(This is a guest post from friend and fellow homebrewer, Pirate Brewer, who recently toured The Old Harbor Brewery in Puerto Rico.)
This year we skipped Christmas, well, not exactly. We did not have our traditional Christmas at home this year and instead, we flew to Puerto Rico on Christmas morning and spent time with our daughter, son-in-law, and our new grandson. The kids live in San Juan and our first grandchild was born on December 16 there. Skipping our traditional Christmas did not mean it was anything less. It was a very good time with the kids and our grandson.
This is a review of a brew pub and not my grandson.
My son-in-law and I rented bicycles in Old San Juan and toured the area. Of course, we discussed the beer of Puerto Rico. The craft beer movement has not hit the island as it has in the USA. Most of the beers available are the standard large brewery beers we already know such as Coors, Heineken, and Becks. The big selling local beer is Medalla Light which is similar to Coors; it’s an average boring beer. I did manage to find a selection of Lost Coast Brewery beers at one store but that was about it for craft beer.
As we bicycled through the beautiful Old San Juan, the topic of a local brew pub came up. We called the ladies and arranged to meet them for lunch at Old Harbor Brewery. It would be the first time for the kids to dine there and it was an experiment for them too.
The brewery is situated in a busy touristy area on an old and narrow brick street. Cruise ships dock in a harbor not far away so the brewery gets a lot of business from the ships. It would be a while before the ladies could meet up so that gave us more time to sample beer.
All of the beers were very good, but again, nothing unusual or interesting beyond any good basic craft beer I can get back home. They did offer a seasonal beer and being it was the Christmas season, I anticipated a spice beer (something I’m not too thrilled about). When I tasted it I had to do a double take and see if I was drinking water. The flavor was very, very light. We learned the seasonal beer was a golden ale. I thought to myself, why would they serve golden ale as a seasonal during Christmas? I guess that since it’s always warm on the island, therefore, golden ale is in season at any time in Puerto Rico.
After doing another taste, I was able to get some flavor and again it was very good but nothing to set it apart from other good, basic craft beer.
My next pint was a stout. The stout had some flavor and weighed in at 6.0% ABV; nothing too strong but it certainly had some excellent flavor with a hint of coffee. My third pint was another stout. I’d like to try this stout with a little more robust flavor and aged in a rum barrel. A few modifications like that would provide them with a beer unique to the island.
The food was excellent and the presentation was as good as it tasted. Our appetizer was shrimps tempura. For lunch I had the “OHB house salad” (we still had more biking to do). Nobody was disappointed with their food.
Overall, the Old Harbor Brewery provides a very nice dining experience and you know you are in a brewery since there is brewing equipment integrated with the dining room equipment and bags of grain near the tables. The restaurant and restrooms appeared to be clean. The bar and dining area are well presented. The staff is very friendly and helpful. The beer, although nothing really special, turned out to be a very special beer oasis on a beer-desert island.
I believe the craft beer movement will eventually catch up in Puerto Rico. When it does, Old Harbor Brewery will hopefully be in a position to take their beer up to the next level and also increase production for the demand that will follow.
If you are ever in San Juan, I recommend looking up Old Harbor Brewery. If you don’t do it right away you’ll be doing it later when you get the urge for some beer better than the typical beers at the stores.
Pirate Brewer, Ottawa, IL