Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Beer in Bermuda

What can be said about beer on the otherwise lovely island nation of Bermuda? Unfortunately, not much – and that's a phrase that also describes both the quality and depth of the selection available on this Atlantic paradise.

Which is a shame, especially considering Bermuda's history and heritage. Founded by the English and still part of the United Kingdom, Bermuda is home to a handful of British-style pubs, which strictly speaking should probably be deemed more authentic than most such taverns found off the Queen's immediate turf. How appropriate, then, would it be to find quality British ales (to say nothing of cask-conditioned real ales) in the Bermudian environs, even if weather concerns demanded more in the way of easy-drinking Milds and Bitters, as opposed to Porters, Old Ales and the like.

Instead, we mostly find world lagers like the fairly ubiquitous Heineken, Carlsberg and Stella Artois, with the occasional Guinness and, perhaps surprisingly, Sam Adams sprinkled in. Yes, there's also Amstel Light along with the American Big Three.

Fairness compels me to make a few observations. First, one does not visit Bermuda for the beer selection. Beer geeks might instead focus on the gorgeous scenery and great snorkeling – two areas where Bermuda arguably trumps, say, a Brussels or a London. Second, there is at least one brewery on the island, more than can be said for many places around the world, though I can't speak to the quality of their wares as I did not have a chance to visit. Also, let's not forget that in a climate like Bermuda's, often your lighter lagers are just what the doctor ordered, and indeed one could do worse (one could also do better, but one could do worse) than Heinie, Stella, Sam Adams, and so on.

Lastly, I should mention the hidden gem known as Miles Market, in Hamilton, where a beer-starved visitor will likely to be shocked to find such high-quality offerings as Chimay, Saison Dupont, Victory, Dogfish Head, Westmalle, Paulaner and Fullers, among others. This selection is particularly surprising given that I did not see any of these beers for sale at restaurants or bars. And their mere availability at one spot makes the relative meagerness encountered elsewhere all the more unfortunate.

The island isn't completely wanting for welcome treats when out and about. Real Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, that of the high-octane variety, can be found at otherwise hopeless (for beer, that is) joints like your beachside food shacks. (Now, Beer Advocate indicates there are also local versions of FES from Bahamas and Jamaica; I must say I don't recall reading on the label where Bermuda gets theirs from.)

Rich and hearty, yet strangely refreshing enough for tropical weather, FES affords a great chance to unwind in unique island style. Oh, and perhaps best of all, you can do so while enjoying this kind of view from the porch:


Paul said...

Bermuda isn't part of the UK - it's a British overseas territory, with its own parliament, government and so on and basically runs itself with almost no recourse to the UK in internal affairs. As far as I can tell the island is left to get on with it - the Americans have much more influence in Bermuda than the British.

You say about English style old ales and milds and the like - even in Britain itself these days milds have long since disappeared from many parts of the UK and even in mild heartlands are becoming more and more scarce - indeed, I live in one of the more historic mild-drinking areas and my town (with ten pubs) has only one that serves a cask mild. Many pubs just have a single keg mild rather than a cask equivalent. And old ales on cask are a non-starter - few people want to drink 6% old ales in pubs these days - or if they do, they'll have a half or maybe a pint at the end of the evening. in bottle though, not a problem.

I'd imagine that more of a problem with a place like Bermuda would be the cost of drinking there - I'd expect that you were paying more like $7/£4 a pint perhaps?

Bermuda Beer said...

Bermuda is getting better all the time, however, it is still very expensive, about $9-$10 a pint for a craft beer is the normal now. Miles is still bringing in all the good beer but we are seeing more diversity at the stores these days. We're seeing a lot more German imports as well, Flannigans just doubled the number of taps at their bar and are serving 3 to 4 German beers at a time now. Not to mention a growing home-brew culture that is emerging thanks mostly to the growth of home brewing in the US.

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