Monday, 6 August 2012

On Red Stripe

Today Jamaica celebrates 50 years of independence. Although my love for the island started entirely with the music, I thought that I couldn't let today pass without writing a brief piece on its relationship with beer.

Several books on Jamaican music mention Red Stripe as they tell the story of the most recognisable form of dance music on the planet. Often, they tell of how Red Stripe was drunk in dancehalls as a statement: If you drank Red Stripe you were with one crew, you believed one thing; if you drank Heineken you were with someone else. Or the other way around. Back in the '70s - so the story goes - Red Stripe aligned you with the left-leaning People's National Party; Heineken put you in the camp of the more conservative Jamaica Labour Party. If you want to drink it at a concert nowadays, you will often get a not-quite-cold-enough can for about four quid.

Red Stripe for me is not necessarily about it being the best tasting beer on the planet. I once heard it described as "beery water... in a good way. In a good way!" For me, it's about associations: It brings back memories of trying to squeeze as many cans as possible into my bag outside the Westbourne Grove Sainsbury's before venturing into Carnival. It reminds me of sipping from cans on the floor of a Hackney basement kitchen while we waited for the steam to clear from a boiling home-brew. We can't always have that 7.3% Kernel Citra IPA: In the same way I imagine a thin-moustached restaurant critic sloppily craving a big-mac once in a while - and as I hinted at in my last post with regards to Birra Moretti - sometimes we need a beer that is both widely available and makes us happy.

That is why you will often find a can or two of Red Stripe in my fridge. I really do enjoy it once in while - maybe after work, maybe out with friends, maybe under a cloud of musty beer-smoke - but one thing's for sure: I absolutely hate paying £3.50 a can for it at concerts.

1 comment:

  1. Better to have beery water than watery beer...