Ask any beer lover which countries produce the best beer. Most will list Belgium, Germany, and England. But these days, countries not associated with good beer-making are upping their game. One such country is the Caribbean Island of Jamaica.
While Jamaica’s tropical climate lends itself to lighter alcohol, beer consumption on the island has not surpassed that of rum. In the last decade, only 42% of total alcoholic drinks consumed on this Caribbean Island were beer beverages.
While beer in Jamaican goes back to the 19th century when Guinness West India Porter was imported to keep Irish workers happy, brewing beer on the island is a more recent economic activity.
Want to learn more about Jamaican beer brands and local brews? Hey mon, let’s get jammin’!
Brief History Of Jamaican Beer
The oldest brewery in Jamaica is Desnoes & Geddes (D & G), which started around 1918, growing into the mega-brewery it is today in Kingston. It is the brewery behind Red Stripe lager, the every day lager of choice on the island.
When Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman drank Red Stripe beers in a scene from the 1993 film, The Firm, sales of the Jamaican beer increased by more than 50% in the US. Following this, D & G sold a $62 million majority stake in its brewery to Guinness Brewing Worldwide, a move which was soon followed by Guinness merging with Grand Metropolitan in 1997 to form the British multinational company Diageo plc.
Major Beer Companies In Jamaica
Beer making is as globalised as our world is today. Dutch mega-brewery Heineken International bought Diageo’s shares in Red Stripe in 2015.
The other two breweries on the island, are much younger. Big City Brewery was snapped up by Razz Breweries on its liquidation in 2012 with Razz Breweries being under a year old at the time.
Is Red Stripe Really Jamaican?
This appears to be the million-dollar question.
Historically, Red Stripe is a Jamaican beer brand, but some report it as having been originally brewed in Galena, Illinois. The same site states that Diageo plc moved the production of Red Stripe from Kingston to Pennsylvania in 2011. It’s your call.
The Most Popular Beer In Jamaica
Red Stripe is considered the most famous and popular Jamaican beer. It is an amber lager with a fresh and clean taste. But the popularity of stouts and darker ales are growing on the island.
Styles Of Jamaican Beer
The lager is the king in Jamaica. It light crispness matches the hot tropical climate. While some ales are produced, Caribbean beers are generally yellow and amber lagers, and pilsners.
10 Of The Best Jamaican Beers To Try
- Red Stripe Premium Lager – Red Stripe is still Jamaica’s preferred beer with our variations. Flavours: cornbread and almonds. Aromas: apples, grains and hoppy malts.
- Dragon Stout – Another in the G & D stable, Dragon Stout boasts aromas of roasted malt with undertones of coffee and chocolate.
- Lion Heart Stout – Lion Heart Stout brewed by Big City Brewing Co Ltd. is a deep and dark milk-stout styled beer. It’s smooth with a bittersweet flavour.
- Razz Hard Jamaican Ginger Beer – If you like your ginger beer on the stronger side, this one’s for you. The best Jamaican ginger, rum, cane sugar and cascade hops go into producing this ginger beer.
- Real Rock Premium Red Lager – A golden American amber/red lager. Many aficionados find its tang superior to Red Stripe lager and Dragon Stout. Notes include hops and sweet malts with hints of citrus.
- Carib Lager – Carib Lager is an American-styled beer produced by Carib Brewery Ltd. With its clear golden yellow colour and low fizz, it is popular throughout the Caribbean.
- Guinness Foreign Extra Stout – D & G brewery also brews the Guinness Foreign Extra Stout in the Irish style with a tan head, aromas of dark chocolate, coffee and liquorice, mild carbonation and the characteristic oily texture.
- Gong 71st – Gong 71st is D & G’s fruit beer with a primary taste of lemon.
- Jamaica Stout – This dark stout has flavours of raisin, dark bread, toast, coffee and milk chocolate with sweet aromas of butterscotch and malts.
- Dragon Gold – The youngest beer in D & G’s stable, Dragon Gold is a pale ale style lager, blended from hops, roasted malts, and pilsen. Aromas include light hops and caramel malts.
What Are The Best Microbrew Or Craft Beers In Jamaica?
Trouble’s Brewing is a small craft brewery that first emerged in 2019. As of September 2021, Trouble’s Brewing offers five beer styles with funky packaging: blonde ale, IPA (India Pale Ale), Hefeweizen (German style wheat ale), Stout and pale ale.
What Are The Best Jamaican Beers To Pair With Jamaican Food Such As Jerk Chicken?
Jamaican lagers with their light freshness are best paired with spicy and colourful cuisine and there’s no shortage of that on Jamaican menus.
Jamaica’s famous jerk spice is a blend of peppers, sage, thyme, onion, and garlic used to spice up BBQ meats. The “jerk” style of spicing grilled meat is now used all over the world and can be tweaked according to regional taste. Smoke is essential, imparting a smoky, sweet, tangy and bold taste.
But don’t forget to try pairing one of Jamaica’s full-bodied stouts with lighter seafood salads.
And don’t forget to brush up on your Jamaican patois, mon! Try the phrases in London, chances are you will make a Jamaican’s day.
How To Order A Beer In Jamaican English
Laid back and casual is the order of the day. To get your hands on an ice cold brew in the Caribean you simply need to say:
May I have a beer? – May mi hab ah beer?
Then you can enjoy your drink, island style!
Jake has been a craft beer and homebrew enthusiast since his college days. He loves scouring Europe for unique and unusual hops to add to his beers.
Founder of Jake’s Brew Haven – he currently hosts beer-tasting sessions at select local pubs in Baltimore.
Jump To a Section Below
- Brief History Of Jamaican Beer
- Major Beer Companies In Jamaica
- Is Red Stripe Really Jamaican?
- The Most Popular Beer In Jamaica
- Styles Of Jamaican Beer
- 10 Of The Best Jamaican Beers To Try
- What Are The Best Microbrew Or Craft Beers In Jamaica?
- What Are The Best Jamaican Beers To Pair With Jamaican Food Such As Jerk Chicken?
- How To Order A Beer In Jamaican English