Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Red Stripe Jamaican Lager

Desnoes & Geddes Limited

Style: Lager
ABV: 4.7%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Drinkable, but flawed)

Hooray Beer!

We all know the wonderfully comical ads that are associated with the popular Jamaican lager known as Red Stripe. The tuxedo-clad Jamaican man who loves to point out how much fun it is to drink a lager from a Caribbean country known for tropical beaches, Rastafarians, Olympic sprinters, and legal usage of marijuana inevitably makes Nigel chuckle every time I see him. Often those commercials were my favorite part of watching Pardon the Interruption on ESPN every afternoon.

With International Beer Month upon us here at, I thought it appropriate to review an international brew that helped get me started on my beer enlightenment. Essentially, these are brews that may seem bland and tame to us now, but at the time we switched over from full-fledged shit beer drinkers to junior Beer Dorks in training, they were more than serviceable. Red Stripe falls into this category for Nigel. Since I’m a total shill for clever marketing, Red Stripe was one of those beers that I finally tasted with an open mind and said “wow … this actually has some flavor!” Other international brews that fall into that category in Nigel’s world would be Guinness, Boddington’s, Negro Modelo, and Harp. Again, these brews are far from favorites of mine now (they can best be described as desperate fallbacks at restaurants with a shitty beer selection), but at the time they were wonderfully new, exotic, and tasty alternatives to the standard American macro swill.

As for Red Stripe, if this was an American craft lager I was sampling, I’d easily give it a very sub-par two out of five mugs. But, as far as international lagers go, it’s decidedly average, if not slightly above average. As I allow a minute for the gasps to subside after making such a radical comment like “Red Stripe is above average,” may I remind you of some examples of popular international lagers: Fosters … Grolsch … Heineken … Corona … Labatt Blue. Enough said. In my current state of beer enlightenment, do I consider Red Stripe a good beer? No, not really. Do I consider it a prime example of the style? No again, especially when compared to fine American craft lagers. But is it a decent beer that can be enjoyed once in a while, particularly on a hot summer day at the beach or ballpark? In my opinion, yes.

Like most macro lagers, Red Stripe isn’t much in terms of presentation, save for the kitschy stubby brown bottles with the painted-on, simple logo that it’s packaged in. The pour is typical, with a creamy white head of about an inch that quickly dissipates, leaving a slight bit of lacing. The color is a clear golden brown, indicative of an over-filtered macro brew. In the glass, Red Stripe looks like any number of its macro brethren.

The aroma is nothing to get excited about, mostly just the standard tinge of chemicals that cover up most notes of malt, hops, or alcohol, the aroma’s what we Beer Dorks expect from a true hand crafted brew. On occasion, there is a hint of hops, but the biggest non-chemical aroma associated with it is corn, which we all know isn’t a good thing.

The taste is fine, but that really is the best I can say about it. There is a darker, richer body associated with Red Stripe than you would find in most American macro lagers, but that’s like saying it’s clean when compared to raw sewage. Hints of light fruit, subtle hops, and very light malt come through on occasion, but the stale chemical flavor that plagues most macros is unfortunately all too present. In a way it’s hard to describe Red Stripe now, after years of Beer Dorkdum, rather than the flavor I first experienced so many years ago. Light in body, smooth on the palate, and low in alcohol (approximately 4.7 percent), Red Stripe is obviously a potential session brew, as most macros are meant to be. However, for 2009 Nigel, it’s a beer I rarely sample anymore, and if I do, it usually ends with one.

My, how tastes change. Ten years ago (even five years for that matter) I would’ve had a Red Stripe and said “Damn, that’s one hell of a beer … full-bodied and full of flavor!” Now, it’s just another bland lager, albeit one that holds a special place in my heart and always puts a smile on my face when I see the stubby bottle and picture the Jamaican spokesman. While there are a number of excellent craft American lagers that are far more enjoyable than this, if you’re looking for a reminder of what beer drinking used to be for most of us, have a Miller Lite or some other American macro swill, then follow it up with a Red Stripe; you’ll be surprised at how much more flavor it has. It’s a decent fallback beer, but ultimately it can’t hold a candle to the vast array of other lager options we now have at our disposal thanks to the American craft beer revolution.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on February 16, 2009.
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