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Today's Date: 29 November 2014
Last Updated: 27 November 2014 18:49:08 EST
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Saving sharks one can at a time

The Cayman Brewery is also using the White Tip Lager to save marine wildlife. – Photo: Hannah Reid

Introduced months ago as their summer beer, the Cayman Brewery probably did not expect the sweet lager to prove so popular. 

Perhaps the brewers forgot that it is summer weather all the time in the Cayman Islands, but they found out quickly that their newest beer was going to be in demand year-round. 

The Cayman Brewery’s fourth and last beer to join their line-up is a sweet, light beer that has been impressing locals since it first debuted. 

Branded the White Tip Lager, the newest beer is the product of a partnership between the brewery and the Department of Environment. 

Not only is the White Tip a hit with local customers, the beer is also helping raise awareness and money for the department’s shark conservation efforts. 

 

Hitting a sweet note 

Unlike the Caybrew, CayLight or Ironshore Bock beers, the White Tip has a unique taste that is particularly suited to the Caribbean. 

“This is also a 5 per cent lager beer, but we are using some special ingredients for it that will make it a little bit sweeter in the aftertaste,” said Andres Moerl, brewmaster and operations manager at the Cayman Brewery. “It’s more a Caribbean-style beer.” 

Combining a special blend of malts and hops, the White Tip is the sweetest beer of the four produced by the brewery. 

“We wanted to produce something that had more of a sweet aftertaste,” Mr. Moerl said. 

There are many different types of malts and hops used during the brewing process. Some malts, like the malt used for the Ironshore Bock, produce dark beer, and certain hops, like those used in most India Pale Ales, produce beer with a bitter aftertaste. 

“For the White Tip we have no black malt in there, but we have a lot of Munich malt for the sweeter aftertaste, plus we’re using a different type of hops for it that is not as bitter as for the dark beer,” Mr. Moerl said. “So that’s why it’s very smooth because you actually have the sweet taste from the malt overpowering the hops flavour.” 

Around the world, different regions favour different flavour combinations. 

“A lot of people in the Caribbean … they like a little bit sweeter aftertaste,” said Mr. Moerle. “The Europeans, North Americans, they go for the more bitter taste, for the hops and so on.” 

With the introduction of the White Tip, Mr. Moerl believes the Cayman Brewery has a beer for everyone. 

“With the Caybrew and the Caylight, we have two more European beers, the Ironshore Bock is more of an American beer, [and] this ... is our Caribbean beer,” he said. 

 

Drinking for a cause 

The Cayman Brewery is also using the White Tip Lager to save marine wildlife. 

“The Department of Environment’s Mat Cottam came to us and asked [if there] was there any chance of us actually partnering with them to use beer as a vehicle to push conservation and awareness in the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Mansfield said. 

“Beer’s more interesting than a brochure usually,” said Mr. Cottam, manager of the Terrestrial Ecology Unit at the department, “and they were completely for it, they thought it was a great idea.” 

The White Tip label was designed to promote awareness about dwindling shark populations worldwide and the environmental significance of this misunderstood predator. 

“Sharks are something which notoriously polarise people,” Mr. Cottam said. “Some people like sharks, some people don’t like sharks and there aren’t too many people in the middle.” 

The beer can is covered in snippets of information, as well as a 2D barcode that smart phone users can scan to be directed to the Department of Environment’s web page of shark information. 

LIME will be on hand at the launch to help smart phone users access this feature. 

In addition to being a drinkable source of information, beer sales will also contribute to the department’s shark conservation efforts monetarily: Five cents from each can sold will go towards shark research, awareness and conservation programmes. 

The vital role that sharks play within marine ecosystems, however, means the other inhabitants of the reefs also benefit from the predators’ survival. 

“Some of the most common things I hear on-island about sharks is that people fear them because they think they are all dangerous, they also think that the sharks eat all the fish and that’s why there are no fish,” said Oliver Dubock, research officer with Marine Conservation International. 

Neither of which, he says, is true. 

“Only five species have ever really been known to attack people, and there are over 600 species of sharks,” he said. 

“In the Cayman Islands there has never been a shark attack fatality, but we have fatalities in the water all the time,” Mr. Cottam said. “When people go swimming they never worry about whether their heart is in good condition or they can keep up with the current, they’re worried about getting attacked by a shark.” 

Not only is the threat that sharks pose to humans blown out of proportion in the public imagination, the impact sharks have on the marine ecosystem are usually misunderstood. 

Sharks do not, in fact, eat everything in sight. 

“It comes from a profound misunderstanding of the sharks’ biology,” Mr. Dubock said. “They in fact really only need to eat once every two weeks.” 

Rather than extirpating fish populations, the sharks’ feeding habits actually increase fish stock by keeping the ecosystem balanced. 

“They prey on the weak and the injured so in fact they weed out a lot of diseases from the fish population,” Mr. Dubock said. “Shark numbers in fact help to increase other fish numbers.” 

Most people, however, do not know much about sharks and hold on to misconceptions popularised by Hollywood. 

Painted as a vicious, mindless predator, the shark has a bad reputation. 

“Whales and dolphins have a great PR machine going for themselves already,” Mr. Cottam said. “The sharks are a bit more of a tough sell.” 

 
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