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Bahamas, Grand Bahama Island

Friday Happy Hour: Sands Beer, More ‘Truly Bahamian’ Than Kalik?

Friday Happy Hour: Sands Beer, More ‘Truly Bahamian’ Than Kalik?
Enjoying a Sands Beer at Our Lucaya/SBPR

Continuing our profiles of the surprising home-grown beers of Grand Bahama, today we focus our attention on the island’s #1 brew, the aptly named Sands Beer.

First poured in December 2007, Sands is the best-selling of the four local beers produced by Grand Bahama’s Bahamian Brewery & Beverage Company. It’s a light, golden lager in the grand tradition of under-appreciated Caribbean beers ideally suited to quench the thirst brought on by the region’s warm, sunny days. You may notice that on the label, Sands carries the tagline “Truly Bahamian Beer”. This is for good and somewhat controversial reasons.

Like Balashi in Aruba, the name for Sands was selected by a popular vote among the people of Grand Bahama. The state-of-the-art $15 million brewery where it’s made was also planned and built on the backs of a 100% Bahamian crew of architects and construction workers. Sands is also brewed with natural spring water found in Grand Bahama. But, the “Truly Bahamian” backstory of this beer goes further than all this.

The brewery’s owner, Jimmy Sands, has deep family roots in The Bahamas that go back some 350 years, and even extend to the country’s alcohol industry. See the little guy in the boat on the label? When I visited the Sands Brewery back in August, I was told that the figure is meant to represent Jimmy’s dad, Everette, who was a founding partner of a local wine and spirits distributor called Butler & Sands.

From its base in Nassau, Butler & Sands was the largest liquor distributor in The Bahamas. In the days before massive terminals were built to accommodate on-shore dockage of the largest cruise ships, distributors like Jimmy’s dad would row out to the ships anchored off-shore carrying rum in straw baskets to be sold to the sea-going tourists. The logo is a nice homage to the family tradition, but there’s yet another reason for the “Truly Bahamian” moniker.

I guess in the ultra-competitive world of brewing, it should come as no surprise that Sands’ Truly Bahamian tag is also meant to take a swipe at its biggest competitor and The Bahamas’ veritable King of Beers, Kalik. It’s not that Kalik isn’t Bahamian, per se, it’s just that for locals like Jimmy, it’s not Bahamian enough. Or, as Jimmy was quoted as saying in a recent article in Southern Boating: “There is a beer made in the Bahamas, but it’s a Dutch beer made by a Dutch company. I had this idea to brew beer by Bahamians for Bahamians…”

Kalik was designed by Heineken, which established the Commonwealth Brewery in Nassau and began offering Kalik in 1988, so I guess Jimmy does have a bit of a point. For his part, though, Jimmy did have to enlist the aid of Germany’s largest brewing supply company, Brewtech, to get Sands off the ground in the first place, so there’s that.

Either way, when you’re sitting on the beach at Our Lucaya, as I was when I enjoyed the Sands pictured above, all the arguments drift away with the tide. In line with its name (and tagline), Sands is an excellent companion for any day on an amazing Grand Bahama beach.

Cheers!

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