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Every Sunday the brewery opens to beer aficionado from across the island. “Kids, dogs, great friends, awesome service, roasted pig, and most importantly – great beer,” said Brian Hughes, a long-time Roatan expat.

A New Microbrewery Opens on Roatan’s North Side

There is no better place to enjoy a cold, freshly brewed beer then the Roatan jungle. The timber and stone building just outside of Palmetto Bay Plantation is the epicenter of island brewing, the headquarters of Roatan Island Brewing Company [RIBC].

The idea of the brewery is that of Ilias Maier, Canadian entrepreneur, resort manager, and beer aficionado who moved to the island in 2003.

Maier’s 23-acre property sits atop a natural fresh water aquifer that gently and patiently filters the island’s rains providing one of the most critical ingredients to successful beer-making- fresh water. Add to that a passion for craft brewing, expertise in navigating the ins and outs of setting up and running a business on Roatan, endless patience, back-breaking work, and an injection of capital, and you get Roatan’s only microbrewery – though not the first.

That honor goes to Jiri Maska, a Czech businessman who built and opened the now defunct, Bay Islands Brewery in 2004 on a hilltop overlooking Punta Gorda. Maska begun brewing Bay Islands Pilsner run into problems from the start.

The brewery’s bar with eight beers on tap.

Distributing kegs of his beer to West End and West Bay were a logistical nightmare. The frequent power outages on the island would ruin batches of beer and the rather heavy taste of the Czech Pilsner didn’t always fit well with the hot Caribbean climate.

Tough, legal challenges from Honduras’ biggest beer maker trying to preserve its monopoly didn’t help either. In 2001 Cervecería Hondureña, makers or Salva Vida, Imperial, Port Royal, and Barena was bought up by SAB Miller and the Honduran beermaker tried everything not to lose any ground in its growing Roatan market.

Fifteen years later Honduras has five microbreweries. There is the D&D Brewery in Lake Yojoa, Sol de Copan in Copan Ruinas, Durnoff in Ceiba, and Honduras Brewing Company in Tegucigalpa.

Roatan also stepped back into the microbrewery business. Ilias Maier and his business partner Mark Flanagan began making small batches and testing out RIBC’s equipment in 2018. “Ilias ad I had always known that we wanted to do something together, but the timing just never seemed to work out,” said Flanagan.

The entire brewing process takes several weeks from start to finish.

Making beer is a craft and the entire brewing process takes several weeks from start to finish. RIBC imports its main ingredients; grain and hops, but many of the added infusions like watermelon, hibiscus, and pineapple are local.

The process begins with grinding the malted grain and soaking it in hot water in a phase referred to as mashing. The mash is then separated into a clear, sweet broth called wort, leaving behind the residual grain. The wort is then boiled in a brew kettle along with the hops and other flavoring ingredients. Once cooled, the wort is transferred to a temperature-controlled fermentation tank where the yeast is added and allowed to do its work. It converts the wort’s sugary goodness into alcohol and carbonation, a process that can take a week or more.

Mark Flanagan sits on top of sacks of (photo by Ilias Maier)

The brew then matures and mellows and, at just the right time, is filtered and kegged. “We decided that once we could successfully produce two consistent batches of the same beer, we would feel confident to scale up to the 10-keg batch. The large batch uses upward of 400Lbs. of grain and carried a much bigger risk that than a three-keg small batch that only uses about 100Lbs. of grain,” said Flanagan.

The first beer brewed were the Paradise Ale and Sunny Haze. The recipes have been tweaked, perfected, and scaled up to the larger tanks. RIBC is filling kegs and delivering them to various tap rooms around the island. There is IPAs, pale ales, wheat beers, reds, ambers, and even a porter. All-in-all eight beers are brewed.

On top of several places RIBC distributes its beer in West End, West Bay and French Harbour RIBC plans to add distribution points like Bananarama, San Simon, Larry & Luey’s, Jonesville Point Marina, and Frank’s Irish Pub. Roatan’s second adventure with micro beer brewing is just beginning.

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