If there is one thing that most Trinbagonians can agree on is that there is no better feeling than enjoying a beastly cold beer after a hard day’s work. Many of us drink it regularly and enjoy it but most have little clue to what it is or how it is made.
Beer in its simplest definition is a beverage made from water, fermented (brewed) grains, yeast and Hops (no not the bread). The history of beer is so long and complex that it spans the entire length of civilization. To make things short, beer came about when mankind had settled and began cultivating grains. The easiest story to go with is that somebody left some of the starchy grain from bread making in some water and accidentally it began to ferment and that became the start of the journey of this glorious nectar of the gods. Nearly all civilizations in history have a history of fermented beverage and all those who relied on grains have made some form of beer.
Beer in its long journey spanning millennia, has undergone so much change and diversity, providing us a plethora of different styles and tastes, that there is something out there for everyone. Unlike wine which is made from one main ingredient, and the differences between blends, types or styles is subtle or sometimes unnoticeable for inexperienced drinkers. Beer in its many forms provides us with such a rich array and diversity that we can sample a different style or brand of beer everyday for life and we would have something different everyday.
To begin to truly describe the different types of beer will require six, two-hour sessions and that will be just an “intro to beer 101”. Simply put, the diversity of beer can be broken down into the type of grain used, duration of the malting process, type of fermentation, and the quantity and types of Hops used. The ratios of these factors combined with other smaller ones such as additional flavourings, spices and herbs account for the wide variety and flavours of beer.
The most widely drank style of beer in the world to this day are lagers. A clear crisp golden beer with lighter notes and flavours, we drink this style en masse right here in sweet TnT. Our top selling beers are lagers. Carib, Stag and Heineken are examples of Lagers. Our largest local brewer, Carib Brewery produces several products which include these lagers, stouts in the form of Guinness Foreign Extra, Mackeson and Royal, light beer as Carib Light (pilsner as we call it), low alcohol flavoured beer drinks like Shandy Carib and other non-alcoholic flavoured beverages. In addition to what they produce locally they also distribute Caribe ciders (which they make in their brewery in Grenada) as well as international brands such as Smirnoff Ice (a malted flavoured beverage), Heineken and Coors Light.
In addition to the products made or distributed by Carib there are also other smaller companies who have helped with the recent boom in beer consumption locally. West Indian Beverage Company has a wide array of English beers and Ales and the owner has been a stalwart in the imported beer market for over a decade. Kelvin Ghany distributors, Caribbean Bottlers, NWT, Hadco, A.S. Brydens and Sons are all distributors of regional and international beers with many larger supermarkets or wholesalers carrying their wares.
Bars such as All Out (formerly Bat and Ball), V&J Brauhaus and Island Beer Chill and Grill helped to push the introduction of international beers and different styles to the wider public. The latter was the first establishment to have a 24 tap blended gas beer distribution system (tap/draft beer) in the country; and within the last 2 years with the establishment of Tommy’s Brewing company we can now try locally produced micro-brewed beer to give us varying experiences and avenues to find that beer we love.
Within the last 10 years the popularity and demand of imported foreign beers have increased significantly with the availability of them becoming easier to acquire. However, no matter what, the staple of any Trini bar is always our 2 most well-known beers – Carib and Stag with their constant rivalry. No matter which bar or restaurant you go too in the country, those 2 are the beers which will always be the highest in demand. Lately, within the last 10 years, Trinis have gotten a taste for draft beers even if it is the staple Carib or Stag. While a beastly cold Carib or Stag in a bottle or can is the best remedy for the heat, the taste of draft and bottle vary significantly. Simply put, beer was not meant to drink from a bottle or can but from a glass. In a glass, the carbonation is reduced and allows for the head (froth) to properly build allowing a person to properly enjoy the full aromas of the beer they otherwise would not have gotten if drank from a bottle. While people will hotly debate this over a few rounds and some spicy cutters, it is all up to the preference of the person drinking it.
As stated in the beginning, beer is the everyman’s drink. There is something for everybody because of the diversity it offers us. No matter your taste, qualm, preference, or perception on beer, there is a beer somewhere out there that will make you change your perspective. Even for those out there who may have dietary issues such as gluten intolerance or celiac disease, there are beers that are made from grains such as corn, sorghum, rice (rice wine/sake is technically beer) and oats which allow one to partake in imbibing this heavenly beverage. While not technically a beer as it is made from apples and not grain, Ciders are also a great substitute and like beer come in a vast array or varieties from sweet to tart, hopped vs un-hopped, etc.
The world of beer is so vast it can be scary trying to figure out what to try first or where to start. So why not just grab the one that catches your eye that you have never tried before and just try it. You can either like it or not but no matter what you may decide, keep on trying new things, and keep your mind open. Especially in this time of quarantine, a beer a day helps to keep the stir crazy away. Grab your regular brews, your mainstay, but grab a mixed six pack of imported beers you haven’t tried before. Better yet get the beer and sample it with the people home with you or meet up some buddies on video chat and sample while you lime virtually.
About Chad Lee Loy
Amongst a lot of random and arbitrary things, Chad is a bartender, professional home cook, a Sarcastasaurus Rex and hyperactive inquisitive by nature. He’s a communication studies graduate of The University of the West Indies whose heart resides in hospitality for the past thirteen years as a professional, starting out as a bar back and assistant, working his way up to management. A Jack of all trades and quite an enthusiast, Chad loves his industry and has extensive experience of every aspect in bars and restaurants, from cooking to serving, cleaning, mixing cocktails, and everything else in between. Outside of work, he is an avid gamer, amateur runner, football fan, adult beverage enthusiast, a home cook of all the delicious things, and whatever else piques his curiosity.
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