It’s a tradition that dates back well before your first sunburn. As far as beach essentials go, a light, chilled, easily sessionable beer is right up there with “bathing suit” and “comfortable seating.” But despite both the growth in the number of breweries and the amount of beer produced in the last five years, the most common bottles you’ll see in this beachy situation are your mass-produced, nearly transparent brews—Corona, Modelo, maybe a Pacifico, Tecate or your favorite of the Coors/Miller/Bud/Natty/Keystone lights.
(This isn’t for lack of choice. See a bevy of summer beer lists or the renewed interest in the Gose style for evidence.)
Now in this seemingly well-entrenched group of sun sidekicks, enters an unfamiliar name: Banks Caribbean Lager. No, sadly, this is not some new craft offering that could take over sandy coolers everywhere. Instead, Banks is a well-established Pilsner-ish American Lager from Barbados (founded in the 1960s), where it’s overshadowed by the elder statesman of the mass rum world (Mount Gay). And although it’s been available to all Caribbean tourists for awhile and some Americans (“select markets”) since 2008, last summer Banks signed with Total Beverage Solutions to increase its US distribution along the East Coast. Now you can find it in New Orleans’ Caribbean-like heat or around Paste’s Decatur home for instance.
The good news? Banks is a definitive step up from its American-based brethren. It hits all the familiar big beach beer notes (low ABV, easy to drink, etc.) but this lager has an interesting dryness to it that hits with the initial taste and lingers a bit after. It gives the beer an Earth-ier or grainier flavor comparatively, which is a nice change of pace when its competitors are more along the lines of “water-y with slight beer notes.” It’s light in your mouth without much of an aroma either way, the kind of beer where it’s easy to forget when it’s time for a refresher.
The bad news? Banks is still a mass-produced beach sipper. If you’ve found a craft beer that works for your water front relaxation, Banks will not change your mind. But what Banks ultimately does is remind us that we deserve better, widely available, cheap beach beers at this point. If a brew is ultimately improved by some travel-inspired alteration (my friend Zach likes to add a shot of Campari to these style brews), it’s the beer that needs to get better, not the amateur bartenders.
Brewery: Banks Beer
City: St. Michael, Barbados
Style: Adjunct American Lager
Availability: Limited, East Coast