spanish colonists, retreating to the forests to regroup after each attack. He was eventually betrayed, captured, and burned at the stake. When asked to convert to Christianity so that he could go to heaven after his death, Hatuey refused, stating that he wanted no part of a God that would condone such terrible cruelty.