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A beer drinkers’ guide to the Atlantic Circuit

By Daria and Alex Blackwell

Some people take pictures of maps or charts every time they make landfall so they know which images relate to which countries. Not me. I take pictures of the first beer we have after checking in. It’s much more fun than some dusty old map. And it usually brings back fond memories of a reward for a successful passage that quenches a mighty thirst.  So come along for a special expedition around the Atlantic in search of the ancient brew that tastes so incredibly refreshing, especially when consumed in a succession of tropical paradises.

Beer, Cerveza, Biere, Cerveja, Bier

It’s very easy to tell where one is in the islands as each island has its own characteristic brew, although one can also get a bit lost in the sea of Heineken wherever one goes.  The great simple pleasure of trying each island’s unique flavour while sitting under a broad umbrella with toes submerged in warm sand or water is so intensely satisfying.  It makes the visit to the first tiki bar an adventure all unto itself where the explorers place their fragile taste buds into the bartender’s hands.  You watch that bottle or can emerge out of the cold depths coated in frosty refreshment.  You start to salivate when you hear that characteristic sound of the top being flipped.  

If you have the good fortune to stop into a pub that has a tap and chills their glasses in the deep freeze before pouring – nirvana.  Your throat is parched, you realize, as the bartender pulls the perfect pint. Almost there.  Gimme gimme.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! That first long pull with your lips pressed tight against the cool glass carries its relief through your eyes, hands and throat. Oh my. Almost as good as you know what.

Sometimes you can get into taste testing if there are two on offer and you and your partner are willing to exchange sips.  Somehow, I rarely arrive at a conclusion, always needing just one more sip to make absolutely certain.

Our boat was always popular as we had a refrigerator and freezer aboard. That meant cold brews and drinks no matter where we were. But there was something so satisfying about taking that dinghy ashore to the local establishment that we rarely missed the opportunity.  It was a social affair as well as a serious expedition. Chill down and find out what’s going down in the neighbourhood. What’s not to like?

There were times when we found the odd entry into the market and had to partake. Like the local flavoured Shandy, beer mixed with fizzy lemonade, ginger beer, cider or other mixers; or the lethal Desperado that combines beer with tequila.  There were no worries either, for if the local brews were not to taste, Carib, originating in Trinidad and Tobago and now brewed also on Grenada, was always a reliable backup available throughout the Caribbean. As Carib Brewery sponsors many of the local sailing events, supporting them with our custom is a no-brainer.

So we say Slainte, the Irish toast to good health, and Nazdorovya, the Ukrainian equivalent.  Here’s to sailing the oceans far and wide in search of the perfect pint.  Which is your choice?  I’m still comparing.

Beers of the Caribbean

  1. Amstel Bright of Curaçao
  2. Balashi of Aruba
  3. Banks of Barbados
  4. Biere Lorraine of Martinique
  5. Bucanero of Cuba
  6. Carib of Trinidad and Tobago
  7. Caybrew of the Cayman Islands
  8. Corsaire Biere of Guadeloupe
  9. Hairoun of St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  10. Kalik of the Bahamas
  11. Kubuli Beer of Dominica
  12. Medalla Light of Puerto Rico
  13. Piton of St Lucia
  14. Presidente of the Dominican Republic
  15. Prestige of Haiti
  16. Red Stripe of Jamaica
  17. Skol of St. Kitts & Nevis
  18. Turks Head of Turks and Caicos Islands
  19. Virgin Islands Ale of the United States Virgin Islands
  20. Wadadli of Antigua

Beers of the Atlantic Islands

  1. Coral Lager of Madeira
  2. Tropical of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
  3. Dorada of Tenerife, Canary Islands
  4. Especial of Ponta Delgada, Azores
  5. Strela of Santiago, Cape Verdes

dorada & superbock cansThe Madeira Brewery’s (Empresa de Cervejas da Madeira or E.C.M) main brand is Coral Lager although they also produce a stout.  Although the Portuguese are not known for their beers, Especial, the local Azorian beer brewed by Melo Abreu / Fabrica de Cervejas e Refrigerantes in Ponta Delgada, is very good. Sagres and Super Bock, Portuguese beers, are widely available in the Madeiras and Azores as well. 

The Canary islands have three beers. The beer of Gran Canaria is called Tropical, brewed by Compañia Cervecera de Canarias (CCC), in Las Palmas. Dorada beer, also made by the CCC group, is served almost exclusively on Tenerife in the forms of Dorada Pilsen (normal lager), Dorada Especial (stronger) and Dorada Sin (alcohol free). Reina is a recent entry to the Canary market and is available throughout the island chain.

Cape Verde produces a popular beer called Strela which is a pale lager brewed by the CERIS - Sociedade Caboverdiana De Cerveja E Refrigerantes S.A.R. out of the capital Praia on the island of Santiago.

Beers of the Bahamas

  1. Kalik Gold, malt (7%)
  2. Kalik, pale lager (5%)
  3. Kalik Light, pale lager (4.5%)
  4. Kalik Lime (4%)
  5. Sands, pale lager
  6. Sands Light, pale lager
  7. Bahamian Strong Back Stout
  8. High Rock, premium lager (5.6%)

There is no doubt that the beer of the Bahamas has for decades been Kalik brewed in Nassau by the Commonwealth Brewery and created by Heineken specifically for the Bahamian market. Heineken-owned Commonwealth also brews Heineken, Guinness, and Vitamalt.

New to the scene in 2008 is Sands brewed in Freeport by the Bahamian Brewery & Beverage Company.  They quickly added to their lineup the Strong Back Stout and High Rock brands of premium brews, the latter of which won the prestigious Monde Selection Gold Quality Award.  They also offer Triple B, a non-alcoholic malt drink.


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