Cruisin’ in Tahiti

Paradise usually has a very distinct duality about it. Where there is the extreme beauty there also is blatant ugliness. The brochure shows you the bluest blues and the dreamy shores while never mentioning the struggle of the local populous. And why would they? An economy relying solely on its tourist appeal is nothing if not self preserving. But there is something different about this place, isn’t there? Through the obvious struggle of just surviving in a lopsided economy I found a community making the most out of what they have and not letting what must be an askew outlook of the world diminish a bright spirit. This place is everything you dreamed it was, and nothing you ever expected. Welcome to Tahiti. 

It helps to know a little French if you are looking to travel to this patch of land in the Pacific as the French occupation is deeply engrained in everything from the cuisine to the driving tendencies. It would also help to have some pretty deep pockets, because this place is expensive. How expensive you might ask? It was $1 USD for every 47 Pacific Francs (XPF), and a six pack of Hinano, Tahiti’s only beer that they make goes for a whopping 2,100 XPF… Still trying to figure out the math? Thats over $40 for a six pack! If you search it out you can find some other imports like the Belgian beer Leffe which if you must is not a bad alternative to sobriety, but seeing as how it is readily available in the States I steered clear for more exotic choices, such as…

Hinano Tahiti’s Ambrée. Those who are familiar with the blue labeled lager that we have in the Americas know that a Hinano is not exactly a “go to” brew. In fact, I’d rather not even drink it if I had a choice. But the Ambrée has something that the other beer just doesn’t seem to have. Complexity. It is a lovely hue of red and copper as you would expect from an amber lager and the aroma is like a sweet campfire breeze, with grilled sausages, and burgers, and beers, definitely beers… Sorry, drifted away for a second. The palate is definitely dominated by the malts which come across somewhat weighted but not too heavy. Nicely bitter like a good rye but with just enough sweetness to keep it grounded. Its laughable how much better the Ambrée is compared to the regular lager. Actually, no, its not funny at all. It shows that they can produce a really good beer but still will be known for the runoff they ship to the rest of the world, and that is kind of sad. The Ambrée is only available in Tahiti, which makes it a little more special. A generous 6.75/10 on the UrD scale, and at $40+ a pop for a sixer you better enjoy every last drop.

Now, Tahiti is not a place you come to if you are looking for a good beer. That would be, for lack of better words, idiotic. But like so many other great things in life when you’re not looking for something it inevitably falls in your lap. So is the way we stumbled across another brewery, or at least I think they brewed there (the vats could have been for show for all I know). Down by the water across from the town square in Papeete tucked away was a bright light in the dark, Les 3 Brasseurs (The Three Brewers). Being that there was limited time before having to race to the airport, the urgency to try as many beers as possible was at the forefront of my priorities. Luckily in Tahiti there is no law against stacking your drinks so I ordered everything they had at once for maximum immersion. 

Starting with the Ambrée, an amber ale that hits all the marks for the style and paired delightfully with the blocks of deep fried cheese. Not a significant hop presence but the malts give the palate a feeling of campfire wood with a backdoor of sweetness that holds it all together. This one is comes in at 6.5/10 of the UrD scale. Next up, 3B’s has a thing for blondes, and I do too apparently because this one gave me the fizzy feelings. Little drapery on the walls of the glass, very little aromas, and the carpet matched the curtains… I mean the color was extremely blonde. As first impressions go, things were not looking good for this bimbo, but after our first sip things changed and I saw our entire future together. Bursting with fruity notes and a smooth finish, I cannot remember a blonde I enjoyed more. 7.25/10 UrD. Touché 3B’s, touché. Next up to the plate was the Blanche (White). Misty and mysterious, a yeasty breath confounds my senses to have to taste in order to understand. Blind I would tell you this was a Hefeweizen if not for the menu insisting otherwise. But nonetheless the wit notes are there in a supporting cast of citrusy fruit and a sweet exhale. The Blanche gets a confused 6.75/10 on the UrD scale. Finally before a plane whips us back across the Pacific, La Biere De Saison. Do I really need to translate that? It’s a saison. And after all the saisons I have palatized in my time, this one plays like a base beer that is ready for, nay, pleading for manipulation. It’s a cookie cutter saison, which is to say it’s done very well, with only needing a little imagination or experimentation to make it stand out. To be fair, in Tahiti, hard for a beer to stand out, it is not. The saison comes in at 7/10 UrD. 

I wish I could tell you that Tahiti was paradise. I wish I could tell you that its people are thriving. My real world view does not allow for that however. But if you allow yourself to look passed the struggle for a second you can see and even feel the true beauty of this place. There is a spirit in the air that helps to melt away the cockeyed tourist mentality and see the heart of what the place really is. Through the eyes of its sunsets or through the curtain of a waterfall, you find a little bit of yourself in the lonely beauty of just being alive. Maybe it IS paradise…

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