Note from Sarah: Maria Johnson is an amazing woman. She’s become one of my dearest friends and a spiritual big sister / aunt to me in so many ways. She has a fun blog and a book coming out really soon called My Badass Book of Saints (go forth and pre-order now). She offered to write a guest post about her journey home to Cuba to visit with family … and see/meet/take a selfie with Pope Francis. Please enjoy this joyful reflection.
While the rest of the world was watching the Pope’s visit to Cuba and the United States, I was in Cuba, participating in some of the Pope’s events, getting a selfie, and experiencing life as a Cuban, if only for a brief while.
Part of that experience included sharing many meals with family and friends.
I had an opportunity to sample some of the local beers. My friend Vabs gives me a pass for liking light lagers, so she won’t be too surprised to learn that I actually enjoyed Cuba’s Cerveza Cristal, a very light Caribbean-style lager brewed by Cervecería Bucanero S.A. They also brew a stronger version called Bucanero Fuerte which reminded me a little of Michelob.
I preferred the Cristal. Locals pour it fast, and right when you think the head is going to overflow and the whole thing become a mess, it dies down just in time to take a giant refreshing gulp. This is a beer for the Caribbean heat – light, almost sweet. I don’t like hoppy beers, so I wasn’t disappointed in the absence of a bitter finish. This one quenched my thirst without lingering on the palate.
I don’t think it will appeal to serious beer drinkers – it lacks complexity. Even I could tell it had a light passing aroma, and almost no after taste to savor. Instead, it refreshed me after being in the hot sun. I drank it, along with my companions, like most people would drink a Coke in the States.
That’s not to say Cuba is wimpy on the drinks. I had many opportunities to enjoy a glass of Havana Club, both the light 3 year-old añejo over ice pictured here, and the amber-colored 7 year-old, neat. The lines at Duty Free didn’t deter me from bringing back one of each. I prefer Bacardí – but that’s a story for another time.
Of course, I enjoyed the ubiquitous cup of Cuban coffee, called simply, coffee, in Cuba. That made me laugh.
And for a special treat, I drank some coconut milk fresh off the palm trees! In spite of traveling with family, I was easily marked as a tourist. I couldn’t leave without having the iconic drink of the islands.
It needed a little bit of rum.