Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gambia and beer, Julbrew and Julbrew Export

The subject itself does not give too much of a body for a story. This is however an experience I need to report about as it involves me, beer, and good times. :) To begin with I need to state that we are talking about the smallest country in Africa and the brewery (Banjul breweries Ltd.) in it. To save some time from you that are not going to read further that the first chapter I can tell you that the beers were nothing special themselves but the specialty is based on the limited availability of the beer. At least I've never seen this outside Gambia... need to pay attention to this in the future as well! As I got to learn, the majority of the production of the brewery is consumed by the tourism in Gambia. This is due to the fact that the majority of the country are Muslims.

Banjul Breweries (Website that doesn't offer too much) is the one and only brewery in Gambia. Only one producing beer anyway. Other products are more or less soft drinks. They produce 2 different beers Julbrew and the export version of Julbrew called Julbrew Export. They bottle also Guinness which to me is only to attract English tourists. How extraordinary. It isn't all that bad though as we can learn from reading the label on the bottle. Banjul breweries has been awarded with Monde selection, Brussels not once, but 5 times (-79, -87, -90, -99 and -08). And rightfully so! The quality of the beer is on European level despite the exterior features of the brewery itself (see pic below).

Found from the internet was a claim that stated that free tours are made to the brewery but the locals didn't know anything about that. Also our local guide said that that was the reality few years ago. Now the situation had changed. I had an idea of looking it up from the World's Widest Web but using my vacation time hanging in the net was not in my mind. The other fact supporting my theory was that the connections in Gambia are rare. On the mobile side they didn't even exist. And as easy as that let go of that idea.

With the beers I think we can start with the Export as it's the one that has more taste in it. It also comes with higher percentage of alcohol, all the way up to 5,5 % which makes it not so adequate to the climate. I at least rather take lighter beers in high temp settings. Also the less in the taste, the easier drink and faster relief is the other statement in this section. The color of the Export is light honey with a flat but white foam. The scent brings up a mixture of oat and rice in the inside the hood of malt. On the taste side this is amazingly close to the Finnish beers. I'd even make it a mixture of Karjala and Koff with a small honey twist on the aftertaste. The bitterness of the hops is conspicuous by it's absence so this really makes it a drink to ask for on the beach. If you ask for a beer, this is what they'll bring to you. This or the twin brother of this...

...Julbrew with no additional name. Lower level of alcohol (4,7 %) makes this a lesser in taste and easier to "consume". The color stays the same as in the Export or just a little bit lighter. The foam is higher and lasts longer. It has to, as this one has so little taste and scent that it needs to be very well preserved.  There is (if possible) even less of the hoppy scent in this one than in the Export. Light and sweet malts are wrapped in a yeasty finnish.

Taste then again is somewhat sweeter than the Export's. This has far more of those citric tastes. Nutty and fruity, mainly due to the citrus from the hops (?). You know the Mexican beers? Well this is it's long lost African brother I'd say! :) It is the most perfect beer to have in this belt of the earth, in this country. Might work with "something from the grill" (an advertisement I noticed outside a local bar with a "Fresh catch of the day"). ;)

A perfection could easily be redefined by a local handing one of these on your palm on Sanyang beach on a sunny afternoon (one of the 320 sunny ones in Gambia/year) and saying (with tunes of Bob Marley on the background) "Hello my brotha! Happy family...? Take dis and go out on a beach and chill. I bring you another one as you finish this one. Gambia, no problem!". Don't worry. Be happy.

You really can only admire the memory and the feeling related to the moment that you lay down on your sun bed, on the coast of Gambia. Light wind breezes from the Atlantic ocean. Sun is shining nearly from the zenith (btw. causing your feet to burn! Something I've never experienced... you NEVER need to put sun lotion on your feet in Finland! :D). You place your hand to the table next to your sun bed, under the reed thatched umbrella. Wrap your hand around a bottle of Julbrew... or Julbrew Export. A spontaneous smile pops-up on your face. You are in paradise.

"Rrrrewind selecta, I com back again!"


  1. I've toured this brewery! With the master brewer mr maus himself! Then he gave to enjoy afterwards

  2. Oops ....a crate to enjoy afterwards! A great day and a great beer! I still have the t shirt!