(Roatan Island, Honduras) Pirates have been raiding Roatan Island since the early 1600s. The first to invade were the Spanish. Then the British. This time, it’s a Czech. Jiri Maska is a modern-day pirate if ever I met one. He is conquering the island with a brewery.
A well-respected artist whose art was not consistent with Communist thought in his home country, Maska left Czech in the early 1990s. He went first to the United States to continue his art studies, then travelled all over the world. He eventually made his way down to Roatan.
In each of the places he landed, he thought the beer was terrible. While many people might have had this same thought, he decided he needed to do something about it. Roatan Brewery is now up and running with two lovely beers, Bay Islands Pilsner and Bay Islands Ale. I can vouch that they are both delicious.
The brewery itself is a replica of a 15th century Spanish fortress. Maska has built it himself in less than 2 years, high on a hill in the east end of the island. Windmills and solar panels provide the power. In order to produce these natural beers, which follow a 600 year old recipe, he imports everything, from the equipment to the hops, yeast and malt, from Europe. The entire brewing cycle takes about a month to complete. If you stop by, Maska will give you a tour of the place and regale you with stories, only after he provides you with a freshly poured beer.
All his beer drinking has inspired some pretty lofty ideas. Maska has, among other serious adventures, crashed a 4-seater airplane and survived. Later he sank a boat he brought over from Czech in the deep waters off the north coast of Honduras, and was adrift for 16 hours. With no flotation device. Eventually he was picked up by local fishermen.
These events have only fueled the passion for his latest endeavor. What next? A pirate ship, of course! His Black Pearl project is creating an exact replica of the pride of Henry Morgan’s fleet. Henry Morgan was one of the most famous pirates of the Caribbean, who built the original Black Pearl off the coast of Honduras in 1667. Maska is not only building this ship using the same materials used back then, but is also building it in the same place it was originally built. Details include 6 bronze functional cannons, handmade canvases and ropes, a handmade metal-tipped anchor, and sheathing impregnated by hot blood from oxen. The ship is designed for tourism, and will be ready for its maiden voyage in summer of 2007.
What’s on the horizon for Captain Maska is beyond anyone’s imagination. Perhaps the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria? Ahoy, mateys!