Friday, February 18, 2011

The Jamaican Campaign for Real Ale

The wine revolution in Jamaica is in its advance stages. It is a revolution that was started some time ago and has spread all over Jamaica with the opening of new wine bars, restaurants and wine shops. Wine tasting nights and food pairing festivals have also become a regular thing.  As a result Jamaicans have developed a taste for and are now very knowledgeable about the different types of wines from various regions around the world.

The Jamaican Beer Revolution is still nowhere to be seen. Not much have changed with regards to the local beer market. For the most part our choices are very limited between Red Stripe, Heineken and one or two other generic lager. For stouts the choice is Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and on occasion, one sometimes might find the odd Guinness draft. All-in-all the Beer selection is very predictable, very boring and as a result the Jamaican taste for beer has not progressed beyond the basic lager and stout supply.

Jamaica in my opinion Jamaica is the most boring place when it comes to beer drinking, simply because of the limited selection available to the people and how beer in general is both viewed and marketed. There was a time when our concept of wine and beer was on the same simple, low level but wine is no longer on that Wincarnis tonic wine level.

Not only is the selection of beer limited and predictable but the taste of the selected beer is also limited and predictable, a Red Stripe by design will always taste like a Red Stripe, the same can also be said for all the other lagers and stout, you know what to expect when you open a bottle or a can. The manufacturers have decided that this was how they want their product to taste and the population with its limited selection pool have no other choice but to acquire a taste for that product. For many years growing up in Jamaica this was all we had to drink, all we had to choose from and as such, old habits die hard, we have acquired the taste for a cold Red Stripe or Heineken on a hot tropical day as we convinced ourselves that there is nothing like it in the world without having experienced and explored other possibilities.

The world of Beer is as diverse as the world of wine, so why then do we limit ourselves to these basic beer supply? There are many different types of beers, many different brewing styles that have revolutionized the world of beer.

The development of the craft beer industry have brought imagination and innovation to the beer drinking world which now surpasses the diversity of the wine industry. Then we have the traditional concept of Real Ale, whether it be Cask Conditioned or Bottle Conditioned Ales. These are ales brewed using historical traditional methods and ingredients using top fermenting yeast at warmer temperatures. This beer is then allowed to mature over time like fine wine, in the container use to dispense it. This is a process known as secondary fermentation as the primary fermentation already took place in fermentation tanks at the brewery. Beer is now a living breathing entity that changes over time, live yeast carry on the process of fermentation even on the supermarket shelves in the case of Bottled Conditioned Ale or in cask located in the pub cellar.

Like wine, the beer matures because fermentation is allowed to continue which changes the taste, characteristic and sensations over time.

With this process there is no need to infuse the beer with gases as the live yeast gives off natural effervescence during fermentation. These ales like craft beer can also be flavoured, infused with the essence of fruit, herbs and spices to enhance the taste even more. 

A World Wide Beer Revolution is in full swing as pubs across Great Britain, Europe and America pride themselves on delivering locally brewed beers to their customers. As per CAMRA (Campaigning for Real Ale) there are over 2,500 different Real Ales brewed regularly in the UK. In America the supply of craft Beers from microbreweries and brew pubs have increased dramatically over the years and everywhere around the world people gather at annual beer festival events to taste the latest brew.
Jamaica is ripe for a Beer Revolution, I have seen brewers around the world using brand Jamaica to sell their products, for example Jamaica Red Ale from California, Blue Point’s Rastafa Rye a delicious Rye Beer comes even with a dreadlocks Rasta man on the bottle and Hemp Ale infused with hemp oil just to name a few. Jamaicans can also be as innovative and create our own local Real Ale.  We could also explore the idea of growing hops at higher elevations which would be one less raw ingredient to import. Unlike the wine revolution which is 100% import base, the beer revolution can be for the most part a locally driven revolution, based mainly on local production, importing only the raw material required, that is not to say that we should not explore what is out there, it would be a sin not to, we can learn from others. Beer is seasonal, winter ales are normally heavier than summer ales, I am certain that summer ales and some winter ales would do very well in Jamaica utilizing natural Jamaican fruits and spices with local spring water to add a unique Jamaican flavor and aroma to locally brewed Real Ale.

Mad River Brewing: Jamaica Brand Ale

It is my hope that a day will come when Jamaican brew masters will fill our supermarkets with locally brewed beers taking advantage of our unique resources, creating Ales with distinctive Jamaican characteristic with names like Three Finger Jack, St. Elizabeth Red, Blue Mountain Porter infused with Blue Mountain Coffee or Appleton Red Ale using old rum cask for primary fermentation. My personal dream is to create my flagship ale, Comfort Ale brewed and bottled on my own farm Comfort Farm in St. Mary using natural spring water from the guava river located on the Farm, infused with fruits and herbs from the farm to deliver a new unique flavor and served using a hand pump in my own Gastro pub, The Comfort Pub/Ale House.

Let the revolution begin!

Some of my Favorite English Ales:
  • Doom Bar – Sharp’s Brewery
  • Jail Ale – Dartmoor Brewery
  • Summer Lighting  - Hop Back Brewery  
  •  Butcombe Blond – Butcombe Brewery
  • Tribute – St. Austell Brewery
  • Fuller's 1845
  • Brakspear Triple/Bitter
  • Spitfire Premium Kentish Ale

  • One of the best I've ever had.. A+

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