Carnival Cruise Launches America’s First “Brewery at Sea”

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Although many Americans enjoy the benefits of cruising for vacation — entertainment, people cleaning up after you, endless food and drink — the concept of #CruiseLife just got better for beer drinkers, thanks to Carnival Cruise Line’s RedFrog Pub & Brewery, America’s first on-board brewpub.

Aboard Carnival’s newest ship, Carnival Vista, what could have been just another one of Carnival’s “RedFrog”-themed bars has taken things to the next level by becoming a brewpub, complete with a lineup of freshly brewed beers made on-site. The ship first launched the brewery in May, and after recently docking in New York City, it's officially on its way to Miami, where it will be based.

The beers include a lineup of three core Caribbean-inspired offerings: A tropically hoppy Port Hoppin’ IPA; orange-infused Caribbean Wheat; and bold and roasty Java Stout. According to brewmaster, Colin Presby (whose previous brewing stints include Weyerbacher Brewing in Easton, Pennsylvania, and Stoudts Brewery in Adamstown, Pennsylvania), the menu also offers one “extra” beer, the most recent being the boat’s first seasonal beer, the Pumpkin Ale.

(Another beer, ThirstyFrog Red, is also available, but this one has existed on Carnival cruise ships previously, and is contract brewed by an AB facility.)

Bar-goers can enjoy RedFrog’s ThirstyFrog-themed pints poured at the bar ($5.75 for a 20 oz pint, $16.50 for a pitcher, or $27.95 for a tube) or at one of five high-top tables with self-serve tap handles ($4 for 14 oz); or, grab a growler to go to slug in the sun on deck, or have it made in the shade at the ship’s iMax theater.

According to Carnival, the creation of the first RedFrog brewpub was a collaborative effort between Carnival and Miami-based Concrete Beach Brewery. Before opening the brewery, Concrete Beach worked with Carnival to create a portfolio of beers appropriate for cruise-goers, brewed and served on board. Once Presby took the brewery reigns, he was able to develop recipes to fit the pub’s pre-existing branding.

Having fresh ingredients with which to brew has certainly had its logistical challenges, said Presby, but the brewery has been working with Country Malt Group to get its grains and hops delivered in a timely fashion (which can often mean ordering with several weeks of lead time, Presby said).

Although the brewery is not the first to be installed on a cruise ship — according to Presby, four others have been installed on Carnival’s sister ships, Aida, in Germany — RedFrog Pub & Brewery is the first States-based line to set sail with a brewery on-site, bringing cruise-going customers face-to-face with a working brewery.

Also unique about this brewery-on-a-boat is the equipment itself, which features a glass brewhouse designed and installed by German microbrewing equipment company Joh. Albrecht. Not only is the equipment beautifully designed with its clear mash and lauter tuns, but guests of the brewpub are able to see the brewing process as it’s happening.

Next steps for RedFrog Pub and Brewery could possibly include food and beer pairings, or someday cooking with the beers, Presby said. And about the challenges of running a brewery on open waters? “As a way of life, ship life’s not so bad.”

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