Oct 18, 2022 - News

Scoop: Historic beer La Tropical returns to Tampa

young workers with a La Tropical beer truck

The Cuban La Tropical brewery. Photo: Courtesy of La Tropical

One of Florida's oldest beers is making its return to Tampa.

Driving the brews: La Tropical, which originated in Cuba and Ybor City, is celebrating its Tampa relaunch at a private event on Thursday, the company's representatives tell Axios.

  • La Tropical will be sold in cans and on draft at local restaurants, bars and supermarkets throughout Florida's west coast.

Why it matters: The beer's shutdown after more than 70 years was preceded by the Cuban revolution. When Fidel Castro nationalized the economy, armed soldiers took possession of the La Tropical brewery.

  • "They knew about managing a brewery what I knew about going to the moon," its last master brewer, Julio Fernandez-Selles, said, in a quote on the company's website.
  • Florida Brewing Company, which was contracted to make the beer in Ybor City, shut down in 1961, citing the Cuban embargo and new Florida competition from larger brewers.

Flash forward: Attorney Dale Swope bought the Florida Brewing Company building at 1234 E. Fifth Ave. in Ybor City in 1999 and spent three years renovating it after it sat empty for four decades.

  • In Miami, Manny Portuondo, the great-great-grandson of Federico Kohly, who owned the land the Cuban brewery was built on, sought to resurrect the beer as the CEO of Cerveceria La Tropical in Miami. Tampa will be the brewery's second distribution location.
  • In 2017, Heineken invested in La Tropical, buying the majority of the brand, per the website.

What they're saying: Portuondo said in a statement to Axios that the new beer pays tribute to Cuba and Florida's shared history.

  • "The rebirth of Cerveza La Tropical represents a dream come true," he said.

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