Like so many other breweries, St. John Brewers began when two people realized 1) that they weren't really enjoying their lives, 2) that they wanted to do something they loved, and 3) that they loved beer, especially good beer. About ten years ago, former University of Vermont roommates Chirag Vyas, who was working in California for NASA, and Kevin Chipman, then a physical therapist in Boston, became frustrated by the 9-5 lifestyle and decided to quit their jobs, sell their belongings, and purchased one-way tickets to the Virgin Islands. After years of working at bars, Vyas and Chipman realized the Caribbean beer scene was missing the kinds of hand-made craft beer they'd learned to love while in college. Fast forward a little bit after several batches of homemade beer and St. John Brewers was born.
Combining classic American beer styles with the flavors and flair of the Caribbean, St. John Brewers have released a variety of award-winning beers and gained increasing popularity in the U.S. Virgin Islands and mainland America. For this tasting, we got our hands on four of their main brews to see what Caribbean craft beer is all about.
The brewery's flagship beer, the Tropical Mango pale ale combines subtle malt notes, a touch of balancing hops, and a strong punch of delicious Caribbean mango. With just slight carbonation and an inviting golden tabby cat color, this pale ale immediately gives off tropically sweet scents of mango and pineapple, with just a tinge of gummy bear sweetness. Keeping it light, the Tropical Mango delivers a smooth but somewhat creamy mouthful of serious mango flavor balanced by a mildly hopped finish.
This half wheat, half pale ale would be a perfectly a refreshing mouthful on any hot summer's day. Clear and marigold in appearance, more tropical notes come across in this fusion ale, with crisp but faint hints of malt sweetness. A truly easy-drinking beer, the Island Summer Ale is light and clean but not without a nuanced backing of gently toasted flavors.
A Belgian inspired unfiltered wheat ale, Liquid Sunshine is a vibrant beer with plenty of spice and flavor. With an appearance reminiscent of a more cloudy ginger ale and with similar aromas, along with scents of coriander and spicy orange. The spiced notes carry over to this smooth wheat mouthful with prominent notes of pumpkin and ginger for a interesting yet accessible beer.
The hoppiest offering we tried from St. John Brewers, the Island Hoppin' IPA has a light amber, almost copper color with a solid head of carbonation. The beer's malty sweetness and earthy hops shine through in both the nose and taste, which both deliver a classic well balanced IPA hop bitterness.