Editor’s Note: The British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, and some of these breweries are working to rebuild. Please visit their websites or Facebook pages for updates.
Slide aside, Carib. Share the love, Red Stripe: Craft beer has taken off in the Caribbean, providing refreshing, distinctive alternatives to the ubiquitous big names. These island brewers offer a taste of the best.
Grenada – West Indies Beer Company
Head to the brewery on Grenada’s southwest coast — its beer garden is a popular liming (aka hangout) spot for both locals and visitors — and ask for a sample flight to help you choose your fave. The citrusy Windward IPA and the Drunken Goat, a Belgian wheat beer, are surefire thirst-quenchers, but don’t overlook the fruit ciders, brewed with a tropical spin. If it’s on tap when you visit, try the mango. westindiesbeer.com
St. Lucia – Antillia Brewing Company
Locally inspired beers are Antillia‘s thing: Naked Fisherman St. Lucia India Pale Ale incorporates island citrus, and the fruit used for the irresistible Passion Fruit Ale is locally harvested. The Aphrodisiac Ale is made by aging Antillia’s Special Stout in barrels with island cocoa nibs, cinnamon, and bois bandé, a tree bark reputed to be a natural aphrodisiac. To taste it, head to the brewery’s Oceanside beer garden near the cruise-ship terminal in Castries, and be forewarned: The brewers describe it as “arousing.”
Barbados – 10 Saints Brewing
Barbados is the home of Mount Gay, which claims to be the world’s oldest rum distillery, and 10 Saints builds on this history by brewing lager with a twist: It’s aged for 90 days in casks that previously held Mount Gay’s Special Reserve — picking up notes of rum, toasted oak, and spice. Available around the island, it helps solve the conundrum: Do I feel like beer or rum tonight?
St. Thomas, USVI – St. John Brewers
Two college friends quit their jobs and bought one-way tix to the USVI. They loved the lifestyle… but missed the craft beer back home. Solution? Brewing their own: Tropical Mango Pale Ale, Island Hopper IPA, and more. At their Tap Room in Cruz Bay, you’ll find their latest experiments on draft — such as a rich Toasted Coconut Brown Ale, and their artisanal sodas, including a spicy-sweet non-alcoholic ginger beer.
Cooper Island, British Virgin Islands – Cooper Island Brewing Company
This teensy boat-access-only island is home to the Cooper Island Beach Club, an eco-resort that produces all its electricity and water using the sun’s energy. Adding an environmentally friendly solar-powered microbrewery — the Caribbean’s first — was a natural extension. The Rum Bar houses the brewing room, and the brews. Order a Turtle IPA: $1 from every sale goes towards conservation and monitoring of the BVI’s sea turtles.
Jamaica – Razz Brewery
Razz876, the flagship beer of this completely Jamaican-owned and operated brewery, isn’t too far afield from the standard island lager: a light, pale-gold, perfect-for-hot-weather beer. Its Lion Heart Stout, on the other hand, comes on with a sweet roar, full of chocolate and coffee flavors. And don’t miss Razz’s Hard Jamaican Ginger Beer, brewed with locally grown ginger, cane sugar and, yes, Jamaican rum — a rare offering in a region where ginger beer is traditionally “soft.”
Puerto Rico – Boqueron Brewing Company
A small-batch brewery on the island’s west coast owned by a native puertorriqueño (who is also the brewmaster), BBC’s beers are naturally carbonated, and neither filtered nor pasteurized. The Crash Boat IPA (named for a local beach) is an easy-drinking winner, but the line-up also includes more unusual brews, like 3 Palmas Milk Stout and a porter made with local coffee. Look for Boqueron brews in supermarkets — or for a fun, in-depth intro to Puerto Rico’s thriving craft-beer scene, taste them (and other craft brews) at La Taberna Lúpulo in Old San Juan; 50 rotating craft beers on tap and more than 150 bottles.
Nassau, Bahamas – Pirate Republic Brewing Company
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of … beer. The excellent brews produced by the only craft brewery in the Bahamas come with an entertaining side of pirate shtick. (The brewery tour is as much Bahamian pirate history as beer-making process.) Try samples in the Tap Room: Long John Pilsner, Black Beer’d Stout, Island Pirate Ale (an IPA), Captain Kidd’s Kölsch; then check out the “Pirate Loot”….aka brewery booty. Drink up, me hearties.