Enjoying British-Style Ales in Bermuda

With its strong ties to Britain, one would think the island of Bermuda would be a haven for British-style beers. But that is not the case for a number of reasons, one being the typically balmy climate that tends to discourage people from drinking heavy ales. Another is the popularity of rum drinks, including the famous Bermuda swizzle and the unofficial national drink, the Dark & Stormy, a delicious combination of Gosling's black rum and stone ginger beer. Microbreweries have generally not been successful on the island -- Bermuda Brewing Company, which closed in early 2002 after only 20 months of operation, had taken over the site of the aptly named Triangle Brewing Company, which disappeared in 1999 after five years of operation.

Fortunately for real ale enthusiasts, though, there are good craft brews to be found on Bermuda from a brewpub/microbrewery that is working hard to please local tastes. We highly recommend a visit to North Rock Brewing Company, Bermuda's first brewpub, located in Smithís Parish in the southeast part of the island. A cab ride from Hamilton takes less than 10 minutes and is well worth the trip for the great brews and creative menu. North Rock's beers are now also available at the Frog & Onion Pub in the Royal Naval Dockyard, which is the site of a new joint venture microbrewery, Dockyard Brewing Company Limited.

North Rock Brewing was founded in 1997 by David Littlejohn, an avid homebrewer, and his wife Heather, who took over a site that had housed several restaurants over the years. In the main room of their new restaurant, David and Heather added a 3.5 bbl full mash DME brewing system, with four fermenting tanks (one 7 bbl and three 3 bbl) and two 3 bbl aging tanks. In 2008, North Rock joined forces with the Frog & Onion Pub, a popular English-style pub and restaurant in the Dockyard complex at Bermuda's westernmost point. North Rock's brewing equipment was moved to the Frog & Onion's site, where there is much more room for expansion. The joint venture microbrewery, aptly named Dockyard Brewing, gives regular tours of the brewery with samples. Best of all, Dockyard's beers are now available at both restaurants with plans to expand to other restaurants around the island.

David Littlejohn continues to serve as the head brewer and has five regular beers available along with seasonal beers throughout the year. David's flagship ale is Somerís Amber Ale, named for the British sea captain Sir George Somer whose ship, the Sea Venture, was wrecked in a storm off what is now St. George's Parish in 1609. Unlike Somer's voyage, this reddish ale is smooth, with a medium body and a crisp, dry finish from the use of noble hops. Other regular brews include two traditional British beers made with the finest ingredients from Britain. The first is Trunk Island Pale Ale, a classic IPA with enough hops to survive several trips to India. North Rock Porter is a deep black, London-style porter that is as rich and flavorful as most stouts. On the lighter side, St. Davidís Light is billed as a pilsener but is closer in taste and color to a golden ale. My favorite among Davidís beers is Whale of a Wheat, which is billed as a German-style hefeweizen but is served with a slice of lemon, which is more of an American custom. The beer also tastes more like an American-style wheat beer, with a full-bodied flavor but still light enough for Bermuda's warm climate.

In North Rock's old brewhouse with David Littlejohn

At the North Rock brewpub, David's beers can be enjoyed at its hand carved mahogany bar indoors or on a shaded outdoor patio, which is also a great spot for lunch. North Rockís extensive menu is highlighted by a range of traditional British and Bermudian dishes, augmented by the use of various North Rock beers. In addition to traditional Bermuda fish chowder, North Rock offers an on onion soup made with Bermuda onions and North Rock porter. Appetizers include clams steamed open in ale and beer-battered Bermuda onion rings. Two mainstays of British pub menus, steak & ale pie and fish & chips, are reinvented here as game & porter pie, with pieces of game and vegetables simmered in North Rock porter, and beer batter used for Fish & Chips a la North Rock. Even the desserts have a beer influence, with North Rock porter paired with chocolate mousse and used in the rich chocolate ale cake.

In the British fashion, beers are served in 12 ounce half pints or 20 ounce imperial pints, with 4 ounce samplers also available. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner from 6-10 p.m. North Rock typically doesnít attract much of a late night crowd, so if youíre planning on stopping by after 11 p.m., it makes sense to call ahead to see if the bar is still open.

North Rock Brewing Co.
10 South Road
Smith's Parish, Bermuda
(441) 236-6633

Frog & Onion Pub
Royal Naval Dockyard
(441) 293-1188

Another place to enjoy real ales in Bermuda is at the Hog Penny Pub, located at 5 Burnaby Hill just off Front Street in Hamilton. The Hog Penny is my favorite British pub in Bermuda, and is a great place to have a lunchtime bowl of Bermuda fish chowder spiced up with black rum and sherry peppers sauce. Beers on draught at the Hog Penny include such British pub staples as Bass and McEwan's.


We have enjoyed staying at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, one of Bermuda's most historic hotels and the oldest hotel in the Fairmont chain. The hotel opened in 1885 and was named in honor of one of Queen Victoria's daughters, Princess Louise, who had put Bermuda on the map as an international vacation destination with her visit two years earlier. Princess Louise never did get to stay at her namesake, but plenty of other notables did over the years including authors Mark Twain and James Bond's creator, Ian Fleming.

Enjoying the grounds of 'The Pink Princess'

The Fairmont Hamilton Princess is now a favorite of visiting insurance executives but is also a great choice for vacationers, offering the convenience of being just a five minute walk to Front Street's shops and pubs. Guests can choose between relaxing at the hotel's two beautiful pools and lovely gardens overlooking Hamilton Harbor or taking a free ferry service to enjoy the beach at its sister hotel, the Fairmont Southampton Princess. Both of the Fairmont hotels in Bermuda feature a 'Hotel within the Hotel' area called Fairmont Gold, which includes a separate reception area and a spacious salon where complimentary breakfast and afternoon tea are served, making guests feel like visiting royalty.

Fairmont Hamilton Princess
76 Pitts Bay Road
Pembroke HM 11
Hamilton, Bermuda
(441) 295-3000

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