Banks Brewery – Barbados
Banks’s was founded in 1961, and funded by a public share offering. $2 million dollars was raised in only a few days and the brewery has remained part of the island’s life ever since. The brewery sponsors sports and cultural events around the island and is, by far the most popular beer on the island.
It also allows tours round their small ‘Brewseum’ – followed by copious tastings!
Their flagship brew is a 4.7% ABV ‘Pilsner’ style lager, but have recently introduced a 7% lager brew and ‘Stallion’ a rich, chocolatey stout. They also brew Guinness to 7% for local consumption.
I had already tried their bottled lager and found it to be quite malty, with a disappointing lack of hop bite, but while at the brewery I was able to try the draught version, which is unpasteurised. I found the unpasteurised version to be crisper and more refreshing than the bottled version, but for the purposes of research I tried some bottles in a more controlled environment.
Banks 4.7% ABV (glass bottle)
Banks comes in plastic and glass bottles, the glass bottles containing just 250ml or a little over half an American pint.
It pours pale golden, with a head that could best be described as ‘reluctant’ and it vanishes swiftly with no trace of lacing.
There is the merest hint of hop on the nose, but the overwhelming nose is bready malt, the pasteurisation seems to have blasted the subtle hop oils.
The flavour is much the same, I even turned to check the ‘best before’ date, but these bottles have over six months ‘life’ in them.
I suppose that on an island like Barbados, for all its pride, this makes a fine ‘session beer’ – as our tour guide observed “we are an island that drinks, not an island of drunks” . But in all honesty, for all its chilled refreshment, I’m afraid this just doesn’t quite do it for me, and I’m forced to give this just two stars.
Banks 4.7% ABV (plastic bottle)
The plastic bottle holds a full 330ml (or 20% more beer) for about the same price. As is evident from the photograph, this head can scarcely be described as reluctant! It’s full and foaming, and leaves a respectable lacing.
The nose, while still bready, has more of the hops you would associate with a pilsner style beer. Not as many, I recall, as the same beer on draught, but a distinct improvement on the glass bottle. The hoppy bite is there, but only briefly, those malty notes soon come flooding back, but it’s very refreshing.
While I try to be as objective as I can, and in the Caribbean sunshine that can be a struggle, I would have to rate the Banks’ ‘Brewery Fresh Caribbean Lager’ in the plastic bottle as two and a half stars, the draught as three stars and the glass bottles just two stars.
Given the undoubted difficulties involved with transporting draught beer back to my ship’s cabin, I would have to accept the plastic bottles as a viable compromise.
Bob the Brit