Ikale is the beer of champions. At least, it is the beer of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Tupoato’a of Tonga. We were having a beer at the Billfish bar and restaurant in Nuku’alofa when we ran into Master Brewer Lennart SÃ¤tmark…
As it turns out, the Royal Beer Co. is partly owned by Pripps Bryggerier in Sweden, and Lennart came over to help set it up in 1987.
The mini-brewery was set up as recently as May 1987. Clearly this is not why it claims to be the first beer in the world. Rather, it is because of a bend in the international timeline. Tonga is the first nation in the world for the sun to set its rays on each morning. So the claim: “The first beer in the world – every day” is quite accurate.
Ikale is brewed after the principles of the German “reinheitsgebot” beer law of 1516 that states that beer must only contain four ingredients: malt, hops, yeast and water. And tastes excellent. It’s a light, clear beer that can be served quite cold. And it needs to be pretty refreshing in a warm, humid country such as Tonga.
Lennart was a funny guy. He knew Thor Heyerdahl, and lives/workes in Vanuatu now with (with Tusker beer). He also helped with Mandalay beer in Burma (Myanmar), where he must have done a really good jobs because he got handwritten Christmas cards from two government ministers. Something he apparently never did in Sweden working for Pripps (Burma is not a everybody-knows-everybody nations such as Tonga. Burma has more than 40 million inhabitants.)
Although Lennart now lives in Vanuatu and works for Vanuatu Brewing Limited, the assistant manager of Royal Beer Co. Ltd. is also a Swede. Jim Malm is from SkÃ¥ne, but now lives in Tonga, and is married to a Tongan.
Ikale have the capacity to make 1,5 million litres a year, but only makes about 900.000 litres. But it is enough for the 99,000 thirsty people in Tonga.