A Brewery Guide to Puerto Rico, the Craft Beer Capital of the Caribbean

The island's beer is better than ever.

Ocean Lab Brewing Co.
Ocean Lab Brewing Co. was "born on the beach" in 2017. Photo: Courtesy of Ocean Lab Brewing Co.

Medalla used to be the king of beers in Puerto Rico. For decades, if you craved a local cold one, there were few options besides the ubiquitous (very, very light) cerveza.

Today, beer lovers can enjoy a much wider variety of local brews thanks to an unprecedented boom in craft brewing. "There has been a growth of breweries on the island," says Rafael J. Marquez, a craft beer enthusiast from Hatillo, who runs the Instagram account @RoadtoCraftBeer. "And the established ones are expanding their distribution and providing more variety in styles and flavors."

At La Taberna Lúpulo — San Juan's leading craft beer bar — 22 of 35 beers on tap are made in Puerto Rico. "When I bought the bar [in 2016], I struggled to keep four locals on," says bar proprietor Zalika Guillory Liman.

Both Liman and Marquez note that the trend is driven by demand. As Liman points out, "people on the island are taking cues from the U.S. craft beer scene," which she says is at its saturation point. "There is much more room for growth in Puerto Rico. And beer drinkers here now want a variety of beer styles, which is causing island brewers to ramp up production and experiment more. As a result, they are making better beer."

The Beers

Here are some of the most popular PR-brewed beers found on the island.

Ocean Lab Brewing Co., Isla Verde

One of the most widely distributed craft beers on the island was "born on the beach," as the owners say, in 2017. (Ocean Lab, attached to the stylish Vivo Beach Club, fronts the Atlantic Ocean.) This brewery holds the distinction of being the first in Puerto Rico to launch a cask ale, which is real beer-geek beer: unfiltered, lightly carbonated, and re-fermented. A deep, rich flavor comes through in their Boricask, a dry IPA. "Their line-up tends to be easy drinking with really clean flavors," Liman says. Hop Diver double IPA is a popular favorite, and they use locally grown coffee beans for the Baraka coffee stout.

Zurc Brauhaus, Coamo

This brewery favors German and Belgian styles. "I love that Juan Carlos, the brewer at Zurc, doesn't pay attention to beer trends. He just makes what he likes," Liman says, highlighting his Kolonia kölsch, the first of its kind brewed on the island, as her favorite. Marquez cites La Kabra Maya maibock lager as a winner.

Boxlab Brewing Company, Aguadilla

Boxlab is considered one of the best tap rooms on Puerto Rico's west coast. Marquez recommends the Sol Invicto Belgian pale ale. The Cocotero, a milk stout with toasted coconut, is a perfect pairing with a beach breeze.

Rebl, Utuado

Liman is a fan of this brewery's IPA made with cassava, which, for a while, was the only beer they brewed. Their "radical experimental brewing lab" is now turning heads with its Hogaza beer, crafted with bread from local bakeries. In an effort to reduce food waste, the brewers toast leftover bread and incorporate it into the barley to make what they call "liquid bread."

Señorial Brewing Co., Ponce

Established in 2013, Ponce's first brewery produces El Polvorín, a smoked beer that both Liman and Marquez are wild about. "It's smoky and lovely and it sells like crazy even when it's hot outside," Liman says of the hearty pour. Señorial is also known for a sour beer made with quenepas, a tangy local fruit.

Dragon Stone Abbey Brewery, Caguas

Specializing in experimental Belgian-style ales, Dragon Stone aims to be "as close to an actual Belgian brewery as possible." Marquez hails the Ghost Sour Project sour ale as a "don't miss" and their Belgian strong golden ale, La Prémiere, as a favorite.

Boquerón Brewing Co., Cabo Rojo

One of the veteran small-batch breweries on the island, Boquerón brews are notable for their freshness. Crash Boat IPA is a widely distributed crowd-pleaser, and Marquez especially likes the Gripiñas Coffee Porter.

Del Oeste, Mayaguez

Located on Puerto Rico's west coast, Del Oeste focuses on German-style beers, including a coconut-and-honey-scented Bucanera whiskey bock. The brewery has also introduced fruity Sunsetz hard seltzers.

The Aviator's Brewery, San Lorenzo

Longtime pilot Charles Peterson founded this aeronautical-themed brewery in the east-central part of the island. Its 18 beers include multiple wheat varieties, including the fruity Zapote-ton Witbier.

La Taberna Lupolo, Puerto Rico
The courtyard of La Taberna Lúpulo in Old San Juan. Courtesy of La Taberna Lupulo

The Bars

The Puerto Rico Beer Guide website has maps of breweries and beer bars. Here are spots around the island to enjoy local brews:

La Taberna Lúpulo, Old San Juan

This divey-cool Old San Juan beer bar always has 50 beers on tap — and another 150 by the bottle or can. It's a fun stop for beer lovers, whether you're taking a break from touring the historic cobblestone streets or grabbing a pre-dinner draft.

La Taberna Boricua, Hato Rey

At this business district favorite, the main draws are the lush back garden, live music, and a beer list that's 300 brews long.

El Tap, San Juan

Forty-six taps flow at this spot on trendy Loiza Street. Beer pairing dinners and "meet the brewer" events are especially popular with locals.

Dylan's Biergarden, Hatillo

With over 200 beers on offer, there's truly something for everyone at Dylan's — and it's a great spot to watch the soccer match, too.

Al Lado, Arecibo

A hotspot on the north coast, Al Lado features 20 beers on tap. Hipsters love the "tranquilo" vibe here.

Rincon Beer Co., Rincon

This is where the surfing-and-cerveza set belly up to the bar — or linger the evening away at the sidewalk tables, telling tales of catching tasty waves. Check the chalkboard for popular local offerings (there's beer brewed right on the premises, too).

Rock & Go, Cabo Rojo

With a selection of over 100 beer styles (bottled, canned, and on draft, with three dozen local offerings), this beer and burger joint has won a solid following. Their playlist is well-loved, too: only the classics.

El Grifo, Caguas

While it's best known as one of Puerto Rico's leading plant-based restaurants, the beer list within this bright, Colonial-style building should not be overlooked. Keep an eye out for craft beer specials, like two-for-one "Hoppy Fridays" and "Dark Beer Takeover" nights.

Birriola, Ponce

This cozy wood-paneled spot is worth visiting for its flights and tapas — ropa vieja sliders, fish tacos, bacalao fritters — which are as refreshing as the all-tap beer list. There's live music on occasion, too.

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