Taste Test: Caribbean Beers
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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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!).
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