In the Cook Islands, 90% percent of the beer consumed is imported. Sure, most of it just comes from New Zealand, a mere three hours and International Date Line away by flight, but it is still shame when you consider the small island of Rarotonga has not one, but two breweries. One of these is the Cooks Lager Brewery and it is nothing like any brewery you’ve seen before. It resides in an old supermarket in the town of Avarua and has only existed for less than two years (replacing a defunct Cooks Lager brewing company that had shut down years before). Yet, in those two years, the five-man operation of Cooks Lager has begun to make its dent in the local brew scene.
While the brewery makes a lager by the same name, it also brews two other beers. One is their “Cheeky Darkie” (as one of the owners of the brewery told me, they are not PC) and the other is their Blonde. During my time on the island, the Blonde wasn’t available, but I did get to try the other two.
The original Cooks Lager is a delicious, light (in flavor), refreshing beer. For a simple lager, it has some good body and the brewing process leaves the beer just a bit cloudy to give it a texture similar to that of a wheat beer. The brewery is now starting to get this brew out to some bars and restaurants, but it can also be found in 750 ml plastic bottles in various stores around the island. It’s great for kicking back on the beach, and by beach I only mean the beaches of the Cook Islands, because without preservatives, this beer isn’t gonna be shipped anywhere in the near future.
The potentially offensive Darkie beer can only be found in those plastic bottles outside of the brewery, but is definitely worth trying. Not a dark like a stout or a porter, the Darkie is more of an amber ale and is a nice companion to the Lager. This beer is much more suited for mealtime than for sitting out on the beach, as it is more of a flavor beer than a refreshing beer, but is also pretty good for lounging around a cabana after a rough afternoon of snorkeling.
The Cooks Lager Brewery is certainly on its way up in Rarotonga and I hope the time comes soon that 90% of the beer consumed in the Cook Islands are local and the other 10% are from people who are simply unwilling to try something new and refreshing.