Drinking on Grand Bahama Island

You probably know our dad from the positive and sometimes cryptic comments he leaves on pretty much all of our posts. Maybe you read the guest post he wrote with our mom after visiting Abingdon’s Wolf Hills Brewing Company a couple years ago. Or, perhaps you follow him on Trip Advisor, where his thorough and comical reviews help fellow travelers find the best hot dog spots and reasonably priced hotels in the country. (I’m begging you to read his praising, but honest reviews of Cville’s Blue Grass Grill. Here’s a teaser: “I reviewed the Bluegrass Grill some years ago, and slammed it for its archaic and unworkable waiting list.”) Our dad just visited his sister Susan in the Bahamas and offered to write a guest post about the The Bahamian Brewery.
Without further ado…

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     My sister Susan (Tooti) and I visited the Bahamian Brewery on 2-9-16. Let me first describe the physical setting. The brewery is located on the western end of Grand Bahama Island and is just west of Freeport proper at the intersection of Queen’s Highway and Grand Bahama Way. This area is primarily industrial and business-oriented, and the brewery is very near the large and busy shipping port and one of the cruise ship docks. The spiritual setting is much different. James “Jimmy” Sands opened the Brewery in 2007, the brewer is German, and the beers are consequently lagers and not the porters, stouts, and IPAs routinely featured on this blog. The brewery, however, is 100% Bahamian owned and operated and features the cool, clear Bahamian water. It also has a hip and laid-back island feel.

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     Please understand that while Bahamian is not Budweiser or Coors, it is also not a micro-brewery or a small batch distiller. The tour was therefore less intimate than others I have experienced. We viewed production by peering from a catwalk and not by walking among the beer and hops while volunteers tend the process. It was nonetheless pretty cool to watch the bottles clink along the line, going from the washer to the labeler. We also peered in the “lab,” met the brewer, and saw the keg room. The real fun began in the tasting room.

     The tasting room and the tasting were indeed the real highlights of the tour. Our guide Crystal really came alive at this point, vividly describing the beer and giving us local history. The room itself was attractive with a long bar and several tables. Crystal set a nice atmosphere with some cool music, which included, I think, Ronnie Bother performing “Big Bam Boo” and “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.” Joining us for the tasting were two friendly snowbirds from Detroit and a couple with their daughter.

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     We tasted 6 beers, and I enjoyed each one:

  1. Sands- named for the owner’s family, this lager is crisp and clean and has a pleasant color and odor. It would be great in a bottle or can and would go down smoothly on a hot day with some conch fritters.
  2. Sands Light- this beer is also very refreshing and, as the name suggests, is lower in calories.
  3. High Rock- this was my favorite of the beers we sampled. Named for a local settlement, High Rock is richer than the two Sands beers and has a smooth, clean taste. According to the brewery website, “High Rock is brewed using the German ‘Purity Law,’ malt , water, hops and yeast.”

IMG_27024. Bush Crack- at 5.9 % alc/vol, the Bush Crack has more alcohol than many of its competitors. I enjoyed its taste, but the story behind the name is even better than the taste. Crystal really told this story well, but I will paraphrase: a man works every day, leaving the house at eight and returning at five. He leaves his woman behind, and she grows lonely. Another man begins stopping by the house. Growing suspicious, the husband comes home early one day to check on things. The boyfriend hears him coming, escapes out the window, and jumps into the bushes. The husband looks out the window, but all he sees is “bush crack, man gone.”
5. Virgil’s Ale- perhaps having had one too many High Rocks at this point, I remember little about the Ale, but it is brewed for one restaurant only and is not available for sale.
6.Strong Back-this is the brewery’s stout and weighs in at 7.6%. Tooti found it a bit syrupy but I think it would grow on you after several sustained drinking bouts.

     Here are a few final observations. The tasting room used plastic cups. It did not inhibit the flavor, but it did make it more difficult to view (and photograph) the offerings. The Brewery has a full liquor store that offers not only its brews but also other beers, wine, and liquor. Finally, the attached gift shop was quite nice and offered an extensive array of t-shirts and other Bahamian Brewery paraphernalia.

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Thanks, Dad! We’ve said it time and time again, thanks for putting beer in our bottles. It got us on the booze train early.*

-R

*The final line is a joke. Our parents never promoted underage drinking.

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