Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival 2010

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A showcase of the very best Rum & Beer beverages from the Caribbeans' finest Distilleries & Breweries.

The Rumelier was lucky to get to travel to Barbados again to act as a judge at the Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival in November 2010. He was joined by several members of the Rum XP Panel who were also in attendance to act as judges at the festival. Of course The Rumelier hoped to spend some extra time visiting many of the rum attractions on the island during his visit. Sights to be seen were the Rum Refinery of Mount Gay, the Mount Gay Visitor Center, St.Nicholas Abbey, the Foursquare Distillery and the West Indies Rum Distillery and Cockspur Beach Club. Of course, no trip to Barbados would be complete without visiting several of the world famous rum shops, a local institution.

The group of rum lovers from around the world decided to hire a bus and driver for their rum adventure around the small but beautiful Caribbean Island of Barbados. The bus became affectionately know as the "Rum Bus" during the two day voyage.

Colourful Rum Barrels at the Festival Grounds.
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The Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival was held in Barbados on the 19th & 20th November 2010 and was a celebration of the region's wide array of locally produced rum and beer products. The venue for the festival were the grounds of Portvale Sugar Factory, one of the very few remaining working sugar cane factories in the Eastern Caribbean.

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During the two day festival in Barbados, Rum Distilleries and Breweries from throughout the Caribbean region set up their stalls to provide patrons with the opportunity to try various rum and beer beverages. 

Rum is part of the heritage of the Caribbean, produced mainly from molasses from locally grown 'King Sugar' for over 300 years. Almost every island in the Caribbean has its own rum distillery, and this has been followed in more recent times with a local brewery.

Festival Organizers Cheryl and Glyn.
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The Big Wheel is at the Portvale Sugar Factory.

The Rum XP Rum Bus Tour
Part 1, The Rum Refinery of Mount Gay

The road leading to he Rum Refinery of Mount Gay.
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Many of the Rum XP Judges had arrived a day or two early in Barbados to take advantage of the "Rum Bus Tour" around the various rum attractions offered on Barbados. The bus departed early the day before the festival from the Coconut Court Hotel, where most of the judges were being kindly hosted by the festival committee. The first scheduled stop on the tour was the Rum Refinery of Mount Gay, which is situated in the northern section of the island in the Parish of St. Lucy. 
This was the fourth visit to Barbados for The Rumelier, but on all his previous visits he had never managed to to take the long drive up to the Mount Gay Refinery. After several visits to the Mount Gay Visitor Center in Brandons he was excited to be get to see the inside workings of one of the most famous rums in the world, often called "the rum that invented rum".
After slowly climbing the winding road up to the distillery through fields of sugar cane a sign declares the entrance to the distillery. The road leading up to the entrance passes by the distillery's close neighbour the Mount Gay Aging and Blending Facility. This is a separate company that purchase the rum from the distillery next door. The rum is piped from the distillery to the aging facility where the different distillates are blended and then aged for up to 30 years. Once the chosen rum is emptied from it's oak barrel it is then shipped down to Brandons in tanker trucks where the final blend is made and the finished rum is bottled and labelled.
Upon arrival at the distillery The Rumelier lead the small group of rum lovers into the main office of the company where they met Dr. Frank Ward, one of the family members of the original founder of the company Mr.Aubrey Ward. After introductions and welcoming remarks the group were lead off on their tour of the historic distillery. First stop was a small staff room where hair nets and hard hats were donned by everyone.

One of the Wood and Fibreglass Fermentation Tanks.
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The old tanks will soon be repalced with stainless steel tanks.

The group and their guide were now eager to take their tour. The next stop was the fermentation tanks. Climbing up some stairs and around several open tanks the group were allowed to take photographs (not always possible in many distilleries) while their guide explained the whole fermentation process of the yeast eating the sugar contained in the molasses and converting it into a weak form of alcohol. There were numerous large tanks with molasses in different stages of fermentation. These tanks were made of wood like large barrels and lined with fibreglass(shown left). Their covers were large pieces of shaped plywood. Looking down into the tanks it possible to view the various active stages of fermentation and even taste some molasses.

Looking out from the fermantation area the group were shown new stainless steel tanks being constructed in a new location across the yard (shown below). These tanks will be more efficient and easier to control for the distillery.

Fermentation is a vey important step in the process of producing rum and the group listened carefully to all the information they were being given. Many commented of the aroma of the fermenting molasses, a very distinct smell associated with rum distilleries. Much of the molasses used by the distilleries in Barbados is imported from various countries. Even though sugar cane is still grown and sugar produced on Barbados there is not enough molasses, which is a by-product of sugar production, to supply the needs of the distilleries. Sugar production in the Caribbean in general has declined drastically over the last few decades. Most molasses is now imported from South and Central America into the Caribbean. 

Close up of Molasses Fermenting.
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One thing many of the group noticed was that the molasses tanks were open to the elements and they were attracting many small fruit flies. The group were assured that if the flies ended up in the molasses it would not be a problem as the distillation process would remove any signs of them!! 

The next stop on the tour was the column still and its power source, the boiler or furnace. The group stopped at the base of the column still and tried to see the top of the towering structure. Mount Gay use two types of stills to produce their rums. They use a cost effective, effecient, column still and three less effecient copper pot stills. The column still produces a light bodied fairly neutral type of rum, whereas the copper pot stills produce a heavier rum with more flavour.

The new fermantation tanks under construction.
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One of two old Scottish Copper Pot Stills.
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A view of the inside of the boiler.
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Part 2, the Mount Gay Visitor Center

The Mount Gay Visitor Center.
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Entrance to the Blending and Bottling Plant.
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Part 3, the West Indies Rum Distillery

WIRD view of Bridgetown Harbour.
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Part 4, the Cockspur Beach Club

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Part 5, St. Nicholas Abbey

The Abbey Still is located in this old barn.
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The Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival

The Sir Frank Hutson Sugar Museum.
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Portvale Sugar Factory.

To see some more photos of the Portvale Sugar Factory click on this link.