The beer on St. John

Greetings and salutations dear readers! I have returned from my short absence and related trip to beautiful St. John in the US Virgin Islands.

The trip was wonderful — filled with white sand beaches, crystal blue water and many relaxing moments. Future-Wife’s brother got married on one of the most impressive beaches on the island in a great ceremony surrounded by friends and family.

A perfect day, a perfect beach, a perfect couple.


We all couldn’t be prouder to have been a part of that!

All of the time relaxing in the sun meant we needed to be properly hydrated during the trip, which of course meant ample amounts of water and beer.

Prior to this trip I had tried to send Future-Wife’s other brother some beer for his birthday. Unfortunately the Fed-Ex guy gave the box a Stone Cold Stunner and shattered one of the bottles in transit, causing the shipment to get returned. I wound up with some beer-soaked bottles and a can of Julius and he wound up with no beer or birthday card — which was a total bummer.

So we knew we had to rectify this by bringing him some beer down to St. John, and many a beer did we bring.



I stuck to cans thanks to some advice on flying with beer, and was pleased when all of these fit in my suitcase and didn’t put me over the 50 lb checked bag threshold. Oh, and none of them exploded either, which was nice!

We gave him one can of each flavor here from our awesome collection of squirreled-away Tree House beers. The others we reserved for ourselves to be drank sparingly throughout the trip.

That, ladies and gentlemen, simply did not happen.

You see the beer on St. John is, for reasons still unclear to me, almost entirely limited to light lagers and pilsners. That means your choices are pretty much the following:

  • Presidente
  • Red Stripe
  • Coors Light
  • Heineken
  • Bud Light
  • Budweiser
  • Corona
  • Molson Ice

Not exactly the bounty of choices we were accustomed to on the mainland — but when you’re out of your element you have to just go with it.

Still, I kept asking, “why this obsession with these mediocre beers?”  I can see not wanting to drink a stout or porter when it’s 87 degrees out and humid — but where are the IPA’s? You would think the island would be lousy with them. It seems, however, that whoever is paying to import beer is sticking to the typical, “well at least it’s cheap” beer.

The trouble with that is that those mass brewed pilsners and lagers were anything but cheap — we were paying about $24.00 a 12 pack for them!

This is all not to say we didn’t thoroughly enjoy our time there or the beer that was available! Mass marketed or not, those beers went down smooth at the beach and everywhere else on the island. The sticker shock sucked, but we discovered quickly that when you’re on an island you just pay a lot more for everything.

Thankfully we also discovered beer that was local to the island, and two guys who are hell bent on changing the beer scene in the Caribbean.

Sampling some of St. John Brewers tasty beers!

Of the choices on the island the best was clearly the St. John Brewers – Virgin Island Beers.

The story of these guys is just great and a classic tale for a lot of folks on St. John. They were stateside post-college office drones sick of the grinding 9-5 existence, so they took a shot at heading down to the Virgin Islands. They worked as bartenders before realizing they wanted to change the light lager beer scene of the islands. A home brew kit and some determination later and they were brewing up their flagship Mango Pale Ale!

This beer is just tasty, full of mango flavor with a light hop kick. It’s pretty sweet for a pale ale, but it goes down smooth and has a nice clean finish to it. It’s not complex at all — which I found to be a testament to life on St. John. A lot of folks on beeradvocate shit all over this beer, but I think they were being overly harsh or perhaps not enjoying it in it’s native habitat. Or just being beer snobs. Either way I love mango and found this one to be my favorite in the St. John Brewers lineup! Something about the mango and light hop flavor on a hot day that really impressed me.

When the guys at St. John Brewers started to gain traction with their Mango Pale Ale they quickly found themselves hand-delivering cases all over the island in an old Toyota pickup. At one point they had so much beer in the truck that they simply couldn’t make it up the steep winding hills along the island.

It was time for them to advance.

The success of that beer led them to where they are today: brewing and bottling with the help of Shipyard Brewing Company and offering up what is, without a doubt, the best beer on the islands. They have a handful of styles to choose from including a Summer Ale, Amber Ale, Island Hoppin IPA (get it?) as well as a Coffee Stout brewed with coffee from the island.

If you make your way to the US Virgin Islands do yourself a favor and sample some of the great beers the St. John Brewers have. At a minimum they’re significantly better than anything else on the islands and comparable in price.

And if you can put down the pretentious beer snob mustache for a couple minutes you might actually enjoy their beer for what it is: great beer for reclining in a chair and listening to the sounds of the ocean as you de-stress and wonder why everyone on the mainland is so damned uptight.

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