A trip to the exotic island of Réunion, a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean famous for its warm weather, wild coastline and active volcano, would be incomplete without sampling a cold bottle or two of the locally-produced grog.
The first beer to be brewed and bottled on Réunion, Bourbon blonde lager, has been the principal brand of Brasseries de Bourbon (or Breweries of Bourbon) since its inception in the early 1960s.
Made from local ingredients, this light and refreshing beer is produced in the island capital, Saint Denis.
Affectionately known as “La Dodo”, Bourbon bears the image of the now-extinct bird on the label, an avian emblem that is as much a part of the history of the island – even though the dodo was endemic to Mauritius only – as the brewery itself.
History of the brewhouse
Founded in 1962 by Vernon King Stevenson, Brasseries de Bourbon sought to deliver a locally-produced beer of a superior quality; one synonymous with the island then known as Bourbon. It was in this year that “La Dodo” was born.
In 1983 the brewery launched its own distribution arm, the Bourbon Distribution Service or BDS, to circulate bottles of Bourbon and products from sister company La Soreg across Réunion island.
In 1986 Heineken came on board as an investor into the company, driving the production and distribution of Réunion’s favourite lager forward.
In addition to its famous blonde lager, Brasseries de Bourbon has produced white and reddish beers since 1996, incorporating local fruits and flavours in the mash.
Today the brewery is one of the island’s top businesses, and the creole slogan “La dodo lé la”, or ‘The dodo is here”, is seen displayed in colourful wall paintings outside street corner cafés, in shop windows and on signposts all over the island. Réunion’s famous beer is celebrated among French communities all over the world, and even boasts a Flickr account dedicated to “La Dodo”.
La Dodo stats
Bottle: Brown glass, 33cl or 330ml
Can: Tin, 330ml
Alcohol content: 5%
Beer type: Blonde lager