Modelo Brewery

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Modelo Brewery designed by the Cuban architect, Enrique Luis Varela, was built in 1948 for Compañia Ron Bacardi S.A.. Its address is Corner of Carretera Central (at the corner of 52), Cotorro, Havana, Cuba. This industrial building marries the monumental proportions that are typical of Varela’s works (such as Revolution Square in Havana), with the energy of flow of a modern approach. The corner is smartly resolved as a cylinder that becomes a hinge between the two facades. One side is dotted with small, reiterated windows and the other almost blank, marked by horizontal bands reminiscent of streamlined architecture.

It was built in order to service Cuba’s growing thirst for Hatuey Beer. This brewery was constructed ten miles from Havana in a site named El Cotorro in 1948. Being true to its name, it was indeed a state-of-the-art facility or a model brewery.

In Modelo’s first nineteen months of production, 3.5 million liters of beer were produced. and in 1959, 10 million cases were produced and Hatuey Beer controlled 50% of Cuba’s beer market.

In fact, so popular was Hatuey Beer that in 1952 Ernest Hemingway featured Hatuey Beer in his book The Old Man and the Sea. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the company threw him a party at the Modelo Brewery. Hemingway was a frequent patron of the brewery since it was located next to his home in Havana at Finca Vigía.

On 14 October 1960, after 34 years of uninterrupted growth, Compañía Ron Bacardi S.A.’s Cuban assets, including the three Hatuey Breweries, were confiscated by the revolutionary government, and Hatuey lost its market. During this period, sales of Hatuey Beer were 12,000,000 cases per year.


  • The Havana Guide - Modern Architecture 1925-1965, Eduardo Luis Rodriguez (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2000) ISBN 1-56898-210-0