Tony Deyal, Contributor
Tony Deyal, ContributorJust a few days after Irwin LaRocque became the new secretary general (SG) of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), my buddy Kamal, a Trini transplanted in Boynton Beach, Florida, sent me a schmaltzy, frothy piece on regional beers that would make some of my Caribbean friends hop, or 'hops' as the case may be. It was indeed a bitter Pilsener to swallow.
First of all, the article came from the Murdoch-owned Fox News, an organisation not held in great esteem by many and whose credibility is as questionable as the Murdochs saying that they knew nothing at all about phone hacking at News of the World. Late-night talk-show host Craig Ferguson's joke is a good indicator of the attitude to Fox: "CBS News today has fired four employees for wildly fabricating a news story. The good news: they all got jobs over at Fox." Jay Leno quipped, "This week in Baghdad, four people were arrested for pretending to be journalists. I'll tell you, this has got all the people over at Fox News nervous."
Comedian Conan O'Brien summed up the credibility and coverage of Fox News with: "The Chinese government launched China's first 24-hour news channel. And since the channel will only report stories that are favourable to the ruling party, they've decided to call it Fox News."
The article, 'Five Best Caribbean Beers', is by Fox journalist Richard Goldsmith, who has written such classy articles like 'Booze in a Bag', 'Fun and Functional Liquor Luggage', 'Manly Drinks for Manly Dads' and 'Cocktails for Classy Mums'.
Interestingly, Mr Goldsmith starts off with a truism, especially in the context of the inordinate delay in getting rid of Carrington and appointing a new secretary general. Gold-smith says, "Island time is different from time anywhere else. In the islands, especially the Caribbean islands, time seems to lose its urgency. Nothing seems important enough to rush for."
If Mr Goldsmith had stopped there, he would have been batting a hundred. Then, however, Goldsmith decided to select the top five 'island' beers and put Carib and Kalik ahead of Red Stripe, Blackbeard Ale (Virgin Islands) and Presidente (Dominican Republic).
In his email to me, Kamal sent only the bits on Carib and Kalik and provocatively remarked, "Where did Red Stripe place? Well, let me put it this way. It is like the Olympics - gold, silver and who." Carib, the beer that originated in Trinidad and is also brewed in Grenada and St Kitts, is first on the Goldsmith list. Goldsmith says that Carib is "the quintessential beach beer ... there's a gentle malty background with a pleasantly sour citrus aftertaste ... you can drop a lime in and feel confident it'll beat Corona every day of the week and twice on Sundays."
In my many years, I've had many a lime with Carib and never tasted the gentle malt or sour citrus. Actually, like many other people, my first taste of beer was not auspicious. In fact, I commented that it tasted like what my Jamaican friends would pronounce as 'auspice'.
Second on the Goldsmith list was Kalik Gold from The Bahamas. The reaction of one of my Jamaican friends, annoyed that Red Stripe was not at the head of the list and was displaced by Kalik Gold, was sourly citric, but not pleasant. "Dem right to call it Kalik," he said. "When you drink it that is what you get - Kalik." Mr Goldsmith was impressed by Kalik's seven per cent alcohol content.
However, despite his gushing commendation of Caribbean beers in general, and Kalik in particular, Mr Goldsmith warned, "But if you're looking for something bracing and crisp, this isn't it ... . That said, add a beach, a few bikinis and a cooler full of these and it'd be hard to take issue with the situation." Clearly, it's not better and may be even a little bit bitter in The Bahamas unless you add the bikins.
Red Stripe is third on the list despite Goldsmith's, "Red Stripe - the beer that comes to mind first when most people think of the Caribbean, not to mention hipsters." I doubt that he meant by 'hipsters' the subculture so much as the clothing and so little as the underwear. Unfortunately, since I voluntarily gave up a promising career of being a man about thong, regretfully I don't have the opportunity of seeing many of these.
I also don't have the opportunity to do my own comparisons between Red Stripe and its competitors and test Goldsmith's claim that: "Sadly, it doesn't taste as unique as it once did, especially now that microbrews are so much more readily available and demonstrate how different beer can truly be. But it's still a solid choice for a day filled with charred meats, little effort and maybe some sun and sand."
My Jamaican friend had the last word on Goldsmith and Red Stripe, "What is dis about 'charred meat'? He mean jerk? Well, he is the biggest jerk of all."
Barbadians and Guyanese for whom beer is money in the banks will agree. So, too, St Lucians (Piton), Antiguans (Wadadli), Vincentians (Hairoun) and Dominicans, like LaRocque, whose Kabuli are all left out of the list. The problem is, what is appropriate behaviour in this situation? Do you accept the taunts and boasts of the Trinis, or do you grin and beer it?
The moral in this beer-faced and outrageous ranking lies in something General de Gaulle once said about France, "How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?" In terms of Mr LaRocque and CARICOM, it translates into: "How can you manage a region with so many different types of beer which every country believes is the best?" I suppose you have to be stout-hearted.
Tony Deyal was last seen saying that most Caribbean people, even those who don't drink, will agree with the toast, "Life, alas, is very drear. Up with the glass! Down with the beer!"