I did mention a while ago that I went on a working trip to Fiji. For those unfamiliar with the beer scene in Fiji, there are three options:
The first two are the product of Carlton & United Breweries’ Fijian subsidiary. As a result, it’s not terribly surprising to find that the Fiji Bitter tastes like VB. I’ve never tried the Gold but I imagine it’s about the same but midstrength.
When my colleagues and I arrived at the hotel in time for happy hour, we were going to opt for the bitter. The ordering conversation ran something like this:
“I’ll have four Fiji Bitters, thanks,” asks my colleague
“Are you sure you don’t want a Vonu?” says the barman
“No, four Fiji Bitters, thanks.”
“Are you sure you don’t want a Vonu?” the barman repeats
“Alright, four Vonus then.”
And after that, some made the switch back to bitter during our week stay but, predominantly, Vonu was the beer of choice. After a long, tiresome day on site in the hot sun, a cool refreshing lager is just what the doctor ordered.
I foolishly didn’t take any notes while I was over there but the website tells us:
Crisp and fresh with a medium body and mild hop aroma, Vonu Pure is the perfect refreshment when served chilled in a tropical climate.
That sounds about right. The Island Brewing Co have clearly decided to make a beer in the tradition of Australian lagers: the Vonu is a clear, golden colour with a decent head on it, it is designed to be served very cold and it goes down with the same ease as water.
Whereas the Fiji Bitter is all about the bittering hops, minimal malt and not much else, the Vonu Pure Lager has a little more going for it. There’s a decent burst of freshness upon your first sip. Through the middle, there’s a sense of wheat but that’s a poor approximation – I think it comes from the pale malts used. There’s a crisp, bitter finish but it feels more polished and less forceful than the CUB Bitter.
Overall, it piques your interest but doesn’t deliver a whole lot in wow factor. Being a refreshment, rather than a craft beer, it’s perhaps unfair to hold it to the same standard as the brewers here but Vonu Pure Lager is a big step up from Fiji Bitter and, for a local brewery in a country where I don’t think there’s much of a brewing tradition, it’s a solid effort. Will it make a splash in Australia? Almost certainly not. But is it a good alternative to the Fijian Fosters? Absolutely.
- Genre: Lager
- Regionality: Nadi, Fiji
- Strength: 4.6%
- Rating: 1.5 / 3 taste + 1 / 2 ancillaries = 2.5 / 5
- Plus: Refreshing in the hot, humid climate.
- Minus: Nothing special in the grand scheme.