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Posted at 3:39 PM ET, 06/27/2008

Taste Test: Caribbean Beers

By Fritz Hahn

Which of these cold, refreshing beers would you want in your hand on a hot day? (Fritz Hahn/washingtonpost.com)

When it's 98 degrees in the shade, I just want to relax with a cold, refreshing beverage, preferably on a beach somewhere. Hot weather and the start of the D.C. Caribbean Carnival had me thinking about Caribbean beers -- a subject I wish I knew more about. So I enlisted groups of friends and co-workers to taste a variety of island beers and figure out which one was the best.

This was a blind tasting, with the beers served in unmarked cups. Participants were asked to rate the beer on a scale of 1 to 5 in two categories: First, on the overall taste of the beer, and then on how refreshing it was to drink on a warm day.

Read on for their views, and then tell us about your favorite warm-weather beers in the comments.

Overall Winner
Carib ($7.99 per six-pack)
Our testers voted the Trinidadian beer tops in both taste and refreshment, though it won the latter category by less than a point. It garnered favorable comments from almost all testers. One complimented the "nice citrus flavor and smooth finish," while another claimed "it's so refreshing that I can practically feel the sand between my toes." While it was dubbed "Best for a Cookout" by some, not everyone agreed -- one said he found it "interesting, but don't think I'd want to spend a hot summer evening cooling down with these."

Runner Up
Presidente ($8.19)
Several testers commented that they found the Dominican Republic's national beer "surprisingly malty," and it came in second in both taste and refreshment. According to one, Presidente has "a deeper taste than a 'light' beer and is quite flavorful. Bet it'd go well with some BBQ chicken." The rounded taste summoned "steel drums and sandy vistas in every sip," while another taster commented that "it's largely inoffensive. Still, I could see how one could happily drink it for a while."

Third Place.
Red Stripe ($9.19)
Although it was the most widely available beer in our sampling, not everyone caught on that they were tasting Jamaica's Red Stripe. A few admitted that they were thrown off by its golden color -- they'd never seen Red Stripe outside of its trademark squat, dark brown bottle. While it didn't do well in the "refreshing" category, acclaim for Red Stripe's taste was fairly universal: "I could drink a lot of this." "Tastes like food. I wanted more after two sips." One participant warned that he found it "tasty, but a bit heavy for a summer pounding of a six-pack." Finally, our resident beer snob opined, "This has to be Red Stripe. I don't mind that it quite literally tastes like cardboard and wood glue. It's got a nice body and is not likely to alienate any beach revelers."

Fourth Place
Sol ($6.60)
Okay, so Mexico's not in the Caribbean, but since so much Mexican beer is consumed at summer cookouts, I thought it would be a good idea to toss Sol, which is made in Monterrey, into the mix. Our testers didn't agree, though they did rate it as more refreshing than Red Stripe -- the "crisp, clean, not bitter" taste would be perfect on a hot day, though one wag commented that it's "refreshing mostly because it's cold." Sol "tastes a little watery/frat party light to me," commented another taster, while others described it as "bland and flat" and said they were "not so keen on the aftertaste."

Last Place
Kalik ($8.69)
The "Beer of the Bahamas" really divided our panel, with some giving it high marks for the "hoppy, straightforward" taste and others saying it was "not crisp enough." One summed it up when she said "this is fairly refreshing but I'm not digging the taste." It got the lowest possible score from another, who commented, "I wouldn't drink it if it were free and I was broke."

All prices given are from Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits, which had all the beers in stock (and delivers!).

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | June 27, 2008; 3:39 PM ET
Categories:  Misc.  
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Comments

The only reason there can even be a contest here, is that it's impossible to find the superb St. Lucian beer - Piton. Miles better than any other Caribbean brew, more of a continental flavor with a nice amount of hop bite. Bit like Dutch lagers.

Posted by: Kev | June 27, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I tried to get Piton, as well as Banks, from Barbados, and Lorraine, from Martinique, but those guys are not imported to D.C. (I'm told Banks will be in the future, though.)

Posted by: Fritz | June 27, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I like many kinds of beers, but after sweating it out doing yard work in the humid heat, nothing beats an ice-cold Budweiser for me.

Posted by: Alexandria | June 27, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Even though it's Mexican, Bohemia Clasica should be tried out for a Summer beer. It's amazing and vanilla tasting. Very hard to find so all the hipsters can drink it. The bottle is even better looking than that of Red Stripes. Good luck finding though. I know of a place.

Posted by: Jeremy | June 27, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Not shown is the best beer in the Caribbean from the Nature Island of Dominica. Kubuli. Made on a island with 365 riviers so fresh and clean you can drink from any of them.

Kubuli has a light and clean but wonderful taste. Sorry, my mouth is watering just thinking about one now.

Posted by: Pat | June 27, 2008 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Too bad you can't get it in the U.S.

"Dominica Brewery & Beverages Ltd currently distributes its products on ten (10) markets in the region on the islands of St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Kitts, USVI (St. Thomas & St. Croix), the BVI (Anguilla & Tortolla), Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Maarten."

Posted by: Re: Kubuli | June 27, 2008 6:18 PM | Report abuse

I didn't know anyone else knew about Piton. I've carried a torch for it the last 5 years...even named my dog Piton.

Posted by: Chris | June 29, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse


What about "Aruba's Beer", Balashi? Anybody know where to get it. Light, crisp, and oh so refreshing. And made with pure water from the world's second largest desalination plant.

Posted by: Steve | July 1, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I tried to get Balashi, too -- I've never been to Aruba, but I've heard good things about it. Sadly, it's only available in Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and Holland.

Oh, and to echo what the previous poster said, Kubuli isn't legally imported to the U.S., either.

Posted by: Fritz | July 1, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

The brew master of Balashi in Aruba originally worked on Kubuli over at Dominica Brewery.

My favorite Caribbean brew for a hot day has to be Amstel Bright. It was brewed in Curaçao until a few years ago, now it's brewed only in Aruba.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is great for a cool Caribbean night. It's different from the Guinness Draught & Extra Stout in the States, much more complex, higher alcohol content, and said to be closer to the original stout. It's brewed on a ton of islands, Antigua, Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Grenada.

St. John Brewers also has some good ales available here in the States.
http://www.stjohnbrewers.com/

Posted by: slappy | July 2, 2008 1:15 AM | Report abuse

Where do you buy a six pack of Presidente beer in Washington or Virginia?

Posted by: Tom | July 12, 2008 8:29 PM | Report abuse

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