Monday, October 21, 2013

Jamaica–A Study in Beer, Part 1

My wife and I recently took a vacation to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica.  Before I left, I browser Beer Advocate to see what beers I might be able to find and try during my visit.  The day before we left, we hired a tour guide to take us to a few nearby sights.  On the way back, I asked him to stop somewhere that I could buy as many different Jamaican beers as possible.  He took us to a supermarket.  For $12, I had pretty much one of every beer they offered.  In this post, I will share my thoughts on all of them. 

Red Stripe and Red Stripe Light
These can be summed up pretty easily.  They’re indistinguishable from any mass-produced lager made in the United States.  They’re not especially hoppy, or particularly malty.  I think I picked up some corn in the flavor, but I can’t swear to that.  If you’ve tried Red Stripe here in the US, then you know what this tasted like.  I’ll give both variants of Red Stripe a solid 5/10.  They’re not bad, for what they are.  They’re nothing great, either.

BTW, in Jamaica if you ask for a “Steel Bottom” they will pour overproof rum in the bottom of a glass and fill it with Red Stripe.  This makes Red Stripe slightly more tolerable.

Red Stripe Light – Apple
Although I wouldn’t drink them regularly, I have enjoyed beers like Redd’s Apple Ale and Shock Top Honey Crisp.  They’re pleasant and easy to drink.

Red Stripe Light Apple is a light gold colored beer with a champagne-like white head that doesn’t last for more than a few seconds.

The aroma, for a light beer, was amazing.  It was a fake apple aroma, to be sure.  It smelled just like a green apple Jolly Rancher candy.  I wanted to start gulping it down immediately.

Imagine my disappointment when the very clear apple aroma didn’t translate into the flavor.  This tasted like plain Red Stripe Light (which is pretty plain already, itself).

I’d rate this a 4/5, just because it teased something it didn’t deliver.  Had it delivered, who knows how high that rating might have been.

Red Stripe Light – Ginger
I was curious about this one, because you never see ginger-flavored beers in the U.S. (or rather, they’re rare).  You hear about them in other countries, like England. 

The ginger flavor was very subtle in this one.  If you want to approximate the flavor, buy some of your favorite ginger ale and any “light” macro brew such as Bud Light or Red Stripe Light.  Pour about two inches of ginger ale in a pint glass, and fill the rest with the light beer.  What you have will be more or less identical to this.

How do I know that?  The resort I stayed in offered this as an option.  The bottled Red Stripe Light Ginger and the regular Red Stripe Light with some ginger ale in it were indistinguishable.  The ginger flavor in either is very, very subtle.

This gets a 5.5/10, only because the ginger does add a very slight complexity to the base flavor of Red Stripe.  In other words, any subtle change improves it… and this is a very subtle change.

Talawah Lager
The name of this one invoked images of an American Indian reservation.  Even the label, with the sunrise image at the top and the map of Jamaica at the bottom was intriguing.

The beer pours a very heavily carbonated straw yellow with a thick white head that takes a while to dissipate.

The aroma reminds me of any macro brew lager like a Miller, Coors, or Budweiser.  Nothing offensive about it, but nothing compelling.

The flavor is mild, malty, and otherwise non-descript.  It’s a competent lager, and something anyone can drink as easily as a macro brew.  It’s not a bad beer, but I don’t imagine myself ever buying a six-pack of it if I bump into it on a store shelf here at home.

Overall, it’s another 5/10 beer.

Coming Up in Part 2
Tomorrow night, I’ll post the second installment of this article, in which I talk about Red Stripe Bold, Arthur Guinness Day Foreign Extra, and another Jamaican Guinness variety.

On Wednesday night, we’ll look at two Jamaican beers that are now on my “favorite beers” list.

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