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Bermuda Triangle mystery

August 31, 1998

By Kurt Epps

- Bermuda's first brewpub

First the good news.

The PubScout found the first and only microbrewery (Bermuda Triangle Brewing) in Bermuda, and the beers that come out of it are exceptional. The bad news is that you can't get them here in the US, and even if you go to Bermuda, you might have trouble getting some of them, unless you know where to go.

Bermuda Triangle's boyish president, Paul Mason conducts the daily tours which include unlimited free samples. Paul, a former CPA who jumped the corporate ship to help his brother Phil launch Bermuda's first microbrewery, is an energetic spokesman for not only his brews, but quality craft beer in general. Clad in a damp T-shirt (it's hot in a real brewery), holding a pint of his brew aloft (there are perks to this business), he goes into a spirited presentation about his beer and how it's made. His lively animation during the talk may have been a defense against the swarms of beer-and-sweat-loving gnats which descended on the brewery that day, but he left no doubt about the commitment he has to quality.

And quality can be an expensive proposition. Start-up costs were pegged at between one and two million dollars. Bermuda's logistics demand that BTB import everything but the water, which is collected Bermuda style -- from the roof. The tax on imports is considerable. BTB produces five regular brews that include Hurricane Wheat (a sentimental favorite with the brewery visitors this day whose Bermuda visit was sandwiched between two real hurricanes named Bonnie and Danielle), Spinnaker, Full Moon Pale Ale, Wilde Hogge Amber and Hammerhead Stout.

Paul's Hurricane Wheat was refreshingly crisp and tart with just a hint of raspberry, as opposed to some brews that OD on the stuff. The Spinnaker, a German-style Kolsch Bier, was clean and flavorful with a splendid citrusy nose and floral finish. Spinnaker earned a prestigious Silver medal at the 1996 World beer Championships.

The Full Moon Pale Ale was immensely satisfying and came close to being a Sierra Nevada clone, albeit a bit smoother in mouthfeel. Head brewer Jamie Schier smiles, shrugs and says, "Hey, I'm an American." With the temperature in the 90's and the gnats doing their best impression of living ear muffs, the PubScout saved the award-winning (1997 World beer Championships) Hammerhead Stout for another day, though Paul indicated it was a great favorite of the locals.

But the PubScout's favorite was Wilde Hogge, unavailable from the tap this day, but sold in select pubs, supermarkets and convenience stores on the island. This malty, medium-bodied altbier has a wonderfully coppery/amber color and is delightfully complex in aroma and flavor. I bought mine in a little convenience store at the King's Wharf near where my ship was docked. Pretty good deal, too, ($1.60 US / bottle) considering Bermuda's high prices for most things. The store, like the brewery, offered a ten-pack of BTB's beers (two of each) for just $15.00 US.

BTB's website (www.trianglebeer.com) posts a list of all Bermuda pubs and restaurants that serve its beer, and while the list looks impressive, I wondered aloud why beers of this quality are not generally available everywhere on this tiny island.

That led to an interesting discussion between reviewer and brewer. With Bermuda's traditional links to Great Britain, a beer lover might expect homegrown brews to be available in most of the local liquor stores and pubs on Front Street in Hamilton, Bermuda's capital. But they are not. Two very powerful families, who import the likes of Heineken, Amstel and Beck's, see BTB beers as competition rather than a chance for local promotion. Hence, they do not allow the sale of BTB beers in their liquor stores or in the many pubs who lease space in their buildings.

Sure, you can still get a fine pint of McEwan's, Bass or Newcastle, but you won't find a Bermuda beer to compare them to, unless you know where to go. Ironically, the locals' beer of choice seems to be Heineken. Go figure. Flanagan's Pub on Front Street in Hamilton is one such place. Flanagan's, being Irish, knows good beer, and BTB beer is on their list.

In fact, BTB contract brews Flanagan's flagship beer called Gallagher's Real Ale. This is an outstanding brew, ruby red in color and big on flavor (kind of like its namesake, Tom Gallagher). It seems to be a hybrid of BTB's Full Moon (also on tap) and Wilde Hogge. Whatever it is, it's delicious.

Some initial doubters questioned the wisdom of the Mason Boys' selection of the name Bermuda Triangle for their company, fearing the name and what it connotes. But Paul says, "We're slamming, especially in summer. And we're looking to expand our markets. The Bermuda triangle Omystery' isn't all that powerful these days."

From this perch, the only mystery seems to be why the big distributors haven't accepted these quality beers into the family fold of Bermuda products.

Bermuda Triangle Brewing
#2 S.A.L. Middle Road
Southampton, Bermuda
(441)-238-2430
FAX (441)-238-1759
E-mail: beerman@ibl.bm

®Kurt E. Epps 1998 All Rights Reserved

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