When in the islands, quench your thirst with Bahamian Beer.
Grand Bahama Island is the largest and northernmost of the Bahamian islands that is situated east-west, which makes it easily distinguishable on maps. Many cruisers arriving from the U.S. clear Customs at the island’s West End, which is a port of entry for The Bahamas and a mere 56 nautical miles from Palm Beach, Florida.
Unfortunately, for some, clearing Customs is their sole purpose and the extent of their visit to this island. But of the many additional reasons for an extended stay on Grand Bahama Island, high on the list is a tour of the Bahamian Brewery and Beverage Company (BBB) on Queens Highway in Freeport.
Among the visceral images and experiences The Bahamas typically brings to mind—sunny days, sandy beaches, gin-clear water, trophy-worthy fishing—a brewery visit seems to be diametrically opposed, that is, until visitors are led to where they’re invited to enjoy the delicious malt beverage. “We have allocated two acres of land to build a botanical garden where Grand Bahamians can sit and enjoy their Bahamian brewed beer in a relaxing atmosphere and so, too, can visiting tourists, or even me,” according to owner James “Jimmy” Sands, who launched the company in 2007.
Jimmy got his start in the wine and spirits business through his father, Everett Sands, a founding partner of Butler and Sands, the largest distributor of its time in The Bahamas. As a young boy, Jimmy would take his boat after school and tie it up at the dock near his father’s business. He’d do whatever odd jobs needed doing, whether it was to sweep floors or make deliveries. Jimmy eventually became more involved in his father’s business and learned all he could, which provided an experience and knowledge platform in preparation for his own venture.
“I had this idea to brew beer by Bahamians for Bahamians and had the plan completed and a brew license ready to go when my dad sold the business,” said Jimmy, whose family’s Bahamian roots go back more than three centuries. “For four years, I sat on the beach turning ideas over in my head, planning the details of how I would build a brewery when my non-compete clause expired.” At that time, his strongest competition was Kalik beer, which was introduced in 1988 and by 2007 had increased its market share to 50 percent. But Jimmy used his established connections and lined up strong financial investors.
In addition to his experience in distribution, Jimmy’s research led him to Bavaria to learn more about the craft of brewing. There, he was introduced to Brewtech, which had experience with setting up breweries in the Caribbean and South America. Jimmy contracted with the German company to design, test and manufacture his new brewery in Germany so that it could be disassembled, shipped to The Bahamas and reassembled by his Bahamian team on a 20-acre parcel on Grand Bahama Island, the island of his mother’s birth. Grand Bahama also offered the opportunity to use spring water—through the Hawksbill Creek agreement—as opposed to desalinated water, a business advantage that was not available in Nassau. Brewtech helped him find a brew master along with German exporters of hops and barley since those crops are not grown in The Bahamas.
Now, a decade after Jimmy’s family’s namesake beer was introduced, Sands Beer (full-bodied, 5.3% alc.) now offers Sands Light (less calories, 4.2% alc.) and Sands Pink Radler (mixed with grapefruit juice, 2.3% alc.). BBB also offers:
• High Rock Lager: full-bodied, bolder taste, 5.6% alc.
• Strong Back Stout: dark malt, 7.7% alc.
• Bush Crack: light lager, 5.9% alc.
• Triple B Malta: natural malt vitamin mix, 0% alc.
For more information on Bahamian Brewery and Beverage company or to arrange a tour, go to bahamianbrewery.com or call (242) 352-4070.
By Liz Pasch Southern Boating May 2017