Bobbing for Hops: Sharing Beers in America’s First Brewery at Sea.

By Posted in - Caribbean & Islands on April 7th, 2017 Randy Kalp of Speakeasy Travel Supply, tasting beers on the lanai of Red Frog Pub and Brewery on the Carnival Vista.

Randy Kalp of Speakeasy Travel Supply, tasting beers on the lanai of Red Frog Pub and Brewery on the Carnival Vista.

Colin Presby is the hardest working man in craft beer right now, and he’s just getting started.

“I want fleet brewmaster,” the 32-year-old beer professional said jokingly, during one of his several back-to-back tasting tours on board the Carnival Vista. “Brew admiral is another one; I think when we have five ships with breweries than I can become an admiral.”

Brewmaster Colin Presby holding a ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin IPA on the Carnival Vista.

Brewmaster Colin Presby holding the freshest IPA on the high seas.

A beer drinker’s brewer, Presby is North America’s first brewmaster at sea. Easy going and overflowing with beer knowledge, the Pennsylvania native sharpened his skills in some of the best breweries in the state. Paired with Carnival Cruise Lines innovative on-board brewery, Presby can offer the Vista’s guests the freshest beer of any cruise ship.

“The best way to get fresh craft beer on the ship is to make it right here,” Presby said. “Brewing on board gives us the opportunity to make good, American craft beer and give it directly to our guests.”

Built from the ground up, the Redfrog Pub and Brewery embodies the spirit of a beach town brewpub, all the way down to its laid-back tasting tours. It’s a vibrant and lively place, featuring live entertainment, table shuffleboard and foosball tables. But, for us, the coolest place in the brewpub was its lanai just off the bar, which was never short on seating or sea breezes. We’ve drank beer in a lot of brewpubs around the world, but I can honestly say chilling out on the lanai with a beer in hand and no land in sight was one of the best experiences ever.

Carnival Vista Red Frog Pub and Brewery and Fermentation Tanks.

Good vibes only at the Red Frog Pub and Brewery.

Speaking of beer, there are currently three made on the Vista. The ever-popular ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin’ IPA is unfiltered and hoppy with hints of tropical fruit. The FriskyFrog Java Stout is dark, rich and delicious, featuring touches of roasted coffee and chocolate, while the ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat is the perfect island beer—refreshing and smooth with orange and spice notes. Additionally, Presby rotates in seasonal and semi-regular offerings—like a Pumpkin Ale and Pale Ale, respectively—into the Redfrog Pub and Brewery’s beer lineup.

Brewmaster Colin Presby making beer at the Red Frog Pub and Brewery on the Carnival Vista.

The start of something beautiful. In two weeks, this will be an exclusive Carnival Vista beer.

However, before the ship’s beer can reach thirsty cruisers, it must first be made. And for this, Carnival installed a state-of-the-art brewing system on the Vista. Since, the pioneering ship features an on-board desalination and reverse osmosis plant, the water for the beer comes from the sea with some mineral adjustments on Presby’s end. Furthermore, the beer is brewed with heat from the Vista’s steam system.

Upon entering the Caribbean-themed brewpub, the first thing you’ll notice are the German-made fermenters and three-barrel glass brew house, a first for a United States brewery (only about 20 exist worldwide), which enables the brewing process to be viewed easily by the brewer and public. Generally, Presby makes the cruise ship’s beer in the evening, and he always encourages guest to stop by and watch him work. From start to pint glass, the brewing process takes approximately two weeks.

Carnival Vista Brewmaster Colin Presby holding the freshest IPA on the high seas

Brewmaster Colin Presby holding the freshest IPA on the high seas. Photo by Bethany Salvon

“You don’t buy a glass brew house to use it at 5 a.m. when no one is watching,” Presby said chuckling. I want people to see it, I want to be able to engage with guests, plus I like having live music played for me while I brew—that’s kind of cool too.”

