Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tastes of the Caribbean Leeward Islands

A lot of seasoned beer drinkers are familiar with Red Stripe from Jamaica as it is available even on ordinary grocery shelves here in the states.  Many of the other Caribbean islands; however, have much better brews that never make it to our shores, unless via someone's suitcase.  There's nothing wrong with Red Stripes, it's an okay session lager, but fairly bland with no hint of hops aroma or taste.

I had the pleasure of spending a week on Dominica, the nature island, down by Martinique and Barbados...(no relationship to the Dominican Republic attached to Haiti).  Dominica has its own brewery; not bad for an island of only 60,000 people.  The brewery Dominica Brewery & Beverages Ltd., founded in 1995, brews Kubuli and it is a nice malty lager.  The island gets 365 inches of rain a year, so the ground water is nearly distilled, it's so fresh.  Kubuli is widely available on the other Leeward Islands.

Right next door, since 1961 on Barbados, Banks Brewery has been making some fine pilsner lager also.  It's made from 2 row barley from Canada or Australia, and the UK with Styrian Goldings and Galena hops from the US Yakima Valley.  It is imported to the US. Some of the reviewers on RateBeer claim that it has a corn flavor to it.  Perhaps it is possible that they use corn sugar for carbonation?  It doesn't score much above average, but is a very drinkable lager and in the heat of the Caribbean you really don't want a brew that is too heavy, high in alcohol or with a thick mouthfeel.

Another brew on the island is 10 Saints, a premium hand crafted beer uniquely aged for 90 days in Mount Gay ‘Special Reserve’ rum casks, from the world’s oldest distillery. This complex brewing process produces a smooth full flavoured yet refreshing lager beer with oak and rum notes.  Seems to be the favorite on Barbados.

On Antiqua, you can find Wadadli brewed locally at the Antiqua Brewery, which also brews Guinness, Red Stripe and Carib under license.  Wadadli doesn't get any high marks on RateBeer.  The reviews on BeerAdvocate were much more complete and complimentary towards this lager.  Quite a number of reviewers do also report some corn taste in it, as was the case with Banks.

Balashi beerBalashi Beer, a 5%ABV all-malt pilsner, is the national beer of Aruba. The brewery, Brouwerij Nacional Balashi was built in 1999. It is brewed with Scottish malts and German hops.  It doesn't get any high marks from reviewers and is generally described as a bland session beer.

A lot of these brews claim to have won appelations from the  Monde Selection in Brussels.  The awards from Monde Selection seem to be more about quality rather than an evaluation against BJCP standards. Kinda of like an FDA stamp of approval, but I don't profess to know what's involved in their evaluation process.  Also, many of those citing a Monde Selection award don't say what level award they received - bronze or Grand Gold.

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