Cerveza Presidente: Gringo Beer With a Doubly Dark Past

Beer and politics tend to make strange bedfellows. No Caribbean brew embodyies this more than the Dominican Republic’s beloved Cerveza Presidente.

Cerveza Presidente Origins

The beer’s origins date back to 1929. That was 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 in 1935. It was there that Cerveza Presidente was born.

This initial “gringo” cerveza didn’t fare too well, though. The problem: it was dark. It was presumably also 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, though, isn’t limited to the color of its initial version…

Cerveza Presidente Controversy

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. That man: El Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo.

Indeed, Wanzer named his beer Presidente to honor the country’s head of state at the time. Trujillo maintained absolute control of the Dominican Republic (officially and unofficially) for 30 years. This was a very dark time in the DR’s history. Throughout his three-decade reign, Trujillo amassed as nefarious a tyrannical legacy as any to have ever existed in the Caribbean basin… Ever.

In the end, though, El Generalissimo was assassinated in 1961. The beer named in his honor, though, lives on. 

A lighter, fresher Caribbean beer

Produced today by Cervecería Nacional Dominicana (CND), Presidente shed its dark color and even darker political ties long ago. It’s grown in popularity throughout the region, and elsewhere across the globe right 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 robustness or bold flavor excitement here. What you get and most enjoy, though, is a solidly refreshing 5% ABV that’s perfecto en la playa.


Last updated by Steve Bennett on .

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