A Century of Jamaican Brew Tradition Available to Beer Snobs
Beer was not invented in Jamaica, but it’s safe to say its consumption might have been perfected there. After all, is there anything better than throwing back a Red Stripe on idyllic white sand beaches, with Caribbean winds blowing salty sea air against your cheek as you listen to Bob Marley croon “One Love”? (That was rhetorical, of course the answer is no!) If it seems that the island nation was created to enjoy sudsy brews then visitors and locals will be happy to know they have an eclectic and varied selection to choose from when it comes to alcoholic beverages in Jamaica.
Hooray for Beer
Any talk of sudsy delights in Jamaica must start with Red Stripe, the ubiquitous local brew made famous by those “Hooray Beer!” ads from the 1990s. The beer is a lager – funny then that it comes in a stout bottle – and includes varieties like Red Stripe Light, Red Stripe Bold, and two flavored Red Stripe variants, Ginger and Apple.
Red Stripe enjoyed throughout the island, and anywhere in the US, is brewed in Kingston at the Desnoes & Geddes brewery. The same brewery produces another of Jamaica’s main beers – Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. The country is one of the few places on the planet that brew Ireland’s most famous export locally, using imported Irish wort along with local ingredients for the brew.
If Red Stripe is Jamaica’s best known beer, then Dragon Stout is its oldest, brewed a full decade ahead of its more famous brethren. The stout is often described as a slightly sweeter version of Guinness and is the second most popular Jamaican beer.
It is worth noting that Heineken, also brewed in Kingston, is sometimes referred to as a Jamaican beer, both because of its local production and popularity on the island. At many high-end resorts, like Moon Palace Jamaica in Ocho Rios, the only options available are Red Stripe and Heineken.
The Very Local Stuff and Craft Beer Tradition
Hard core beer snobs will, of course, be looking for how the craft beer movement has made its way to the island but while craft beers are produced, most of the consumption is kept to locals, so you’ll have to make some friends to get your hands on it. Razz Brewery in Kingston is a relatively new player to the Jamaica beer trade and boasts being the “only Jamaican owned and operated” beer company. You can find its Lion Heart Stout, Razz 876, Jamaica Stout, and Razz Hard Jamaican Ginger Beer throughout Kingston and increasingly in other parts of the country.
The rest of Jamaican beers are hard to find but mention should be made of Real Rock Lager and Kingston Lager, two lighter pale lagers whose enjoyment should be confined to the beach.