At some point during a cruise, any craft beer aficionado is going to get the urge to knock back a few cold ones.
Then best to book a cruise on the recently debuted Carnival Vista, the first North American-based cruise ship to feature an on-board brewery. The Miami-based Concrete Beach Brewery (a subsidiary of Boston Beer Co., which owns Sam Adams) handles the seafaring operation.
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Envision sitting poolside or at the brewery looking out on the vast ocean enjoying one of their three different craft beers brewed right on board. You can even take some to go in a jug called a growler. (What better to go with that thick, juicy Guy Fieri burger you can also grab on board?)
Visiting the brewery is a must. It’s as striking as the interior of the ship, a melding of colorful nautical and Caribbean-inspired decor. (Think Key West meets British West Indies – perfect for a relaxing day at sea.) The brewery itself is all copper and glass, and even the brewing tanks are see-through, so on-lookers can get an insider’s view of the brewing process.
Cruise ship guests can look in through a large glass wall and watch the brewhouse, designed in Munich, at work. Watching the brewing process can be just as fun as enjoying the craft brews, said the Vista’s brewmaster Colin Presby.
“Guests can watch the entire ‘hot side’ process through the glass tanks. I try to brew in the evenings rather than earlier in the day so more people can see the beer being made. It is a fantastic conversation starter as well,” he said.
Vista brewmaster Colin Presby works on a 3-barrel system, making about 31 gallons per batch. They keep the beer fresh in three tanks “that provide fresh beer to the bar and the self-serve table taps in the Red Frog Pub and Brewery,” said Presby. They are also able to put the beer in to kegs and distribute to other bars around the ship.
“Recently, we started selling growlers so guests can take our fresh beer anywhere on board,” he said.
The Vista has as many as five beers on tap, including the three brewed specifically for the Vista.
- ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat, Belgian-style wheat beer brewed with orange peel and coriander with 4.8 percent alcohol by volume. Presby says, “this is our refreshing ‘sit outside on a hot day’ beer.”
- ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin’ IPA, a 6 percent American India pale ale brewed with assertive American hops to give it a citrusy, tropical hoppy aroma, backed up by a solid bitterness.
- FriskyFrog Java Stout, a 5 percent bold, robust stout brewed with coffee for a full-flavored “frisky” experience, Presby said.
- ThirstyFrog American Pale Ale, a 4.8 percent pale ale, highly drinkable and classically styled with American hops.
- The seasonal pumpkin ale came in at 5.5 percent and tasted like pumpkin pie in a glass, brewed with real pumpkin as well as cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice.
Since the brewing process is mostly the same on board as it is on land, Presby gets into a work rhythm and can forget how he’s making high quality fresh craft beer, in the middle of the Ocean.
“It was particularly fun brewing during the transatlantic cruise when we were days from the nearest land,” he said. “The juxtaposition of the very normal brewing process with the very abnormal location makes it an amazing experience.”
Like most breweries, the Vista offers tours where passengers can see how their fresh-made beer comes into being.
But unlike any other brewery, it’s the freshest beer anyone will ever have on the high seas.