September 4, 2009

Session #31: Summer Beers

This month, Peter (& Sammy) at Better Beer Blog ask us beer bloggers to blog-tificate on Summer Beer; not necessarily beers with images of sunshiny beaches or picking peaches on Gramma's farm, but the ones that quenched our collective thirst this summer. And I had a helluva vacation this summer that, for the first time in a long time, was in no way a beer-cation.

The first beer I had in Puerto Rico wasn’t anything to blog home about, but I didn’t come for the beer. Half Pint and I went to Puerto Rico because it has a tiny, undeveloped island called Vieques afloat in tepid Caribbean waters that blend from cobalt to azure. It’s also home to hundreds of wild horses, a handful of restaurants that offer house-made infused spirits using native fruits such as quenepos and star fruit.

Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States. American citizens don’t need a passport to travel there, and it only takes a first-class stamp to mail a letter home, but neither natives nor gringos can vote in federal elections (despite holding primaries!?), it possesses a decidedly second-world look and feel, and most telling of all, you can search alto y bajo and not find a single American craft brewed beer.

Half Pint did our vacation research. The kind where you go to get away from everything. I don’t think I’ve spent a week offline and without a computer at all since 1996. And certainly, as I mentioned, this was not a beer vacation. She found a rental casita owned by Joe and Mimi, ex-pats from Pittsburgh. They love their bare bones life on the island, but Joe would wrestle one of the wild horses for a can of Iron City beer. The fact that the water felt like Sapphire soup compared to the brain-numbing water I’m used to in the San Francisco Bay still didn’t keep me from craving a well-stocked fridge of Anchor Steam.

So back to that first beer I had. After almost a full day of traveling by seven modes of transportation from our apartment to our rental casita, Mimi had fresh-baked mango coffee cake (they have four different types of mango trees in their backyard) and some ice-cold Medalla Lights waiting for us, which helped combat the heat and humidity. Cervezeria India is the only production brewery in Puerto Rico. It’s indistinguishable from Coors Banquet, which is fitting because I was told only gringos drink Medalla Light and Puerto Ricans drink Coors Light. In this climate, the only thing you’d ever reach for is a lager, which is fortunate, since availability ranges from bottles of Dominican brewed Presidente to cans of Schaeffer. Yes, Schaeffer. I half expected to find a case of Fallstaff in a tiende.

Our week of sunbathing, snorkeling, and just floating in the Caribbean ended muy rapido. Too rapido. But instead of taking seven straight transportation vehicles home, we split them up and spent a night in Old San Juan on the main island. Primarily a seaport for cruise lines, the area houses all the chains we escaped, but with a grande added bonus. A bona fide brewpub!

But that, my friends, is another story. It's a story about the Old Harbor Brewery that will be published in Celebrator soon. It's a great brewpub, but when I think back about Vieques, my summer beer of 2009 was gold can after gold can of Medalla Light (ranging from 4-6% ABV, such is their QC program).

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