Above all, Barry Bowen was Belizean. A seventh generation Belizean born and raised, Sir Barry was ardently proud of his country.
Never driven by the pursuit of wealth, but rather by the pursuit of growth and creation, few have played a greater role in our country’s industrial history and development. He was a true entrepreneur who defined his own path. We all remember him as the unconventionally wise and defiantly spirited man of industry, creating Belize Brewing Company, and other Belizean Businesses.
As well, we continue to benefit from Sir Barry’s environmental commitment to Belize, including his contributions to the Rio Bravo Conservation, the largest private nature reserve in Belize. His philanthropic legacy lives on as well; from the National Spelling Bee promoting education through intellectual competition among young students, to the San Pedro community, who thanks him on a daily basis for his funding of the Boca del Rio Bridge…and who remembers him as the straw-hatted, Belikin-in-hand driver of his green tractor about town.
Sir Barry was a hard-working man with boundless energy. He was happiest when he was on the plant floor and especially when he was working on one of the many machines. Although not an engineer, he could explain what every piece of equipment in the plant did, and how it worked. A symbol of his “roll-up-your sleeves” work ethic and passion for machinery was his left hand, which was missing the tips of three of his fingers, sliced off while he had his hand deep in a machine trying to get it to work. He was proud of his machines, and his left hand, and that incident never dissuaded him from getting his hands dirty and putting them back into a machine.
He was our Knight in Belizean shining armor… for real! He went to England, to be touched on the shoulders by the sword of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Belikin would not exist without Sir Barry… but he would have been quick to counter that Belikin only truly exists because of his beloved Belize, its people, and the hard-working people in the Company.
Today, his family strives every day to carry forth Sir Barry’s brewing and Belizean legacy.
Michael Bowen is an eighth-generation Belizean who joined the family business in 2000. He spent his first decade working in every aspect of Bowen & Bowen’s operations, from bottling Crystal Water to tending shrimp at Belize aquaculture.
“I still recall my first day at work,” he says chuckling... “With youthful enthusiasm, I waited for my Dad to arrive and start teaching me the ropes. Instead I was sent to Crystal Bottling and told to introduce myself to John Armstrong, a former Royal Airforce Pilot who managed the plant. With the charm of an old British soldier greeted me and showed me my desk, and left me there as he went off to take care of his responsibilities."
“I quickly learned my success depended on my own initiative and that I’d have to learn the ropes myself; no handing holding here. Over the next many months, I worked alongside every position in the plant, asking questions, watching, trying to understand the whole process. In hindsight, some of my questions were probably silly, but everyone in the plant, from custodians to engineers, was generous with their time and enjoyed my eagerness. They were all proud of their jobs and glad to share their knowledge and insights with someone who was sincerely interested. I learned the whole operation from top to bottom, but the more importantly I learned it all depended on people who are dedicated to their work."
In 2010 Sir Barry Bowen died in a plane crash and Michael took the helm. His first order of business was to re-establish the company’s focus; new offerings were introduced, plants were rebuilt and equipment upgraded with modern technology, everything from labels to distribution was given a fresh look. And the company rallied around it.
“The goal was always to make clear that Belize Brewing is a company run by Belizeans and for Belizeans, to transition us into the 21st century and provide a workplace that everyone is proud to be a part of. I’m sometimes reminded that I have huge shoes to fill, and my reply is always the same…acknowledging that I’ll never be able to fill my Dad shoes, but thankfully I have my own.”
With the renewed energy and focus, Belize Brewing has grown in every way. Each brand and line extension has been carefully chosen after on research and feedback from our customers. Today, the Belikin Beer Family has grown to include Belikin Beer, Belikin Light, Belikin Stout, Belikin Sorrel Stout and Belikin Chocolate Stout.
Michael’s passion and vision has catapulted the Belize Brewing Company to new levels and we continue to strive to meet the expectations of the Belizean consumer, who has a very refined palate for well-brewed beer.
Nolan R. T. Michael is Belize Brewing Company’s first Belizean Brewmasta (Brew Master). During our first 40 years, Belize Brewing operated with German Brew Masters, who helped establish the brands loved by our consumers and trained our organization on how to ensure world class quality and taste. In 2011, in alignment with Michael Bowen’s vision of expanding our Belizean brand, it made all the sense in the world to make the change to a Belizean born and raised Brew Master.
