Kubuli in Dominica
There we were, my wife and I, reading the menu at one of the few restaurants open on a Sunday night in Roseau, Dominica. It was an opportunity to try the local beer. Those initial sips of Kubuli revealed a moderately crisp lager with an unexpected flavor—more funky than skunky—that I couldn’t place.
Dominica is known as the Nature Island, and nature’s dial was cranked to 11 the following day: a trough system arrived, bringing river-swelling, road-swamping storms. We wandered Roseau in the rain, shopping for produce at the market, and ducked into the tourism office. The crisply dressed woman on duty recommended against visiting waterfalls or other mountain destinations.
Desperate to explore, we headed to the sulfur springs outside of Soufriere village. Groundwater is pushed to the surface there by geothermal activity–heated, mineralized, smelling of old eggs. We entered the grounds to see a group standing near a rectangular pool. Two older women stepped gingerly into the steaming water. We chatted about the springs’ restorative powers before walking up the hill to the smaller pools. The rain resumed and we stashed our bags under overhanging rocks.
The warm, rust-colored water felt incredible in the cool, dark air of the forest. Ferns covered the ground and danced under the falling drops sent down from tall trees. We moved from pool to pool and the one at the bottom was the warmest of all, hot really. The group had left and we were the only people in sight. Frogs whistled in the premature dusk.
We pulled over at a roadside bar on the way back to town. I ordered a Kubuli and a Mackeson stout just before the bartender closed. Last call on a rain day. We sat on the seawall out back and watched the grey-green Caribbean. Frigatebirds flew overhead and looked for fish below.
By nightfall, Roseau was flooding. A tall man walked along a road wearing a blocky orange life vest over a long yellow slicker. In the Pottersville neighborhood, we walked a few doors down from our rental house to a small bar. The crowd on the porch watched the street and the rain. We squeezed inside and a woman followed to take our orders.
She introduced herself as Shirley and, when I ordered a Guinness, mentioned that the Kubulis were three for 10 East Caribbean dollars (about $4 USD). I liked the math and appreciated her hospitality. She told us about her love of Poughkeepsie in New York. We told her about our visit to the sulfur springs.
“Can’t you smell us?” I joked—and then I finally realized what Kubuli tastes like.
The sound system was blasting bouyon music and Shirley and I danced amicably in the narrow space. I drank one beer and took the others to go, bagged in the type of clear plastic the vendor at the market had used to package our oranges.
The sun eventually emerged and our final meal on the island was pitch perfect: curry chicken, red beans, plantains, ground provisions, salad. We chased it with two bottles of Kubuli, the kiss of sulfur kind of odd and completely delicious. It tastes like a volcanic island in the Caribbean.