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Caribbean Beer 101: The Brews of the Tropics

Exploring the Caribbean beer scene - there's a lot of beers to explore.

Come experience the tastes of the islands! Every island in the Caribbean produces its own unique beer and sampling those beers can be a real adventure when exploring the islands. When it comes to the best beers of the Caribbean, it’s a strong matter of local pride. But what is the best Caribbean beer? We put them to the test.

Beer has a long and important history in the Caribbean. The British brought the delicious beverage to the islands in 1880 and it was an immediate hit with the Queen’s soldiers and sailors, as well as the locals. Soon, people began brewing small batch beers throughout the islands. These days the breweries are much bigger!

Most Caribbean beers are lagers. While it’s possible to find some ales, the beers of the Caribbean are generally yellow lagers, amber lagers and pilsners. We love a deep, rich stout, but that doesn’t really fit while sitting on a tropical beach. The lighter (and more refreshing) lagers are just what visitors need.

Enjoying a Wadadli beer in Antigua.

Nothing better than sitting on the beach with a bucket of brews

What is the best Caribbean beer? Here are the contenders:

Banks in Barbados. The Banks Company has been brewing and selling its own unique Caribbean beer since 1961 in Barbados. Banks is a premium Pilsner-styled lager that is both full and refreshing. The secret ingredient of Banks is the water, which is naturally purified by the limestone rock that is the foundation of the island. Banks has a gold color, malty flavor, and moderate caramel flavor.

Carib Lager in Trinidad and Tobago. While officially the beer of the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, Carib is the unofficial beer of the entire region. Tracing its roots back to September 1950, Carib Brewery now produces 26 million gallons of Carib Lager, which is exported to over 30 countries around the world. The company also produces Carib in breweries on the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis as well as Grenada. Carib Lager is an American-style lager with a bright yellow color with raisin and malt notes.

Carib Beer - one of the most popular Caribbean beers.

Kalik in Bahamas. Kalik is one of the most recognized beers of the Caribbean and is the national beer of the Bahamas. The Kalik lager, or what the company calls a “tropical lager,” is one of the most refreshing beers we’ve ever had. Kalik has a golden color, grainy nose, and a slight, sweet finish.

Kubuli in Dominica. The official beer of the nature island, Dominica, is Kubuli. After a day hiking the national park or snorkeling the Champagne Reef, nothing refreshes like a Kubuli. The entire island of Dominica is a natural paradise and has many rivers, streams, and springs. The water to brew Kubuli comes from the Loubière Springs. It is an American-style lager with a light amber color, and light citrus/lime notes.

Caribbean beer 101:  Kubuli is the national beer of Dominica.

Piton in Saint Lucia. The national beer of Saint Lucia, the beer is named for the iconic peaks located on the southwest side of the island: Gros Piton and Petit Piton. Since 1992, Piton has used some locally grown ingredients in the brewing process, making it a more sustainable product, but also injecting a richer, spicier flavor to the beer. Piton blends a flat golden color with a malty aroma, as well as vague floral and spice notes. The beer feels full and carbonated in the mouth with a sweet finish.

Presidente from Dominican Republic. There are lots of beers in the Caribbean, but very few are legends. Presidente is such a beer. Brewed in the Dominican Republic, but available everywhere, Presidente’s medium-bodied lager is practically iconic. Available since 1935, the beer is named after the Dominican Republic’s strongman/dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. The recipe has evolved over time and with the changing tastes of the islands: first as a deeper, dark beer, before being reformulated to the lighter pilsner it is today. Presidente is a golden Pilsner with corn notes and a crisp, sweet finish.

Presidente Beer from the Dominican Republic.

Skol Lager in St. Kitts. Skol is complicated, but we decided to include on the list. Skol Lager is brewed on the island of St. Kitts by the Carib Brewery (yes, the same folks that make Carib). Skol is technically a global beer brand and can be found around the world – from the soccer stadiums of Brazil to the harbors of Scandinavia. While the name is licensed globally, the beer is all local. And any beer aficionado who has had a Skol anywhere else in the world can attest: it just tastes better in St. Kitts. Skol is a pale lager with light, lemony notes and a flat finish.

Skol Lager from St. Kitts, one of my favorite Caribbean beers.

Stag in St. Kitts. Of all the beers in the Caribbean, Stag may have the most marketing behind it. This is the “man’s beer.” Their ad campaign touts it as a Manly Thing and features beautiful women. For all the hype, it is a great beer. Compared to lighter Caribbean beer lagers, Stag is a fuller, more European-style lager with a bigger taste in your mouth (although, strangely enough, still classified as an American lager). Stag’s characteristic green bottle, full color, and malty taste fills up your mouth and leaves you craving another.

Stag Beer in St. Kitts.

Wadadli in Antigua. The national beer of Antigua, Wadadli, is one of the best-known beers in the Caribbean and is commonly served by Caribbean cruise ships. Brewed by Antigua Brewery, Wadadli is an American-style lager that is low in alcohol content. Wadadli has a dull yellow color, funky nose, bright citrus notes, and lasting finish.

A few Caribbean beers we haven’t enjoyed…yet.

Balashi in Aruba. The Balashi beer, founded in the 1990s in Aruba is unique in that the water for the brew comes from desalinated ocean water. Aruba is known as “One Happy Island” and you’ll certainly be happy throwing a few of these back. Balashi is a Euro-style pale lager with pungent hops, and a malty flavor.

Biere Lorraine in Martinique. This beer traces its roots back to a French immigrant in 1919. Biere Lorraine is a light lager with a pale color, yeasty characteristics, and a short finish (characteristic of most of the island beers).

Caybrew in Cayman Islands. They Cayman Islands Brewing Company was founded in 2007 and has been producing its signature beer ever since: Caybrew. A European pale lager, Caybrew has full hoppiness, but a crisp finish.

Corsaire Biere in Guadeloupe. The national beer of Guadeloupe actually isn’t brewed on the island. It’s made on a nearby island (something about local, legal issues). However, that doesn’t diminish the beer’s characteristic citrus style.

Hairoun in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The national beer in these parts, Hairoun has been brewed since June 1985 and has many loyal followers. This American-style lager is known for its smooth texture and clean, crisp finish.

Medalla Light in Puerto Rico. The brewery that makes Medalla Light, Compañía Cervecera de Puerto Rico, traces its roots back to 1937. Medalla is a light, straw-colored lager with plush citrus notes.

Prestige in Haiti. The national beer in Haiti is Prestige, and is only available on draught or bottles. Tracing its roots back to 1976, Prestige is an American-style lager with a corny aroma and a light malty taste.

Red Stripe in Jamaica. Jamaica’s Red Stripe is another icon of Caribbean beer. First brewed in 1928, the American-style lager in the fat brown bottle is the one that most people think of when tropical beers come to mind. While Red Stripe is now available back in the U.S. and Canada (and is brewed in the United States for domestic consumption), many people still need to try a bottle in its Reggae homeland. Red Stripe is a light amber color with corn and earthy hoppiness.

Turk’s Head in Turks and Caicos. Around since the early 2000s, Turk’s Head comes in an American-style pale yellow lager and a darker amber lager. Most drinkers in the Caribbean will be more familiar with the pale lager.






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What do you think about Caribbean Beer 101: The Brews of the Tropics?

  1. Esther August 14, 2017 at 3:34 am #

    A friend of my husband recently brought back a Balashi from Aruba… and it’s just Amstel with a different label, so don’t bother! You also forgot to list Cuban beers, they’re interesting!

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