Nolan was raised in Belize City and attended St. Joseph Primary School followed by St. John’s High School and Junior College. In 1994, he was awarded a Jesuit Scholarship to attend St. Louis University, Missouri, USA. He completed his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1996 and was subsequently awarded a Teaching Assistant Fellowship at St. Louis University where he completed his Master of Science Degree in Organic Synthesis and Analytical Chemistry in 1998, graduating with Magna Cum Laude honors.
Upon his return to Belize in 1998 he was immediately welcomed on board the Bowen & Bowen Team. He worked in many different Departments of the Company, including research and development, quality assurance, production management, and project implementation before eventually being promoted to Plant Manager of Crystal Bottling Company in 2003. Shelley S. Bowen, Chief Marketing Officer and Sir Barry’s eldest child, likes to refer to him as “a geeky engineer who knows everything.”
In 2011 based on his educational background and work experience, Nolan arranged to attend the International Brewing Program at the Siebel Institute in Chicago, Illinois, USA, and the World Brewing Academy in Munich, Germany, where he graduated at the top of his class (of course). He says it’s an honor and privilege to be here, and everyone who tries his beer feels the same way about him.
“Growing up my family always referred to be as the ‘mad scientist’ because I was always mixing things together to determine the outcome. Looking back, I can’t imagine a better career path than being responsible for the quality and integrity of an iconic Belizean brand. The bonus is I actually get to make great beer for a living!”
Today we’re proud to have Nolan at the helm. Belikin, the Beer of Belize, has never been of higher quality. Nolan’s first beer at the age of (ahem??), was a Belikin… Belikin has always been his beer… The Beer of Belize is in his veins. And today our consumers can taste Nolan’s brewing skill, as well as the pride he feels producing his beer, every time they open a Belikin.
Belize Brewing Company is like a team of leafcutter ants. By logical theory a leafcutter ant shouldn’t be able to transport a massive tree to their nest – but as a team, they do anyway.
Belize Brewing is not a leafcutter colony, but similarly, it was told by industry “experts” that Belize didn’t have the population base to support a brewery. Obviously, experts don’t know the character of Belizeans any better than they know the spirited will of the leafcutter when they have a mission.
After working with his father, Eric W. M. Bowen, OBE, for several years, Sir Barry Bowen was drawn by the idea of starting a brewery. And after many months convincing his father, they formed a 50-50 partnership and Belize Brewing Company was incorporated in 1969. However, they couldn’t afford to build the brewery on their own. So, they hired an international consultancy firm to produce a feasibility study, with the hope that it would provide a compelling financial story, and thus allow them to borrow money from the bank; however, the conclusion was quite the opposite.
Sir Barry was undeterred, and determined to prove those “experts” wrong. So, he and Eric decided to search for potential investors. After looking far and wide, they found support in an unlikely neighbour…Honduras.
In 1969, the brewery in Honduras, Cerveceria Hondureña, S.A., was being managed by Berty R. Hogge. Berty read the feasibility study, saw the conclusion, and spoke at length with Sir Barry about why he was pushing for a project that had little chance of success. Sir Barry, was never a salesman, but when he believed in something he was dogmatic. Berty recognized and appreciated his vision and drive, and despite the “experts” advice, Cerveceria Hondureña, S.A. invested in the Bowens’ plan, and Belize Brewing was off the ground.
Construction quickly began, with a bootstrap budget and used equipment sourced throughout the region. The brewhouse was a 43-year-old decommissioned solid copper four-vessel brewery made in 1927. It was moved and installed in Belize in 1970, and was run for another 30 years… until 2000. The only new piece of equipment purchased was a boiler, which on the day Berty had flown in for a site visit, blew up… Not an auspicious beginning!
Back then Belize Brewing was not what it is today, but through sweat and determination, Sir Barry forged ahead with a struggling business… Occasionally, there were thoughts that maybe the “experts” had been right, but Sir Barry never gave up. Believing in his dream, his project, and in himself, he bought his father shares in 1977, and in 1981 bought Cerveceria Hondureña’s shares.
So, in 1969 Sir Barry launched Belize Brewing Company, makers of Belikin to be sold Onli Eena Belize. And only because of the support of our fellow Belizeans, the brewery has steadily grown. Not bad for a brewery that shouldn’t be. Not bad for a Belizean population too small for a brewery.