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Beer with Cuban, Ybor City roots returns to production

Cerveza La Tropical disappeared from the market after the Cuban Revolution and subsequent trade embargo in the 1960s.

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After more than 60 years of dormancy, Cerveza La Tropical, a beer produced in Cuba and Florida, has returned to the Tampa Bay region via a distribution deal with Cerveceria La Tropical, a Miami-based brewing company.

The Cerveza La Tropical brand was launched in 1888 by the Blanco Herrera family in Kohly, an area of Havana, Cuba, according to a news release. The beer was a major success and a source of national pride, and in 1897 it came to Florida thanks to a licensing agreement with Ybor City-based Florida Brewing Co., Florida’s first commercial brewery, which brewed and marketed it as Florida La Tropical.

At its peak, Florida Brewing Co. produced 80,000 gallons of the beer annually, the release states, but the Cuban Revolution and subsequent trade embargo, coupled with greater competition from Florida breweries, resulted in the company going out of business and Florida La Tropical vanishing from the market.

Today, the release states, the Cerveceria La Tropical brewery is owned and operated by Manny Portuondo, the great-great-grandson of Federico Kohly, who established Havana’s Kohly neighborhood and sold the land for the original brewery to the Blanco Herreras.

“The rebirth of Cerveza La Tropical represents a dream come true, fulfilling a lifelong passion to resurrect the brand throughout Florida,” Portuondo states in the release. “More than a century after La Tropical was originally founded in both Cuba and Florida, I am proud and excited to be creating a new La Tropical that pays tribute to the storied heritage of both.”

The Cerveza La Tropical brand will be officially relaunched on Thursday at an event at the former Florida Brewing Co. building in Ybor City, which in 1999 was purchased by Tampa attorney Dale Swope and preserved after years of neglect.


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