People have been intrigued and entertained by legends of pirates and buried treasure for centuries. After all, what is more seductive than tales of pillaging, plundering and debauchery on the high seas?
Pirates have been around as long as people have used the oceans as trade routes. Instances of piracy have been documented all the way back to the 13th century BC. According to popular belief, the “Sea People” were the first confederacy of seafaring raiders – threatening the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas in the second millennium BC. (The Sea People haunted many Egyptian, Greek and Roman kings during this time and have even been attributed to the collapse of multiple empires & kingdoms located along the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas)
The most infamous pirates in history, however, date back to The Golden Era of Piracy. Long before the immensely popular Pirates of The Caribbean movie series hit the big screen and created a pirate obsession and craze across the world, stories and tales of pirates of the Caribbean waters have been romanticizing popular culture.
Roughly spanning from the 1650s to the 1720s, the Golden Age of Piracy is so called because of the significant increase in the number of pirates operating throughout the Caribbean and along the American coast. This era spawned the modern day depiction of pirates. The most infamous pirates from this era are the prototypes for today’s “pirate industry” – inspiring movie & book characters, memorabilia, comics, artwork, souvenirs, costumes etc.
One such pirate is Blackbeard – arguably the most infamous, most feared and most vicious pirate in all of history. In fact, his appearance alone was so terrorizing that many of his victims surrendered without a fight. Even members of his crew feared him (and for good reason, since he had a record of marooning his own crew on multiple occasions). Heck, many merchant crew ships often surrendered at the mere site of Blackbeard’s flag!
Blackbeard’s exact name and origin is unknown. The most common theory is that Blackbeard’s real name was Edward Teach (or Thatch) and that he originated from Bristol, England.
Although the source of his nickname is debatable (some say self-proclaimed, some say given by others), its relevance is undeniable. Blackbeard did in fact have a black beard. According to legend, he used to tie strings of hemp under his beard which he would light with matches during battle – giving the illusion that he had fire coming from his beard.
Blackbeard is documented as being a tall man, usually adorned in a long jacket and a big feathered tricorn, carrying multiple swords, knives, and pistols.
Although his reign of terror was incredibly short lived (less than 2 years), Blackbeard most certainly left his mark on history.
His first act of piracy was the capture of the French slaveship La Concorde in 1717. The ship, which he renamed Queen Anne’s Revenge, served as Blackbeard’s flag ship for almost the entire duration of his career.
In perhaps the most brazen act of his piratical career, Blackbeard blockaded the port of Charleston for nearly a week. He obtained hostages from the town and threatened to kill them all if the townspeople in Charleston didn’t come up with quite possibly the most interesting ransom in all of pirating: a medical chest filled with remedies.
The events surrounding Blackbeard’s death are questionable … and rather shady (if you ask me). Story has it that Blackbeard retired from piracy after he accepted a pardon from Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia. Said shady Governor is also the man who ordered Lieutenant Robert Maynard to hunt down and destroy Blackbeard. Maynard did in fact succeed in his mission, but Blackbeard did not go down easily. Legend has it that Blackbeard sustained five gun shot wounds and more than twenty stabs with a sword before he died and was decapitated.
By now you must be wondering why on earth I took the time to research and write about Blackbeard The Pirate for my BEER blog. Sure pirates are f*cking awesome, but what the hell does any of this have to do with beer? Ahhh, have no fear friends … we are getting there.
If you stalk me on Twitter, then you probably know I recently spent a week vacationing in St. Thomas. My biggest pet peave about the entire trip was the overall LACK of good beer on the entire island. AND on top of it, beer was ridiculously expensive … well actually EVERYTHING was expensive (excluding rum … which is cheaper than water). Almost all food and beverages in the U.S. Virgin Islands are imported – which equals lots of taxation and added fuel costs. Very few products are native to the area – save for rum, seafood … and some produce.
As for the beer … the selection was extremely limited and consisted mostly of lagers. And if you know anything about me, know this: The Wench is not a big fan of lagers. Of course, I respect the style and acknowledge its purpose in the world of beer. However, lagers are not my favorite thing to drink. But enough about that …
One beer did help St. Thomas save face: Virgin Islands Brewing Company Blackbeard Ale. (Ah ha! And the blog post is finally coming full circle!)
Virgin Islands Brewing Company is small traditional brewery that was founded on St. Croix in 1996. It is the ONLY brewery producing beer in the Virgin Islands. The two local beers they brew are Blackbeard Ale and Foxy’s Lager. Both are available throughout the United States and British Virgin Islands.
Obviously, Blackbeard Ale was named after one of the most dreaded and notorious pirates of all time. Naturally, I had to give this beer a taste … after all, I am a whore for ales … and pirates. And a beer that combines the two just has to be good … right?
Here are my tasting notes, courtesy of my iphone Beer Pad application:
Style: Amber Ale
Brewery: Virgin Islands brewing Company
Region: Virgin Islands
Pairings: Cheese, Seafood, Pork … Spicy Foods!
Color: Cloudy, dark amber
Carbonation: Low carbonation, … but it was poured from a bottle into a plastic cup. Pours a thick head, which dissipates quickly. Lacing lasts till the very end.
Aroma: Tons of toasty malt, caramel & brown sugar. Sweet grassy hops. The malt definitely dominates the aroma.
Mouthfeel: Very light bodied, mildly alcoholic
Flavor: SUPER malty. Toasted nuts. Lost of brown sugar. Compliments spicy food very well (sweetness helps to cut the fire)
Finish: Malt lingers on and on …
Comments: “It’s actually pretty tasty. I’m so sick and tired of drinking lagers on this f*cking island! This ale is my hero. Yarrrggghhhh!!!”
Considering this brewery is located in an area of the world that brews mostly lagers and is known for its rum more than anything else … Virgin Islands Brewing Company should definitely get props for its Blackbeard Ale. It is a well balanced, easy to drink ale that goes very well with the foods and fare of the islands. Not to mention, Blackbeard was one kick ass pirate … and his story alone makes the ale that much cooler.
If you can get your hands on some, take my advice and give it a taste! Bottoms up!
“Drink Up Me Maties, Yo Ho!”