The glass brew house on the Carnival Vista, a first for an American brewery, at the entrance of the Red Frog Pub and Brewery.

The glass brew house, a first for an American brewery, at the entrance of the Red Frog Pub and Brewery.

We met up with Presby in his home away from home, The Redfrog Pub and Brewery, on our recent Caribbean cruise. At the time, he was celebrating his one year anniversary as Carnival’s first brewmaster, a journey that started last March in Italy, where the ship was built.

“It’s been fun for me as brewer,” he explained. “It’s been a wonderful life experience: seeing a lot of the world and meeting a lot of fantastic people.”

And speaking of people, they’ve certainly showed up for the beer. On the day of our tasting tour, for example, Presby was all smiles as he explained the brewery had reached another milestone: two of its three serving tanks had been kicked in one day (it was only the second day of the cruise.)  And several days prior to that, Presby hit another one of his goals when he transferred two kegs of ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat to another Carnival ship while docked in Cozumel, Mexico.

Fresh IPA straight from the serving tank—one of the perks of the tasting tour at the Red Frog Pub and Brewery on the Carnival Vista.

Fresh IPA straight from the serving tank—one of the perks of the tasting tour on the Carnival Vista.

“We get a lot of people who are craft beer fans, but we also have a lot of cruise guests who don’t have any experience with craft beer, but they’re curious and want to try it,” Presby explained, adding that he brews his beers to be flavorful yet approachable.

For all intents and purposes, Presby has got brewing on board the Carnival Vista down to a science, and that’s just not because he has a BA in mathematics with a minor in chemistry. His days are a spin cycle of tasting tours (he’s the sole guide), cleaning (he estimates 70% of his day is spent cleaning) and making beer (he brews nearly every night). But his most important role, may be that of an ambassador for American craft beer. Far more than any brewer on land, Presby has the chance to bring Carnival’s fresh, small batch beer to the world, one cruise at a time.

“It’s good craft beer outreach,” he said with a smile.

Know Before You Go

Randy Kalp of Speakeasy Travel Supply, tasting beers from the Red Frog Pub and Brewery on the Carnival Vista.

1. Tasting Tours cost $24.95 and last about an hour. In addition to the four tastings on the tour, you’ll also receive a glass and certificate of completion, which is good for one free pint in the Redfrog Pub and Brewery.

2. The lobby bar in the Atrium on the Carnival Vista will always have one of the breweries fresh beers on tap.

3. Stainless steel growlers are available in the Redfrog Pub and Brewery for $49 filled. And then refills are $17, cheaper than the cost of a pitcher of beer at the brewpub.

4. Carnival carries beer (cans and bottles) from the local craft breweries of its home ports on all its cruise ships.

5. Future Carnival ships will also feature breweries, including Carnival Horizon which will set sail in spring 2018.

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over. As always our thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.

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(5) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Alan Cuthbertson - Reply

    April 7, 2017 at 5:41 am

    Wow as beer lovers from way back we didn’t even know that some Cruise Ships brewed there own beer. Makes us want to try the Carnival line for our next cruise. Planning a cruise just got a whole lot more interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  • Caroline Eubanks - Reply

    April 10, 2017 at 6:40 am

    Talk about the dream job!

  • Randy Kalp - Reply

    April 13, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Yeah, it adds a whole new element to the cruise game, Alan. I was happy to hear the brewery has been such a success for Carnival that they’ve got plans for more. .

  • Randy Kalp - Reply

    April 13, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    Colin seems to be loving it; though, his hours are long. For me, I think the thing I’d be most psyched about is the potential to continually break new territories in brewing.

  • Shaun - Reply

    April 15, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    Well this is an interesting first. The last cruise I was on Budweiser and Coors were more expensive than Pilsner Urquell and Guinness so surprised the average cruise goer would buy into this. Good on Carnival for trying to provide a better product!

    Cheers

    Shaun
    http://www.thislifeintrips.com

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