The next time you crack open a can of Island Coastal Lager or take a sip of crisp Lemonada, you can thank a fateful conversation between two dog owners for its existence.
Our cofounder Scott Hansen started Island Brands as a way to bring delicious beer to the lager-deprived country of Cuba back in 2016. How he ended up in Old Havana having the best risotto of his life and making a promise to two brothers in a bar is all because of his family dog, Sailor.
A man of adventure and “taking it easy,” Scott spent time before launching Island Brands competing in open ocean sailing races – during one of which he shared a boat with Stephen Colbert from Charleston to Bermuda. Infatuated by the sublime uncertainty of being offshore, Scott said he caught the sailing bug early on and embraced serendipity when back on land.
Walking his goldendoodle down the beaches of Sullivan’s Island, Scott got to talking with a Brooklyn-based artist and the owner of a jet black French bulldog. As their dogs got acquainted playing in the sun and sand, the two men discovered their shared interest of the open ocean after Scott explained how Sailor got his name. Their exchange of life stories ended with Scott getting an invitation to join the artist on his next race from Key West to Cuba – an offer Scott accepted in the spur of the moment.
Not long after, Scott found himself drinking rum and dining with the Havana locals. The resilience of the people he encountered while in Cuba is what Scott remembers most about the trip — along with the terrible beer. In the face of a brutal communist regime and a complicated national history, these people showed strength in their ability to embrace creativity, connection and the good times. Anyone with such a positive outlook on how to take on the world surely deserved a better beer.
While eating a risotto that blew any Italian rendition out the park, Scott promised two brothers he met at dinner the gift of a good, clean lager.
Upon returning to The States, Scott's passion project quickly turned into a full blown operation. He tested 17 iterations of the perfect lager recipe at a local craft brewery and took a trip to the Ball canning manufacturer in Colorado to hand mix an exact shade of ocean blue for the rim of the can. The coin-like icons on the front of every Island beer mimic the design of Cuban cigar boxes and the white background is a nod to the white sand beaches of Havana. Even the name “Island” pays homage to Cuban Islanders.
Though restrictions laid out by the US Embassy prevented Scott from actually delivering any of the 288,000 cans he created down to his Cuban friends, born out of his serendipitous sail was a company set on celebrating resilience and good vibes. Island Brands is all about the people who make it and those who drink it up, and the “Take it Easy” mindset came from Scott’s experience in Old Havana — an experience we all owe to our good friend, Sailor.