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The Popular Origins of Caribbean Stout

It may be counterintuitive, but strong, sweet, dark beers endure in some of the world’s hottest climates. In Jamaica, a low-cost folk drink helped to popularize it. Martyn Cornell tells the story.

Martyn Cornell Mar 14, 2021 - 9 min read

The Popular Origins of Caribbean Stout Primary Image

Photo: Matt Graves/

When porter and its bigger, bolder brother stout spread out from 18th century London to take on and conquer the world, they sometimes gave birth to specifically local styles: Baltic porter, for example, or Irish stout. Despite stout’s reputation among North American brewers and drinkers as a warming winter drink, it was always a popular beer in hot climates—and a particular style of stout, largely ignored today outside its home region, also developed in the Caribbean.

Strong, sweet, and invigorating, that style is represented today by several well-known brands, at least one dating back more than 110 years. However, there seems to be no consensus about what to call these beers—but Caribbean stout, West Indies stout, and even tropical stout are all names that have been used.

Porter for the People

The West Indies—despite being a rum-producing region—were importing beer from Britain in the 17th century, when the Anchor brewery in Southwark, London, sent “15 Tunns of XX Beer” to “Beerbadoes.” In 1755, a writer recorded that people in Kingston, Jamaica, drank three barrels of porter to celebrate after local elections. Porter was arriving from Bristol and Ireland by the start of the 19th century, with several Dublin brewers making porter specifically for the West Indian market. (Guinness West India Porter, which it brewed from at least 1801, eventually became its Foreign Extra Stout.) Cork was exporting about 2,000 barrels of porter a year to the West Indies and America in 1805.

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