By Sandy Cares
When you’re island-hopping from one beautiful coastline to the next during a Caribbean cruise, ever wonder about all of those funny Caribbean beer names? What do they mean, anyway? As it turns out, the names of the popular Caribbean brews, ales, pilsners, bocks and lagers are steeped in facets of those islands’ traditions, cultures and surrounding nature.
Carib Beer, for example, is brewed in Trinidad and Tobago as well as St. Kitts and Grenada. The name honors the Caribs, the indigenous people of those islands. In fact, the entire Caribbean Sea is named for the Caribs.
Meanwhile, Aruba’s pilsner, Balashi, is named after an abandoned gold smelt. Early Spanish explorers chalked up Aruba as useless because its thin, dry soil didn’t produce much more than cacti and they saw no hope for gold. But long after the Spanish left, a young boy saw something glitter as he led his donkey across a dry riverbed – gold! Soon a couple of smelts went up, and one was named Balashi.
Another indigenous beer name is Antigua’s Wadadli, of which the exact meaning is lost to history. It is an alternative name for Antigua, and is seen on restaurants, shops, product labels and tourist services.
Kalik beer, the Bahamian lager of choice, certainly sounds like an indigenous word but it is actually the sound of a bell. Cowbells are part of the elaborate head-to-toe costumes donned by celebrants during their yearly “Jonkonnu” festival in the Bahamas. Dancers start at midnight and continue through the next afternoon to greet the New Year clicking – or kaliking – their bells.
Some Caribbean beer names are nature-inspired, like Cayman Islands’ Ironshore bock, which alludes to that tough, ship-shredding limestone that we can all blame for having to tender while in Grand Cayman. Dominica’s Kubuli beer is another great example of this – it comes from the island’s indigenous name, Wai’ Ti Kubuli, meaning “Tall is her body,” which describes the island’s high volcanic peaks.
Piton is a St. Lucian pilsner aptly named for the commanding twin Pitons – those spectacular volcanic cones that not only are a UNESCO World Heritage site, but also the undisputed symbol of St. Lucia.
Even the Maya are represented in a local Caribbean beer. Every label of Belize’s Belikin beer features Altun Ha, one of Belize’s renowned Mayan ruins. But if you ask the locals how their beer came to be called Belikin, they’ll just say it’s because when they drink it, they be likin’ it!
I hope to see many of you in the Caribbean soon! Escape the chilly fall and winter weather with me on one of these sailings: