It is fortunate for Cayman that Jordan MacNevin is far better at making beer than he is at making signs.
The new 19-81 Brewing Company is in the old Hertz car rental building on Dorcy Drive across from Car City. Although the company’s tasting room opened July 17, one had to look closely to see that the building wasn’t still vacant. Orange chalk scrawled on the heavily tinted windows featured an arrow with “Open” written above it. The same handwriting announced the daily special on one of the double glass doors: “Order any two beers, pay for both!”
The inauspicious exterior contrasts sharply with the comfortable taproom one finds inside. A bar and several tables allow visitors to sit and quaff MacNevin’s creations.
One of five owners of 19-81 (the latitude and longitude of Grand Cayman), MacNevin is the brewmaster behind the bottles.
Trained in Canada, he first earned a degree in biology, with a minor in chemistry, at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec. The university established its own on-campus brew pub, Bishop’s Arches Brewery, as a practical outlet for its brewing program.
“After taking a beer course, I found it as a way to combine science with being creative,” says MacNevin, who had originally planned to go into medicine. He pursued a graduate degree in brewing science which “put the final nail in the coffin.”
A short time after completing his degree, he says, he was contacted by one of the 19-81’s owners who proposed setting up a microbrewery in Cayman.
Eight months ago, he says, he arrived on the island to find an empty building and two shipping containers filled with brewing equipment. In the ensuing months, an addition to the back of the Hertz office has been turned into a small brewery, filled with stainless steel tanks.
Convinced that island drinkers want lighter, more refreshing beers, he’s brewing three ales: a kolsch-style, a blonde and an IPA, which he calls his three flagship beers.
In addition to the taproom, the beers are available on draft at some island restaurants and bars including the King’s Head, Macabuca, the Lodge and several others.
Acknowledging the dominance of Cayman Islands Brewery – with which he says he is on good terms – MacNevin says he thinks there is a market on the island for microbreweries like his.
“I think there’s even more room for beer growth,” he says. “The idea is to try to create the kind of microbrew culture that you have in America and other places. I think friendly competition makes better beer.”
In addition to 19-81’s three flagship beers, MacNevin is currently pouring a wheat beer. He says he plans to produce a specialty beer about once a month. He’s planning a mango-flavored beer sometime soon.
In an effort to be waste conscious, he says, he is sending his used hops to a local livestock farm to be used as feed. The farmer, he says, has offered to provide him with fruit in return. In addition to the mango beer, he says he may try using sorrel or star fruit in the future.
“We’re going to be doing a lot of experiments in here,” he says. “If one takes off, we could add a flagship.”
The brewery, which has new permanent signage on the way, is open from noon to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. on Fridays. Tours will be offered at 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturdays and by appointment. More information is on the brewery’s website at www.1981brewingco.com.