History Behind Belikin Beer vs. Charger Beer

There are so many interesting and important stories in Belize that just fade into unwritten history over the years, and no one ever speaks in print about these stories anymore. One example of such story is the beer war between Belikin Beer and Charger Beer during the 1970s.

Belikin Beer

Belikin beerBelikin Beer came on the scene during the late 1969. Prior to this, people drank imported Heineken and Amstel beer, and Guinness stout, all for 50 cents a pint. When Belikin came on the scene, the government raised taxes on foreign beers, so most of the Bealizeans had to start drinking Belikin. The Belize Brewery owners, the Bowen family, which lead the Coca-Cola soft drink franchise before they went into beer, is a high ranking Bayman family in Belize. They are like royalty, and trace their ancestry to the Battle of St. George’s Caye and before that.

By the early 1970s, a challenge to Belikin was raised by two brothers, Arturo and Orlando Matus, whose ancestors came as ladino refugees from the Castle Way in the Yucatan, a war which started in 1847 and lasted most of the second half of the nineteenth century. They founded Matus Brewery Company in 1976 and launched the Charger Beer. Belikin was not an especially tasty product for the Charger was dominating the domestic beer market in the middle 1970s. They also create the Charger football team which no doubt helped sell beer. Charger becomes a ‘red hot’ product in Belize.

Between 1976 and 1977, Bowen’s bankers offered the Matus brothers the opportunity to buy out Belikin Brewery. Orlando Matus declined the offer, on the grounds that he did not want to create a monopoly. Today, Charger is just a faint memory. Orlando Matus is in Louisiana, a defeated man, while Belikin rules in Belize.

So, what happened? The Matus brothers did not have any money so they built their beer factory and business with loan money from the Bank of Nova Scotia. They did not want to sell stock to raise the venture capital; they wanted a wholly owned family business. According to newspaper stories after the collapse and foreclosure of the Charger Beer Company by the bank, the newspapers revealed that during the beer war, the Bowen family had bought up empty returnee Charger Beer bottles.

Belize Country

In Belize country of that day, all containers were imported into the country and quite expensive with duties and shipping, so bottling companies had a bottle buy back policy. The Bowen family, the winner beer company, got that way, by buying up all the competition empty Charger Beer bottles and secretly storing them in a warehouse. This broke Charger Beer because they had to keep importing expensive bottle for their beer. Eventually, they could not afford to do so and the loans were too big and the bank foreclosed, putting them out of business.

Visit To Belize

Whether such a story is completely true or not, the years that have passed had proven just how big a company like Belikin has become. On your next visit to Belize, make sure that you grab a bottle or two of Belikin Beer and taste its rich taste and history.

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