Local brewing community mourns the loss of pioneer

The Cayman Islands brewing community is mourning the loss of Allen Chu Fook, the first general manager of Cayman Islands Brewing Company.

Chu Fook, from Trinidad, passed away on 22 Aug. at the age of 74, and is fondly remembered in Cayman for developing the portfolio of Caybrew and its sister brands.

He is survived by his wife Gail Chu Fook; his children Suzette, Carolyn and Christian; siblings Eva and Stanley; and grandchildren Alyssa, Lyndsey, Ethan and Addison.

Christian Chu Fook said his father was ill for the final two months of his life and that his final decline was both very rapid and unexpected.

“Dad was a student of life and someone who understood the fundamental principles of life and relationships,” he said. “He led our family through times of uncertainty while always making us feel safe. He was always available to us when we needed support and dropped whatever he was doing to be there for us. He took the time to learn each one of his family members, and if something was important to us, he made it important to him. He always had room to love more and help more.”

Allen Chu Fook was born in Trinidad on 18 June 1945 and grew up in the town of Belmont. His father passed away when he was just 7 years old, and his mother had to care for him and his four siblings. Chu Fook earned a scholarship to Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Biochemistry.

Christian Chu Fook said his father began working as a brewer for Carib Brewery in Trinidad after his graduation, and he moved his family to Grenada in 1989 to work for Grenada Breweries. He later became managing director for Grenada Breweries, and by the time he arrived in Cayman in 2007, he had more than four decades of experience in the brewing industry.

Stephen Webster, chairman of Cayman Islands Brewing Company’s board of directors, said that Chu Fook would be remembered as an influential force in the local brewing scene.

“He relished the opportunity to help create a serious brewing force in Cayman and he and his wife Gail settled comfortably into the Cayman community,” said Webster in an email.

“After getting the brewery on the right road and recruiting his own replacement, Allen returned to Trinidad in 2011 but maintained his role as [chief executive officer] of the Caribbean Brewers Association. Allen was a real ‘Trini’, but with contacts throughout the Caribbean and, of course, with strong UK relationships having studied at university in Edinburgh.

“A very popular man who could mix in any circles. We shall remember him fondly.”

Before arriving in Cayman, he was responsible for the first attempt at crafting a Trinidadian light beer in 1987, while working for the Caribbean Development Company. That beer was called Carib Light, and he later worked on developing Carib Lager, which was exported to the United States.

He was also instrumental in the design and construction of a new brewery in Trinidad, and he not only brewed its first beer, but he trained the brewers who would take the brewery forward.

When he arrived in Cayman, he found that he had a steep task laid in front of him.

“It was an uphill battle at the time,” said former Caybrew spokesperson Matthew Leslie. “Back then, you couldn’t pay someone to drink our beer. People had that attitude: If it was local, it wasn’t any good. He really tried his best in terms of putting emphasis on hitting the local market and interacting with people.

“He would come on the road with me when we made sales calls. He made friends with all the customers. And if he met a customer, he wanted to learn everything about that person so they could have a good conversation. He was really good and really generous with the staff and giving us bonuses.”

Leslie said he would remember Chu Fook as a mentor and as a gregarious and studious co-worker.

He said that Chu Fook would have a coffee every day and read the newspaper before beginning his work, and he was passionate about being knowledgeable about politics and current events.

“To the other people, he was their boss. For me, he was my boss and friend,” said Leslie. “He was very supportive and relied on me heavily to learn the streets of Cayman.

“He took an interest in me, a young guy who had ideas. When I came into the brewery, I was the spokesperson, but he allowed me to run my other businesses. He always told me, ‘You make sure you give this much time to the brewery and you’ll always have a place here.’”

Chu Fook was laid to rest at Church of the Nativity in Diego Martin, Trinidad, on 29 Aug.