This blog documents my attempt to drink a beer from every country in the world and every state in the United States.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Country #40: Barbados

Beer: Banks Caribbean Lager

Brewery: Banks Barbados Breweries Ltd., St. Michael, Barbados

ABV: 4.7%

Happy New Year 2013! No, not a typo, I actually drank this beer just about a year ago. Time to get writing again!
Here’s a trivia question that you probably already know the answer to if you’re reading this: what is the first country in North American to see the sun’s rays in the New Year? Hint: it’s not Nicaragua. 

It’s Barbados, by far the easternmost of the Caribbean countries. On the morning of January 1st the sun rises punctually at 6:21 a.m. in Bridgetown. Even though St. John’s, Newfoundland, is quite a bit farther east, it’s also much farther north, and in the depths of winter the sun will rise much later (7:49 on 1/1) and set much earlier there than in Barbados. The opposite is true in summer, of course: Barbados is the first place in North America to get dark every evening. But SAD is probably not a big issue in Barbados in the winter, whereas it might be in St. John’s, or in Fairbanks, Alaska (New Year’s sunrise time: 10:54 a.m.).

Nothing makes a New Year's hangover worse than the tilt of the Earth's axis. That, and rum. (The highlighted island is Barbados, genius).
The problem for Bajans (fancy word for people from Barbados) is that if they’re hung over on New Years Day, and lack adequate window shades, it’ll be tough for them to sleep it off for long. And if you’re hung over in Barbados, you’re most likely hung over on… not beer. Instead, you’ve probably drunk an ungodly amount of rum. Piña coladas! Daiquiris! Rum and cokes! Rum and coke and rums! Rum and rums! And so on. 

I'm not sure if this is the view from Mount Gay, but those are definitely sugarcane plants. The random yellow shape on the rum bottle is a map of the island, if you haven't figured that out yet, Drunky.
However, if you were chasing your rum with beer, as any good drunk should, you were probably swilling Banks. It is by far the most popular beer in Barbados, though its market share has been shrinking due to imports from other islands like Trinidad and Saint Lucia. (The Banks brand is also produced in Guyana, which, despite its location on the continent of South America, might as well be a Caribbean island, and it also dominates the market there—hence the “Caribbean Lager” designation. If anyone in NYC sees Guyanese Banks for sale at a bodega somewhere, let me know, and I’ll drink the stuff all over again.)

Three sheets to the wind: representations of sails on three different places on the bottle.
Guess what: it tastes like beer. It’s a Crap National Lager for sure, and despite the heavy influence of British culture on Barbados, it doesn’t taste like much, even compared to, say, Saint Lucia’s Piton. But you know the drill by now. It’s hot, the sun is shining, and so you don’t want a porter or even a pilsner. You want a Banks. And so it goes.

Other Barbados things, clockwise from top left: (1) Girls at Carnival, (2) Girls at Carnival drinking Banks, (3) Rihanna at Carnival, (4) Rihanna Drinking Banks, and (5) 3004 Olympic limbo champ Barbados Slim.
What’s also remarkable is that tiny Barbados (equal in population to Toledo, Ohio) is exporting this stuff at all. I found mine while visiting my in-laws in Florida, but it’s also available up and down the east coast. I can’t claim to know much about the finances of the Banks Brewery, but the country of Barbados is an economic powerhouse for its size and location. In addition to obvious tourism and sugarcane farming industries, it’s become a bit of an offshore finance center, so companies, be they breweries or widget factories, can pretty easily attract the type of local investment necessary to produce enough product to export their wares, unlike other tiny island nations. Take that, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines!

Pretty sure this would be the biggest building on both Antigua AND Barbuda.