Sugar and spiked: Caribbean brewery unveils sugarcane beer

Cane in a bottle: Danii Oliver says that Island to Island Brewery’s sugarcane beer was inspired by Caribbean flavors.
Photo by Jason Speakman

How sweet it is!

A Caribbean juice bar in Prospect Lefferts Gardens recently expanded to become a brewery, and its latest endeavor is a beer made entirely from sugar. The owners of House of Juice and the new Island to Island Brewery created the Island Squared sugarcane beer because they wanted a flavor that reminds them of the islands, said one co-owner.

“We wanted to launch this because we really wanted to something that was truly Caribbean in the same way we make beers and ciders back home,” said Danii Oliver.

The high consumption of sugarcane in the region makes it an appropriate ingredient for a Caribbean brewery, said Oliver, adding that it also helps our company stand out from other local beer producers.

“Sugar cane juice is drunk all over the islands, and around the world,” she said. “We are a different kind of brewery and this is something we planned to do for the longest time.”

In the usual brewing process, grains are cooked until they release sugars, and yeast ferments that sugar into alcohol. Island to Island skips the cooking process, pressing sugarcane in water and fermenting the result for three weeks. Oliver said that this process creates a distinctive Caribbean flavor.

“It actually doesn’t take three weeks but that’s how long we wanted it fermented,” she said. “We wanted it to have a nice strong taste, but still get sugarcane flavor with a nice quantity of alcohol by volume.”

Visitors to the brewery’s taproom may be puzzled by the beer, but they are major fans of its peculiar taste, she said.

“They are enthralled by it. People have been amazed and are really trying to figure out how we have a sugar cane beer,” said Oliver. “They’re curious because there’s no grain in it, and shocked that something as enjoyable as sugarcane can even be made into a beer.”

The House of Juice gained experience fermenting by creating kombucha, ginger beer, and apple cider before moving into alcoholic beverages. And more island-inspired ales are on the way, said Oliver, with flavors that include soursop, quenepas, and sorrel — all fruits and snacks commonly eaten in the Caribbean.

Between its juices, smoothies, ciders, kombucha, and Caribbean-inspired beers, Island to Island hopes to appeal to all members of the Little Caribbean neighborhood, whether they drink alcohol or not, said Oliver.

“It’s mission of ours get involved with our community and give them options when they go out to drink and have fun,” she said.

Island to Island Brewery [642 Rogers Ave. between Parkside and Clarkson avenues in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, (646) 769–0490,]. Open Wednesday, Thursday, 4–9 pm; Friday, 4 pm–midnight; Saturday, 10 am–midnight; Sunday, noon–10 pm.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]

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