Beer and politics tend to make strange bedfellows, no Caribbean brew embodying this more than the Dominican Republic’s beloved Presidente.
The beer’s origins date back to 1929, when an American businessman named Charles Wanzer decided it’d be a good idea for the Dominican Republic to have its own local beer. Wanzer, together with a handful of other investors, founded a brewery in Santiago and started producing Presidente in 1935.
This initial “gringo” cerveza didn’t fare too well, though. The problem: it was dark and presumably not as tasty or refreshing as the Presidente so many of us love today. It wasn’t until the 1960s that Presidente in its current light pilsner form came into being.
The dark side of Presidente’s past isn’t limited to its initial version either.
Like anyone attempting to do business in the DR between 1930 and 1961, Wanzer was smart enough to tie his product in some significant way to one man – El Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo.
Indeed, Wanzer named his beer Presidente to honor the country’s head of state at the time. The same Trujillo would maintain absolute control of the Dominican Republic – officially and unofficially – for the next 30 years. He was assassinated in 1961 after amassing as nefarious a tyrannical legacy as any to have ever existed in the Caribbean basin… Ever.
Produced today by Cervecería Nacional Dominicana (CND), Presidente long ago shed its dark color and even darker political past, growing in popularity across the region, and elsewhere across the globe, in line with the DR’s emergence as one of the top travel destinations in the region.
Like all of the best-known Caribbean brews, Presidente doesn’t do much for beer aficionados. There’s not much by and in the way of robustness or bold flavor excitement here, just a solidly refreshing 5% ABV that’s perfecto en la playa.