WHEN the tap was introduced in bars around the world, it showcased a different taste to beer, a beverage which many underestimate.
And while bottles and cans have since been introduced to make the packaging and serving of beer easier, some say the humble tap continues to remain the most popular way to drink the beverage.
Curious about whether beer on tap was still as popular here in the south seas, as far removed from the origins of beer, as one can get, we set on a taste test in the capital to get to know more about the beverage.
Having only discovered beer less than a year ago, this writer enlisted the help of Suva bar lizard, Jim Tora. Given that Suva’s nightlife is some say its biggest drawcard, it was important that we work with someone who was very familiar not just with the best places to enjoy an ale but also how!
As one familiar with most of the local watering holes, Jim sat us down to one of the most popular places in downtown Suva, the Irish owned and themed Top Dog Cafe on the corner of Victoria Parade and McArthur Street.
Not a coincidence is that Top Dog Cafe and its sister establishments on that famed ‘Corner’ were amongst the first places to introduce beer on tap.
The goal was to find out what Fiji’s most popular beers were, where they were best served and also learn the ways in which one could enjoy the full flavour of the brew.
Fijians are loyal to local products so top of the list we put together comes out of the Paradise Beverage cooler; the Fiji Gold.
Brewed in the European pale lager style, Fiji Gold is promoted as full strength although less filling otherwise meant to say carrying less calories than the other PB beers.
It has an alcohol content of 4.6% like many other Fiji beers but the flavour is somewhat light and fresh and gives off very little if any smell, a feature that Jim and I agree makes it a versatile drink.
While it can be great as a day time beverage and some reviews by beer advocates overseas speaks to this, it is also the most popular beverage to serve at events in Fiji.
The way it has been marketed makes it an ‘acceptable and appropriate’ beer to serve at corporates and family events alike.
Next on top of the list of popular Fijian beers is Fiji Bitter, the first brainchild out of Paradise Beverages, marketed as the ‘Sportsman’s beer’.
For many years, Fiji Bitter was the only choice in local beers giving it a traditional sport and popularity that makes this the first beer any Fijian of age will ever drink.
Marketed also as ‘the real taste of Fiji’, Fiji Bitter has 4.6% alcohol content and like the name suggests, has a medium bitter taste to it and gives off a strong smell, especially the morning after one has had a generous amount!
“Many of us were introduced to beer on Fiji Bitter.
For the longest time it was all our fathers and their fathers had by way of beer so this is probably going to be the first beer a Fijian would drink. But after a while, when you start to develop a taste and appreciation for fresh quality beer, your taste for the beverage will move to something else and for many that was Fiji Gold,” Jim said.
Both these two poster boys of the Paradise Beverages group are best served, as we found out during the taste test, straight off the tap.
Do not be mistaken, all beer canned and or bottled out of this mass brewery is fresh until you pop the cap or can, but if your watering hole of choice has a generous traffic and serve beer out of the tap and keeps that keg moving relatively fast, the beer stays fresh and crisp.
So for regular bar lizards like Jim, there only a handful, maybe only three places with enough clientele and great location so as to ensure kegs don’t stay open for very long before the beer runs dry.
It is so sought after that even the relatively high price asked for a tall glass of beer from the tap as opposed to a bottle was no deterrent on the Friday afternoon to night we conducted our taste test.
Next in beer popularity are the Vonu pure lager and its export variety at third and fourth place, both products being PB’s newest acquisition.
Easy drinking and low in carbohydrates and gluten, the beer is promoted as a premium product.
The Vonu Pure Lager’s export brew in particular is very popular given its crisp taste. Named for the ‘turtle’ the drink rides on the tropical nostalgic brand of the travel destination its brewery is located at and this not just a coincedence. The golden colour of the beer also carries an interesting smell which has an almost fruity hint, a taste of the tropics if you will.
Popular with a younger carefree and maybe even adventurous crowd, Vonu’s support of local eco-friendly and sporting competitions is giving it a stable portion of the beer market. Fun fact on the side, bubbles are an important part of your beer experience because while they are the output of the process happening in the brew to make your beer what it is, they can also serve to tell you how fresh or clean your glass of beer is.
“Watch the sides of your glass, when it is very clean, if its washed properly, the bubbles wont form there, they’ll just rise from the bottom and go up,” Jim says.
In fifth place is Fiji Premium, also out of the Paradise Beverages line up.
Launched in 2007 to cater for the tourist or as its name suggest, the premium market, this beer is very similar to its Vonu cousins in the way it is marketed, bottled and also made.
It has more alcohol content at, 5.2% and has the tiniest of a soft fruity taste giving it a bit more character. What it also does is give you the impression you’re taking in a low strength high taste brew so this is the beer you want to be careful of.
Beer can often carry a negative reputation not befitting its interesting history and the science involved in making the brew.
Cut out the rush to get intoxicated, bring in a few friends, some nice bites to punctuate the conversation and the drinking, you can start to really enjoy the role that a good brew can play in bringing friends together. And that really is the attraction and understated of a good Fijian beer.
Make it part of a party instead of being the main reason for it, you’ll find that Fiji beer, drunk in moderation, softens the temper and cheers the spirit.