12
May-2013

Local Beer – Cayman unique Brew

Introduction

Cayman Islands doesn’t have a big tradition on beverage production, either because it was one of the last islands to be inhabited (mid 17th century) in the Caribe or because it did not have the main resources to do so. It is a flat country half covered by mangrove swamps that compared to other islands did not focus on growing Sugar Canes, essencial for rum production. The small population and the close connection to Jamaica that has a long history of Spirits and Beer production may have delayed the beverage production independence that Cayman Islands deserved, but finally in 1995 the Islands decided it was their time and the Stingray Brewery was stablished with Andreas Moerl as the Brew Master producing 3 different beers, a premium a light and a dark version. The reviews online of those beers are poor but it’s normal when you are just starting to do something that no one has done before. From 1995 to 2006 the Stingray Brewery produced beer for local consumption, but in 2006 their were bought by external investors that wanted to do something different, of state-of-the-art quality they said. DSC01875In 2007 The Cayman Islands Brewery (CIB) was founded in the same location with upgrade infrastructure from the previous Stingray brewery, and is today producing a beer that the Island can be proud.

Future Growth

In the beginning CIB had also the representation of internacional beers from inBev with the likings of Budweiser and Stella Artois, but eventually lost the contract to CSC (Cayman  Spirits Company) and is now focused in developing the local production (it still sells one imported beer, the oldest beer in US, Yungeling). Nowadays they only supply the internal market but they believe the time as come to expand, meaning they feel they have enough muscle to tackle the difficulties of overseas sales, more specifically the US Market. This may mean in the long run an expansion of the Brewery, but being now running at 50% of capacity they will be very capable of coping with the overseas demand. It would be a miraculous achievement if they did not have enough capacity to do so.

Eco Friendly

CIB has also tried to be environment and country friendly by starting several campaigns together with their beers, namely the Bottle Recovery Program where they ask the restaurants to send the bottles back so they can clean them and include them back on the circuit. This means that if you drink a bottled beer in the Cayman there are 50% chances someone drank from it already, has 50% is the efficiency rate of this campaign.DSC01898 The White Tip beer sales contribute with 5 cents per bottle to help the White Tip Sharks with the Project promoted by the Cayman Department of Environment.

Future Products

After doing the tour we were informed that they have plans to launch a fruit infused lager which is uncommon as typically the fuit beers are done with the Ales, and the flavour chosen was the orange. It will be a super citrus beer as the Caybrew is already a citrus predominance beer, but other flavours may be added later, namely the Strawberry and Lemon. The fruit extracts will be added to the mal in the beginning of the Brewing process guarantying a smoother blend of the flavours.

Brewing Process

The visit to the Brewery is extensive as we are allowed to see and question about everything, which allows us to have a clear perspective of whole production, and CIB is not exactly a microbrewery. From the process point of view it follows the standard that can be checked here, and it takes 5 weeks for most of the beers and 6 for the Ironshore, but what called my attention was the use of Desalinated water – one of the biggest problems of the Cayman Islands is that due to the porosity of the Limestone ground that covers most of the Islands there are no proper natural sources of fresh water. This means that in the Cayman Islands most of the consumed water is from the Reverse Osmosis facilities (there are 3 in the main Island from Consolidated Water) including the water used in the CIB. Obviously the main problem is the quality of water itself that can never be similar to a natural fresh water source, with the consequences that may or not have in the brewing process. Another characteristic of this Brewery which is normally involved in controversy is the non pasteurisation of its beers, meaning the flavour will be better as the health advantages, even though some feel it could be a risk. From the Stingray beers, their predecessors the introduction of the Czech/Pils Saaz hops gave the beers an extra crispiness and bitter flavour that is now the world trend for beer lovers.DSC01887

Beers

The first beer launched in the Cayman Islands in 2007 and already an award winner is brewed with the common pils malts and takes 5 weeks to be brewed.

Style – Euro Pale Lager
Ingredients – Pilsen Malt
Alcohol – 5%
Beer Advocate Rate69 ( Poor)
Appearance – Straw Yellow, very light
Smell – Mellow smell, not too malty
Taste – Very light hopes, a little grainy and maybe some citrus
Mouthfeel – Light, crisp enough with a reasonable carbonation
Overall – An enjoyable lager for hot days, without nothing special to notice

Launched 2 years after Caybrew this was a simple response to the market demand of lighter beers. The production and ingredients are the same as Caybrew but just in smaller amounts resulting in a lighter beer in body and Alcohol.

Style – Light Lager
Ingredients – Pilsen Malt
Alcohol – 3,2%
Beer Advocate Rate – N/A ( N/A)
Appearance – Straw Yellow, very light
Smell – Mellow smell, not too malty, with more lemon hints than the older brother
Taste – Very light, grainy backbone but goes smooth
Mouthfeel – Super Light with a reasonable carbonation
Overall – Only for real light lovers as this beers brings not much to your mouth

Launched in 2010 this was a product to satisfy the western market, most likely English that is used to darker beers. Keeping the lager process they added to the mash bill three other malts (Cars and Munich for flavouring and stability and Black for color and roasted flavour) and hops from the Cascade Mountains, Wisconsin,  and added one week for fermentation process. This resulted in a classic Bock beer that satisfies the medium dark beer demand and increased the spectrum of the offer of CIB.

Style – Bock
Ingredients – Pilsen Malt
Alcohol – 7%
Beer Advocate Rate – 76 (Average)
Appearance – Amber brown color with a decent foamy head
Smell – Malty, with toasted and toffee hints.
Taste – Light hoppy, some dark sugar
Mouthfeel – Good fizziness
Overall – Decent beer for darker beer lovers, good balance but again nothing out of the ordinary

Launched already in 2012, 6 months after it was already winning awards. it’s profile is quite different from the others as it is much smoother and maltier. The ingredients are the same but the difference is in the production steps specially on the mashing.

Style – Euro Pale Lager
Ingredients – Pilsen Malt
Alcohol – 5,2%
Beer Advocate Rate – N/A
Appearance – Straw Yellow, with a smooth head
Smell – Malty smell, maybe some yeast influence
Taste – It’s all about malt, some bread hints
Mouthfeel – Smooth and creamy, with light carbonation and some final hop flavour
Overall – An enjoyable lager, probably my favourite with all that smooth feel and some residual sweetness

  • 345

Launched also in 2012 this beer was launched to compete with the low cost beers that invaded the island. Selling the CIB beers to restaurants around the Island made the average price for a beer be 4$ or above which is a premium price everywhere in the world, hence the creation of this beer that can only be bought from retail shops. The flavour profile is between White Tip and Caybrew which I haven’t tasted yet so I’m only referring what the Brewery described.

  • Pirates Gold

This beer was created for the Pirates Week and its only produced during the event, a concept made famous with the Oktoberfest style of beer. It’s a beer described as closer to the White Tip, meaning maltier and sweeter than the other beers.

Conclusion

For the influence and presence of CIB in the Islands I believe the company is doing a great job of creating a local beverage symbol. Working in the bar I see the locals proud of drinking their beers and I see a lot of expats drinking it also as it goes toe to toe with any mainstream lager of the market. I’m sure that 20 years from now this will still be a massive beer in the market (I don’t see space or volume for a local competitor) and maybe a good player in the Caribe market when they decide to go that way.

The Tour is worth doing it, and it does not require special arrangements as there are continuous visits during the day, just try to avoid the cruise ships crowds.

Well done Cayman Islands, you have a beer to be proud of.

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