American tourists are drinking the nation dry.

By James Oliver Cury
Updated May 24, 2017
© Carey Jones

The Cuban beer crisis is now official. State-run brewery Bucanero can't produce enough of its two most popular beers—Cristal and Bucanero—to keep up with rising tourist demand.

The cause is obvious: When President Barack Obama eased travel restrictions between Cuba and the United States in February, he opened the door for a flood of American tourists. Last year, Cuba saw 3.5 million visitors, up 17 percent from the previous year. Visits from Americans, in particular, rose 77 percent to 161,000. At the same time, there's been a boom in private-sector bars, cafes and restaurants ever since President Raul Castro removed the Communist state from certain small, private-sector businesses.

So now Bucanero, a joint venture between the Cuban government and Belgium's Anheuser Busch InBev, is reportedly trying to build a new plant to increase production. And it may import millions of cases of beer from Dominica to keep up with the unrelenting thirst.

Private stores and bars, on the other hand, are only partially hobbled since they can sell imported beers if they choose. But we're not over the hump just yet: Hundreds of tourists will be flocking to Havana via cruise ship from Miami in May. The country hasn't had that kind of influx since the pre-Embargo days prior to 1959.