I was just in Hawaii for some serious off-season down time. I even left my bike at home so I’d be forced to do other activities. One of those activities happens to be a favorite pastime – taste and drink beer! Tropical island happy hour often consists of fruity drinks with those little umbrellas like a tangy Mai Tai or a creamy Piña Colada straight out of a pineapple. I made sure to enjoy the island drinks, but I felt it was more appropriate to try the native malt n’ hop sodas!
I focused on the two breweries I was most familiar with: Maui Brewing and Kona Brewing Company. There are 3 other small batch breweries of which I did not get the pleasure of tasting their beer, Hawaii Nuii Brewing (located in Hilo), Primo Brewing (Honolulu) and Aloha Beer Company (Honolulu).
Maybe it was just being in tropical paradise in November, but after just one sip of beer my Shaka hand shot straight up. It’s the Hawaiian fist pump! So without further adieu, here’s my beta on the tasty adult beverages.
Big Wave Golden Ale
This was a refreshing beach beer! I tend to shy away from lagers which tend to be a beach beer favorite. I was thrilled to find something else that gave me some flavor without being too much. The nose smelled fruity – peaches and oranges. The moderate carbonation was refreshing. There was a surprising subtle hop flavor at first taste and a clean citrusy finish. It was easy to drink so I was glad I packed more than one in the cooler. The bottle said “Liquid Aloha!” I like the way Aloha tastes!
Coffee porter lovers will love this one. I certainly did! With a reasonable ABV of 5.4%, you can imbibe in a couple without getting too obnoxious. This medium to full-bodied beer boasted strong coffee and dark chocolate notes. It’s made with 100% Kona coffee that was prominent in flavor. Some porters fail because they are too sweet, but not this one! It gave me coffee and beer breath – forgivable at first kiss?
Fire Rock Pale Ale
I find that a lot of IPAs have too much malt. I like to taste the hops and I don’t enjoy overly sweet or bready beer. While the Fire Rock is NOT an IPA, it drinks like one. The floral hops lead the taste of this beer without having the IBUs of an IPA. It had very nice flavor with a caramel finish. This was my favorite of the Kona Brewing options I tasted, but was close in competition with the porter. Had it been a bit cooler outside, I think the porter would have taken the cake.
I did not find the Koko Brown at any of the liquor stores, but I did find it at the Honolulu airport at the Kona Brewing Restaurant. I had one last hurrah before catching a red eye flight back to the mainland. What better sedative than a couple brews? It also gave me the chance to taste this brown, and also have the Fire Rock Pale on tap. I was not impressed with the Koko Brown. It was way too sweet for my liking. The nose was caramel and surprisingly bourbon scented. It tasted of sweet roasted coconut and brown sugar with a nutty finish. I think this beer would be great for someone who likes dark beer, but does not like hops.
Next up was Maui Brewing. While I got to visit the island of Maui, I was disappointed that I didn’t make it to the brewery. The Maui beers are great because they come in a can so they are easily portable. However, they run on the pricey side. 9 bucks for a 4 pack of the porter! I’m happy to pay high dollar for, say, a 4 pack of Odell Myrcenary Double IPA!
I had tasted the Coconut Porter somewhere along the belt notch holes of beer tasting some time ago. I like the can art, it said the beer is “like hot chicks on the beach.” Straight out of the fridge, the coffee is more pronounced and after a few minutes as the beer warms up, the toasted coconut flavor becomes more pronounced. This beer has good balance and the coconut is not overpowering in flavor or sweetness.
Big Swell IPA
I took surf lessons finished my morning with an ice cold Big Swell on the beach. This IPA is a little maltier than I would like. The hop character is short lived with a bit of hoppiness when you first taste it, but then the malt and breadiness overpower any hops. I wasn’t a huge fan of this IPA because normally I like a more complex hop character. This would be a good place to start for IPA neophytes trying to acquire a hophead addiction!