The Beer Diary: A Guide to Craft Beer in Puerto Rico
For many years the bar scene in Puerto Rico has been dominated by two things: rum-based cocktails like their famed pina coladas, and Medalla; an incredibly light pale lager from the island’s most popular brewery. While both of these options are fine for those looking for a quick fix while sitting out on the beach, there is hope for those looking for brews with a bit more substance if they know where to find it.
The Puerto Rican craft beer scene is still in its infant stages. While there are dozens of rum distilleries on the island, there is only one major beer producer and one real microbrewery. There are also only a handful of places in the San Juan area that sell craft beer from other parts of the U.S. However, with the boom in craft beer marketing and distribution in recent years, islanders have become curious and it won’t be long until these small pockets of local home brewers aspire to something bigger.
Below we have compiled a shortlist of places where you can grab a good beer while on your trip. All the locations on this list are within walking distance from Old San Juan and the nearby cruise docks.
1. La Taberna Lupulo is San Juan’s best (and first) craft beer bar. Having only been around for a few years, the passionate couple who who run this place have a bottle list of over 150 craft beers including a slew of good international and Trappist brews. It is one of the only places where you will find high ABV beers at
decent prices and they’re able to get their hands on some heavy-hitters including California brews like Ballast Point and Lost Coast. They’ve got a great rotating tap list where you can often find favorites from Abita, North Coast, and Victory Brewing and as home brewers, you may even find some of their own creations here.They also offer a full-service kitchen and full bar that is open until 1 a.m. The general atmosphere is casual and it is a good place to meet some hardcore beer geeks away from too many tourists. La Taberna Lupulo is located at 151 Calle del San Sebastian, 00901 San Juan, PR.
2. Pizza e Birra is one of three restaurants located within the beautifully restored Hotel El Convento. Centrally located to many attractions and shops, this is great place to stop in for a much needed beer break. As the name suggests, pizza and beer are what this place is all about and they’ve got a list of over 40 beers from around the world to suit your palate. On a recent visit we spotted a nice German and Belgian selection as well as some interesting beers from neighboring islands. Pizza e Birra is located at 100 Calle de Cristo, 00901 San Juan, PR.
3. Old Harbor Brewery is the island’s only microbrewery. Located near a major dining hub close to the cruise docks, this brewery is in a large modern building complete with bar area, dining room, and stage for live music. As Puerto Rico’s answer to chains like BJ’s, the food here boasts steak, lobster and bar food favorites like crispy calamari to compliment their five house-made beers. While Old Harbor still has a way to go along the lines of flavor development, they do have a couple of award-winners and follow the German Purity Law in their brewing practices. We found that the Cerveza Coqui and the Cerveza Santo Viejo to be our top choices for the lot. (Skip the Stout!) Old Harbor Brewery is located at 202 Calle Tizol, 00907 San Juan, PR.
4. Pizzeria de Pirilo is another pizza joint in Old San Juan who seems to have been bitten by the craft beer bug. A favorite amongst locals and travellers, this place boasts great pies, an extensive tapas list, and bottles of craft brews. Beers from Bear Republic, Goose Island, and Samuel Smith have been spotted here recently. Pizzeria de Pirilo is located at 207 Calle Fortaleza, 00901 San Juan, PR.
Got any tips on where else to get great beer in Puerto Rico? Feel free to add your own at the bottom of this post. Until then, we hope this list serves you well for travelling to the island of enchantment.