the Virgin Islands are for rum, not beer

I always knew I married into a good family. Last week I had the great fortune of tagging along on the Big Gnome Family Vacation to the Virgin Islands. The first four days we stayed at the Maho Bay campground on St. John and then spent the last four days off Magen’s Bay in St. Thomas. It was an awesome and relaxing week, and I even managed to avoid a sunburn!

View of the sunset from our balcony at
Maho Bay.

I would definitely say I enjoyed the stay in St. John over St. Thomas. St. John is much less developed and is primarily a national forest. The Maho Bay campground is an eco-friendly, rustic and secluded setting. We stayed in bungalow houses that had fantastic views of the bay. (Check out that photo to the right.) While the bugs were a nuisance, being late October, everything else was fantastic. It was so peaceful not having the drone of traffic, radio or TV constantly in the background. And the stars were something to behold at night!

Me and my mango.

There are two breweries out of the Virgin Islands, St. John Brewers and the Virgin Islands Brewing Company. I tried a couple beers from the St. John Brewers. They have a tropical mango pale ale which was pretty good, especially considering I generally don’t like fruity beer. It wasn’t too sweet and was a great complement to drinking on a beach when you want something better than a Corona. I also heard some legend of a Blackbeard Ale from VI Brewing Co., but alas, I could never find it.

The beer scene in St. John was minimal. Cruz Bay is the largest town in St. John, and there was a little air conditioned bar there called the Tap Room, which is owned by the St. John Brewers people. They have a very small microbrew setup on location, but being the off-season, they didn’t have any of their own beer on tap. They contract brew their Mango Pale and Summer Ale. At the Tap Room I was able to get some Left Hand ESB and milk stout on draught. I never found anywhere else to get draught beer on the islands. Bottles and cans seem to be the way to go. Since everything has to be imported onto the islands, I imagine it’s easier to package and ship cases of bottles than those huge, heavy kegs. That’s my guess, anyway.

There is nothing better than a Presidente
after a long day on the trail.

The only other local/regional beers I was able to get my hands on was Presidente, which was a decent pilsner from the Dominican Republic, and Carib, which is a Corona-like lager with a little more body and better flavor than the market-share leading counterpart. I would say that both are good alternatives to the “domestic” stuff you find anywhere, so I’d recommend going with it if that’s all you’ve got. The best part is that Presidente is usually on special, so I found several bars that had it for $2/bottle. When you’re paying $3.50 for a Miller Lite, that’s a great bargain.

While the islands were a great time and the scenery was magnificent, I’m definitely glad to be back home. I don’t think I’m cut out for tropical island living. Stepping off the plane and breathing the cool fall air was refreshing. I’m actually looking forward to bundling up and enjoying some winter weather. That is, if you consider that South Carolina has a “winter.”


About Brian

I like beer.
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4 Responses to the Virgin Islands are for rum, not beer

  1. weezer says:

    Ah… Presidente, know it well. The only beer served at the Majestic.

  2. Thanks for the tips, Brian. I wanted to check out the Tap Room but never got the chance.
    The St. John Brewing Summer Ale was tasty, indeed. But I’ll testify that even Miller Lite tastes better when consumed on that lovely bit of paradise.

  3. unmatchedstyle says:

    I think that really is a truism, that beer tastes better depending on WHERE you consume it.

  4. Papa Z says:

    Great Article. I understand a case of Blackbeard ale was snorkeling distance from Whistlers Cay. Too Bad you didn’t drink the the special ale that Blackbeard and his cronies drank after they got a little booty.
    Keep up the great articles. When are you heading to Colorado or Costa Rica?

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