Cayman Islands Brewery has every reason to raise a bottle or two. Despite being one of the region’s newest and smallest breweries, the George Town-based concern did incredibly well in scooping up several top awards at the recent 5th Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival.
The event, in St. Maarten from Nov. 6-7, attracted many of the leading breweries and distilleries from the region and beyond to the prestigious Caribbean Alcohol and Beverage Association’s Taste contest.
Having entered its Caybrew, Caybrew Light, 345 stout, Mango Tango, Ironshore Bock and White Tip brands in six categories, the brewery further cemented last year’s winning streak when 345 Stout took gold in the dark beer category; Caybrew Premium Light won gold for pale lager; and a brace of silvers were won for Ironshore Bock (strong beer) and Mango Tango (specialty beers/ales).
“We’re very humbled and pleased that we did so well in this year’s CAB contest,” said brewery representative Matthew Leslie. “We were up against some very stiff competition from most of the region’s oldest and most well-known breweries.
“At just nine years in, we’re still relative rookies. As well as giving us major international exposure and bragging rights, especially when you realize that the likes of Carib and Red Stripe are way older, we’ve earned the respect of other breweries.”
Mr. Leslie was quietly confident when asked whether this kind of publicity would entice the brewery to start exporting. He said the company continues to entertain export requests from distributors in the U.S. – particularly those in Florida and the Carolinas – and in the Caribbean/Central American region from Jamaica, Belize, the British Virgin Islands and Honduras.
“As we grow, we will add more brands to our portfolio [to] meet the various tastes of the population. We also are looking forward to eventually exporting to the United States as the demand is high,” he said.
Spurred on to expose their brands in the global marketplace, the brewery is entering the Monde Selection in Stockholm, Sweden, where it previously won gold.
Away from international plaudits, the brewery maintains that its commitment to customers has never ended in making quality beers. The firm takes its standing in the community seriously enough to be one of the island’s leading recyclers and green businesses on several levels.
With its White Tip larger, possibly the world’s first conservation lager, part of the proceeds of each sale go to the local Marine Conservation Fund and Save Our Seas Foundation. And in a clever marketing move, the brewery has partnered with marine conservationist Guy Harvey to issue a limited edition art series, with the brand to fund efforts to protect marine life.
Perhaps its best known green campaign is its return policy, which encourages consumers to exchange empty cases for cash (24 bottles for $2); further to all this, Cayman Islands Brewery promotes aluminum recycling, sending crushed cans overseas.
The brewery’s multifaceted approach also ensures minimal amounts of waste water by having a dedicated treatment process to purify and reuse millions of gallons for cleaning and irrigation. Another eco-initiative is its donation of all spent grains (used in the production process) to the islands’ farmers for free.
“Sure, we want to increase our reach, and are confident in our brands,” Leslie, “but that will never be at the expense of our long-term environmental responsibility to Cayman.”
Tasting Notes for this year’s award-winning brands
According to the company’s brew masters, Caybrew is a clear hay-colored beer with a white foam cap and a fresh grain aroma with an herby background and spicy grassy notes. Consumers should experience a light-bodied moderate carbonation and a short, clean finish. Caybrew goes well with salads with vinaigrette dressings, mild Indian cuisine, light seafood and pizzas and light pastas.
White Tip is a brilliant deep-gold with the scent of sweet bread. It has a malt forward sweetness, moderate carbonation and slightly more body than Caybrew, with a short, clean finish. Great with jerk chicken and pork, it is also an ideal beverage to pair with hot wings, most spicy foods and shellfish.
Caybrew Premium Light is clear and straw-colored with a fresh bread aroma and very light hop notes in the background. The beer sustains its aroma in its taste with a slightly herbaceous, sweet-grass flavor. The beer should feel light-bodied in the mouth with moderate carbonation and a refreshing and short finish. Ideal for drinking with light seafood, such as sole and tuna, it also works well with salads and oil-based pasta dishes.
Ironshore Bock has a clear copper color with an off-white foam cap and gives off a caramel, brown sugar and floral aroma. In terms of taste, it has roasted malt brown sugar and caramel notes. Medium bodied with moderate carbonation, Ironshore has a sweet and short finish. A good barbecue beer, it goes well with burgers and seared meats such as jerk chicken/pork.
345 Stout is dark brown with ruby highlights and a mocha foam cap. With a milk chocolate and fresh coffee beans aroma, it also has accents of molasses and dark brown sugar. The stout’s taste contains chocolate up front with a bitter coffee finish that lingers. In terms of its mouthfeel, it is full-bodied with low to medium carbonation and sweet finish/long finish with its chocolate flavors lingering on the palate. Ideal food pairings include charred meats, strawberry cheesecake, chocolate-based desserts and tart fruits like sour cherries.
Mango Tango has a brilliant clear-gold color with a frothy white head. It has a fresh juicy mango aroma with hints of grains in the background. It has a sweet mango taste with bread notes. The specialty beer’s mouthfeel is medium in carbonation and a light-bodied, clean finish. Excellent food pairings include light salads, seafood, Mexican food, jerk chicken and fruit salad.