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Island beer: What’s brewing in the tropics

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When sipping the tropics, opt for a drink that doesn’t require a paper umbrella.

by Erica Wacker

A former physical therapist and a NASA scientist (really), Kevin Chipman and Chirag “Cheech” Vyas traded their stateside stress for the chilled-out U.S. Virgin Islands in 2001. Though they didn’t land on St. John with the intention of brewing, they missed the craft beers back home and decided to take matters into their own hands. Their first foray—and now St. John Brewers’ signature offering—was Tropical Mango Pale Ale, which uses the native fruit for its refreshing finish. Now a bona fide business with a 16-line tap room in Cruz Bay and distribution throughout the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and seven states, the duo’s carefree island philosophy is what drives them forward: “Whatever comes to mind and feels right, we brew,” Vyas says. They’re also striving to expand locals’ palates: Island Hoppin’ IPA and Liquid Sunshine unfiltered wheat are now in bottles, with a double IPA in the works.

MORE ISLANDS ARE BREWING, TOO:

Corsica: Made with flour derived from this European island’s chestnut trees, Pietra is the flagship product of Brasserie Pietra, which also makes Serena, a pure malt blond, and Colomba, an unfiltered wheat infused with strawberry, myrtle and juniper. The brewery offers free tours and tastings in July and August.

Bahamas: Kalik may be the big kahuna here, but the homegrown competitor is Sands from Bahamian Brewery. Jimmy Sands created his namesake beer in 2007 and followed it up with Sands Light, High Rock Lager, Strong Back Stout and Bush Crack. Find them throughout the Bahamas and at the Grand Bahama brewery.

Fiji: Named to honor the endangered green turtle, Vonu Pure Lager’s main ingredient is Fijian rain-water (made famous by that fancy bottled stuff). Island Brewing debuted in 2009, and has since added the stronger Vonu Eight and Bully Hayes Hard Cola, only available in this island paradise.

Hawaii: Some of Maui Brewing’s award-winning brews have made their way to the mainland, but to sip them straight from the source, jet to the tasting room in Maui’s beautiful Lahaina. A second facility’s under construction in Kihei; the sustainably built spot will turn out mead, spirits, sodas and ciders.