After four years of crafting quality alcoholic beers and distributing at a growing number of locations, St. John Brewers is whipping up something for non-imbibers and those not old enough for their adult beverages.
St. John Brewers’ root beer is now available in bottles at retail venues and restaurants across the island.
Kevin Chipman and Chirag “Cheech” Vyas have actually been crafting small batches of sodas and serving them on tap at their Mongoose Junction Tap Room for more than a year.
“In addition to root beer, we also make a ginger beer and our own energy drink that we call Green Flash,” said Chipman. “The root beer is the most popular soda that we have and we played around with the recipe until we got it down.”
The hours of tweaking their recipe shows. St. John Brewers’ root beer is made with pure cane sugar — no high fructose corn syrup here — and a variety of natural flavors, from wintergreen to vanilla, which combine to create a bright taste that lingers on the palate.
“We spent quite a few down hours tasting different batches until we had the recipe where we wanted it,” said Vyas. “We’ve gotten a lot of requests from people to bottle the root beer. People were saying their kids would love it.”
Shipyard Brewing Company in Portland, Maine, contract brews all St. John Brewers’ beers and the same goes for their root beer. But just because Chipman and Vyas aren’t brewing the batches themselves, the root beer — just like their popular Island Summer Ale and Mango Pale Ale — is still very much their own creation.
“We designed the label and its local artwork and Shipyard follows our recipe exactly,” said Vyas.
When the two brewers started out four years ago, they were distributing cases of their beer from the back of their own truck. Since then, West Indies Corporation has picked up their products and now distributes St. John Brewers’ ales on all three main U.S. Virgin Islands. Their beer is also available in New Jersey, Florida, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Nebraska and California from various distributors.
Since launching their root beer bottles recently, however, the two are back to familiar territory — their pick-up truck.
“We’re self-distributing,” said Vyas. “We’re already in a lot of places in Cruz Bay right now and we’ll get out to Coral Bay soon.”
“It’s nice though, because it’s important to get out and meet our customers,” said Chipman. “They know the root beer is coming from us.”
The two have been busy getting ready for St. John Festival — they had a brightly decorated float in the July Fourth Parade and handed out samples of root beer and adult beers — and rolling out a new seasonal bottled brew stateside.
Their Spring and Summer offering, Liquid Sunshine Belgian Style Ale, is available on tap at the Tap Room and in bottles stateside.
“It took a little longer to get the bottles going than we thought,” said Vyas. “So we’re distributing the bottles in the states now and we’ll have it down here next year.”
The brewers aren’t about to rest on their laurels either. Vyas and Chipman are constantly conjuring up new brews to try to out and are currently working on an India Pale Ale, called Island Hoppin’.
“We’ve been brewing it at the Tap Room and we’ve almost finalized the recipe,” said Chipman.
The two are still working on artwork for the label and federal requirements for the IPA, but expect to be able to launch Island Hoppin’ in bottles in the future.
All that work has kept the brewers busy, so if St. John Brewers’ root beer isn’t available at a certain restaurant or retail outlet, ask for it. And keep an eye out for the root beer on dessert menus — it’s already available for a delicious float at I Scream ice cream shops.
A popular concoction at the Tap Room is the R and R, root beer and rum. The St. John Brewers use Cruzan Dark to mix with the root beer and it’s definitely a treat. Samples of St. John Brewers’ root beer and R and R will be available at Starfish Gourmet on Saturday, July 18, from noon to 3 p.m.
Chipman and Vyas are planning to throw some summer keg parties on the back deck of the Tap Room, which always has a variety of tasty brews on tap.
“We’ve really enjoyed introducing people to different beers at the Tap Room,” said Chipman.
“People who came in and at first would only order the lightest beer we had are now trying out some darker beers,” said Vyas. “It’s fun to see.”
For non-beer drinkers, the Tap Room also has fruit infused vodkas. Try a drink with pineapple, mango or pear vanilla infused vodka, which mix well with St. John Brewers’ ginger beer.
Check out the website stjohnbrewers.com to keep up to date on the latest St. John Brewers happenings and offerings at the Tap Room. And for those who just can’t get enough, St. John Brewers is also on Facebook and Twitter. For more information call the Tap Room at 998-1333.