Nicaragua was a bit of a beer wasteland, even more so than what we found in Guatemala (our last beer review). There are only about four commonly found yellow fizzy beers here,
no small breweries (update: there’s now a craft brewpub in SJDS) or craft beers, and imports were typically rare and limited to the big brewers. For these reasons, this is going to be a pretty short, yet not sweet, review of the beers around Nicaragua.
Beers in Nicaragua
Toña, Pale Lager, 4.0%: The main beer in Nicaragua is Toña, a pale lager. Toña is to Nicaragua what Gallo is to Guatemala. It’s widely marketed and is by and large what the locals drink. As pale lagers go in Central America, it’s not too bad. There’s nothing offensive about it, yet there’s also nothing that makes it shine. Its perhaps a tad heavier than the other four you can find here, although still very light overall. It’s certainly drinkable and can be very refreshing.
Cerveza Premium, Pale Lager, 4.0%: This beer was another unmemorable pale lager. Much like all the other beers labeled as ‘Premium’ throughout Central America, the only things premium about it are the name and the price. It would always cost slightly more than the other three beers, however it tasted worse in my opinion. Even if the price were the same or even less, I’d definitely choose Toña or one of the Victorias over this non-premium Premium. Its a tad skunky, not very refreshing, and just has an off-taste to it. I’m not sure what the brewer was trying to go for here.
Victoria, Pale Lager, 4.0%: Really I didn’t find this to be much different from Toña. Its slightly lighter but its not really noticeable. In a blind taste test I initiated, I had difficulty distinguishing the two. Note: they are all produced by the same brewery.
Victoria Frost, Pale Lager, 4.9%: You guessed it, its another yellow fizzy pale lager. Despite its higher ABV, this beer is still not too distinguishable from Tona or the regular Victoria, yet I favored this one in the blind taste test. It has a slightly higher ABV, so with all other things equal, you’ll get a bigger bang for your buck with this brew. I thought it had a cleaner finish than the other three. Plus the “frost” branding just makes it feel colder in the hot Nicaraguan sun, so I’ll give it a few extra points there.
Victoria Light: Oh, there’s a light version too. But really, who cares? The first four are already light enough.
Our Beer Recommendations in Nicaragua
Usually I’d have a few outstanding or at least noteworthy beers to advise here, but for Nicaragua, I do not. Instead I’ll just recommend to not waste your time with the Cerveza Premium, as I thought it was the least appealing of the main four. I’d give an ever-so-slight edge to Victoria Frost for the reasons stated above. But really just drink whichever one is one is available or happens to be on happy hour. Or perhaps better yet, drink some rum instead. We found Nicaragua’s Flor de Caña to be fantastic. Interestingly, the rum is actually produced by the same folks responsible for the beer. It was among our favorite rums in Central America. Cuba Libres, Nica Libres, Mojitos, or on the rocks; this was often a wise choice over beer in Nicaragua.
International Beers in Nicaragua
Any international beers you may find here will be in bars catering towards tourists or expats. You may spot Mexican beers like Corona and Modelo, or mainstays such as Heineken on rare occasions. You may find a few imported bottles like the requisite Guinness in an Irish pub and occasionally a common German bottle here or there. But other than that, don’t expect to see many imports here in Nicaragua.
Craft Beer in Nicaragua
Sorry, it just doesn’t exist at time of writing. There are no microbreweries here and you won’t find any IPAs imported from elsewhere.
Update #1: Since our visit to Nicaragua in March 2014, we’ve gotten word that a coffee shop in Granada has started brewing their own beer. It’s called, Espressonista Specialty Coffeebar and Restaurant. If you happen to be going to Granada, check it out and drop us a comment.
Update #2 (Sept 2014): We were just notified that a brewpub is now opening in San Juan del Sur. This newcomer, San Juan del Sur Cervecería, will have four house beers and the first batch is slated to be tapped October 2014. Here’s a link to their Facebook Page. It sounds great! If you go, drop us a comment and let us know how it is.
Update #3 (Jan 2015): During the latter half of 2014, it seems a brand called Moropotente also began distributing their Nicaraguan-brewed craft beer through the country, starting with two beers: a Scotch and a Pilsner. Here’s a link translated from Spanish to English with some more background on the beer and its brewers.
Update #4 (Jan 2015): Campo Brewing Company has also began brewing in Limon near the Playa Santana resort, where you can find their beer in addition to a few other places around the country. Campo Brewing Co. produces Pale Ale and a Coffee Stout.
Notable Beer Places in Nicaragua
During our journey through the country (Leon, Granada, Ometepe, and San Juan del Sur) we personally found no places really worthy of highlighting for having any interesting or outstanding beer selections. That said, I’ll still mention few places to consider checking out and some further recommendations we’ve received since our visit in 2014.
In Granada, the Irish Pubs are your best bet to find anything more than the four beers I’ve mentioned above. O’Shea’s had a good happy hour and was right in the middle of all the action. Meanwhile Reily’s was homier and had Victoria on happy hour during our time of visit. Also in Granada, as mentioned before, Espressonista is rumored to have started brewing beer.
In San Juan del Sur, La Caretta was unique in that it had a couple of mass-produced German bottles available such as Erdinger and Warsteiner, which is actually a rare siting for Nicaragua.
Update 1: Since our March 2014 visit, at least two places have begun brewing their own beer and seem very worthy of a visit while in Nicaragua. See Craft Beer section above to check out Espressonista Specialy Coffeebar and San Juan del Sur Cerveceria.
Update 2: The Garden Cafe in Granada is said to now be serving Moropotente beer on draft and beer from Campo Brewing Co. (Thanks to a reader for this tip!) We can personally vouch for the food there.
Additionally you can find Campo Brewing Company beer at the Playa Santana Resort at La Finca y El Mar. And in addition to the Garden Cafe, you can find Moropotente at City Lounge in Granada and at Layha Bistro & Lounge Bar in Managua.
But really, the best place to place for beer in Nicaragua is not inside a pub or a bar. It is wherever the beer is cold and has a scenic view.
Final Thoughts on Beers in Nicaragua
We had absolutely no problems tossing back a few of the relatively tasteless yet refreshing local beers. I favored Victoria Frost to the popular Tona, but only by a very thin margin. Just try ‘em all and form your own opinion. There’s not a whole lot that separates them from one another. Perhaps I’m just getting used to the Central American swill, but they did seem to go down pretty easy. However, for Nicaragua, I’d instead favor drinking the rum. And keep an eye out for the emerging craft and microbreweries that seem to now be slowly popping up throughout the country.