Brewery: Brasserie Nationale d'Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
|It's a beer! From a Caribbean country! In a stubby bottle!|
We’ve probably all had Red Stripe before, but this isn’t Red Stripe, it’s Prestige Lager from Haiti. Red Stripe is popular all over the Caribbean, and has been brewed for almost 100 years, presumably in that squat, brown bottle the entire time. So, when Prestige was introduced in 1976, it probably made sense to try to ride those coattails. The marketing logic, as I imagine it: when you think of Red Stripe, you think of warm weather and leisure, and, if you’ve been to Jamaica, you think of Jamaica. So, if you hold a stubby brown bottle of beer in your hand, even if it says “Prestige” on it instead of “Red Stripe,” you think of warm weather and leisure too, even if you’re drinking it on a windy rooftop deck in Boston in December (as I was).
|Here's what the bottle cap looks like. Fortunately, whatever money they are saving on graphic design seems to have been put into making a decent beer.|
Insofar as offering warm weather and leisure, Haiti is batting .500. It’s warm, but, as the Western Hemisphere’s poorest and least-developed country (by a wide margin), leisure is hard to come by. The earthquake that struck the country in 2010 made things more bleak, and after an initial global outpouring of support, relief has died down, and the situation is still bad. Check out the heartbreaking photos of the country, two years later, here.
|I showed this map (sans arrow), illustrating Human Development Index per country, in my class on Monday. A hawkeyed student asked what that "one country in the Caribbean is that's red." Now he knows.|
Back to the beer: I was surprised to find it at a packy in Cambridge, Massachusetts; I didn’t think Boston had any kind of Haitian community, but it turns out it does. And believe it or not, it’s pretty good! It has a nice, malty flavor to it, certainly more so than the average Crap National Lager. I’d say it tastes just like Red Stripe. In fact, if Red Stripe didn’t print their labels directly on their glass bottles, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this WAS Red Stripe with a different label slapped on the front.
Haitians like it too: it enjoys a 98% market share in its home country. However, the Duvaliers received something like a 98% share of votes when they were in power in Haiti, and I don’t think Haitians liked them too much. So, perhaps there is some kind of trade restriction on importing beer into Haiti. The internet lacks for information on this front.
|One of the less-heartbreaking pictures of Port-au-Prince from Boston.com's excellent "Big Picture" photo essay of Haiti two years after the quake. Note the Prestige sign.|
Fortunately, the internet is good for other things, like finding out how to donate to rebuilding Haiti, which still needs all the help it can get. Including pumping a few gourdes into the economy by buying a six pack of Prestige, I just donated a few bucks to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund here. You should too.