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Runaway Happy Hour: Cheers to Jamaican Red Stripe!

January 30, 2015

Growing up in Jamaica, and working my way through my teenage and young adult years, the beer I (Zickie) drank and knew was always a nice “ice cold Red Stripe."  There were others around, like Heineken, but the beer of choice for me was always Red Stripe.  In my 20s, a favorite moment to savor was popping a Red Stripe into the freezer, then playing my evening game of football (what my American wife calls soccer!) from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm in the evenings.  I’d come back home, sit on the ground all hot and tired, and knock back a nice ice cold Red Stripe. Ahhhhhh. Heaven.

(The bliss of Jamaica's Red Stripe. Photo by Derek Preston, Flickr)

 

Similar moments of enjoyment involved being on the beach at Lime Cay (close to Kingston), chest high in the Caribbean sea in a circle of friends chatting away, that short brown stubby bottle with its distinguishing label in hand.  A number of strong memories of happy moments in Jamaica feature Red Stripe in the scene somewhere, whether in my hand or in a friend's hand.

(Red Stripe is a part of Jamaica's daily life. Photo by List in the Woods, Flickr)

 

So where does Red Stripe come from?  Where did it get that name? Let me share a little about my island's famous brew. Red Stripe beer is brewed by Desnoes & Geddes in Jamaica.  Desnoes and Geddes Limited was formed way back in 1918 by Eugene Peter Desnoes and Thomas Hargreaves Geddes, who combined their two shops into one business. (According to a 75th anniversary retrospective in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, the two had met earlier while Desnoes was employed as a 12-year-old "door opener" at the West Indies Mineral and Table Water Company.) 

(The distinctive color & logo of Red Stripe. Photo by Laura Albritton.)

 

The first Red Stripe beer was produced there in Jamaica in 1928. The famous brand was originally applied to an ale, which was too heavy to suit local tastes.  The 4.7% abv, pale lager version, was developed in 1938 by Paul H. Geddes, son of the company founder, and Bill Martindale.  It is interesting to note that Red Stripe's initial foray into the North American market was a failure because they changed the bottle and labeling to a green taller bottle. (Can you even picture that?) After going back to the recognizable stubby brown bottle and original Red Stripe label, sales improved.

(A beach bar in Jamaica. Photo by Michael Bentley, Flickr.)

 

As I spread my wings from my native island home, traveled abroad to countries like Belgium and France, and lived in places like Trinidad, London, Miami, and Montreal, I encountered and experienced different cultures and tastes, and gradually developed a more nuanced palate. My beer horizons expanded to: Belgian beers like Duvel, Trappist Westvleteren 12 (XII), Kwak (all in their correct glasses of course); English brews like Newcastle; American and Canadian beers, Molson Canadian, Sam Adams, Magic Hat, Key West Ale, and more (even drinking Budweiser -- no comment); and other Caribbean Island beers like Stag, Banks, and Carib. One thing I can always say, and say with pride is, you’ll look in my fridge today and see a Red Stripe or two, because I always come back home to my ice cold Red Stripe.

(Red Stripe chilled & ready for a party. Photo (c) Zickie Allgrove.)

 

Happy Friday, fellow Island Runaways! Hope you have a terrific weekend.

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