Brewing Some Good

Cooper Island Beach Club is a unique eco-resort on the picturesque Manchioneel Bay on Cooper Island. With sustainability at the forefront of all operations, it’s only natural that a custom-built microbrewery, powered by the sun, was the next evolution of this exceptional destination.

Back 2012, the idea for the brewery was born, most likely over a beer with the owners. At that time, the resort was operating at around 75% solar-powered. An earlier investment in a private desalination and purification plant to produce clean and safe drinking water had enabled them to reach a major goal and stop selling bottled water. But cases of imported beer continued to produce numerous bags of aluminium waste. With little to no recycling available, the brewery is allowing Cooper Island to further reduce its waste output.

The Brewery

Working with UK brewing consultant Ian Ward and supplied by Willis European Ltd., Cooper Island Beach Club pounced on the rapidly-growing demand for craft beer across the globe.

“We felt that our clientele was ready for craft beer and we put a business plan together with our consultant. However, it wasn’t until we built new premises for the boutique, coffee shop and rum bar in November 2013 that we had the space to make it a reality,” said Sam Baker, Cooper Island Beach Club Assistant Manager. And Cooper Island Brewing Company was born.

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Efficiency was the name of the game when it came to designing the brewery itself. Working hard to save space, power and water, the three 500L fermentation vessels, kettle, mash-tun and whirlpool were custom built-in stainless steel and shipped to the BVI within six months. 

A grain mill, glycol chiller and keg-cleaning station are located next to the brewing room, along with walk-in refrigeration to store the finished product in 30L (8-gallon) kegs. Installed in December 2015, the first batch of beer was on tap at the bar by March 2016.

“We now have five fermentation vessels which allow us to produce 2500L of beer at a time and have six different beers on tap,” said Baker.

Sustainability

The focus of the entire resort is having as little environmental impact as possible, and the brewery is no different. Only 570L of water is used to produce 500L of beer. The sun supplies the power for the resort’s power grid and a solar water heater on the roof supplies hot water for the mashing-in process and cleaning the brewhouse. The only imported ingredients are the barley, hops and yeast, as the rainwater and desalinated water are purified on-site. 

At the end of each production batch, no more than 50 gallons of water is used to clean the equipment and kegs. Everything is cleaned with environmentally-friendly products and the wastewater is collected to be used for garden irrigation. The spent grain goes to a local farmer for goat feed.

In addition to doing their part to reduce waste, Cooper Island Beach Club gives back by supporting the BVI Sea Turtle Programme (a partnership between ARK and the BVI Government) by donating $1 from every Turtle IPA beer sold.

The Beer

General Manager Andy Murrant is a self-taught brewer with lots of assistance from Adam Conrad on staff.  The beer selection caters to an international clientele and a sampler “flight” of six different beers is available in the famous Rum Bar. Guests will typically find a lager, pilsner, amber ale, wheat beer, IPA and British Bitter on tap, but seasonal offerings such as a Guinness-style stout and a new Kölsch featuring Sorrel grown on island will be released this month.

The beer is exclusive to Cooper Island as they can only just keep up with demand at the resort.  Guests can enjoy the great beer while on island, but 64oz stainless steel growlers are available for purchase to take beer back on boats and yachts. Other Cooper Island Brewing Company merchandise includes insulated cups, t-shirts, flags, stickers, bottle openers, signage and clocks.

 

Sara Sherman
Sara Sherman is a former St. Thomas resident and the editor of Virgin Islands Property & Yacht.
Sara Sherman

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