The Beermonger: Mahalo, M&*%#*f*$&@^!!!
So it’s August and yet again I think about the beach. I think about vacations and relaxing and all those things that other people do. August is my most cynical month of the year: It’s been seven years since my last legitimate vacation. Seven years of hauling ass to try to pass for ‘getting by’ in Dick Cheney’s America. August is when I feel it the most. August is the last chance for escape. But with a full schedule of events and beers, there’s no hope for me yet again this year. From September on I won’t really have time to think too much about being tired or wanting a break as it’s practically a dead sprint through the holidays for those of us in retail. It’ll be one arrival or festival or tasting after another until one day I’ll wake up and it’s January 1st and I have inventory to count while massively hungover. Amid all of this daydreaming and envy comes the recent arrival of beers from Hawaii’s Kona Brewing Company.
Hawaii. Land of Spam and honey. A wild Technicolor-shirted endless summer surf dream where it’s sunny and beautiful everyday. Poi. Polynesian/Asian/American foods smashing into each other creating fascinating new flavors and dishes not to be found anywhere else in nature. Slack Key lap steel laid back wonder. Hawaiian chicks…
So yeah, I’m stuck in the middle of the swamp that is the Mid-Atlantic wishing against wishes that I could get away and what shows up? Hawaiian beer. Someone up there is pissing on me. I figured I should try the beers, at least. Glad I did.
Kona was founded on the big island in 1994 by the father and son team of Cameron Healy and Spoon Khalsa. Their beers reflect where they’re from. They’re easy yet complex, expressing that aura of beach life that is the rush of everything important and massive in the universe being condensed into the simple chant of tides and the breeze.
Longboard Lager is smooth and refreshing—great for us as we enter the dog days of summer. It has a nice hoppiness that gives it a crispy edge. Longboard is a great beer for hanging outside or for a lawn work break. I could see it on a newspaper-covered table as my family works its way through a bushel of crabs or three. If every lager were as fine and round and clean as this one, what a world this would be. Think of all the clean feel of an Oberon or Hop Sun with the flavor of the freshest Lager you ever pulled from your dad’s cooler when he wasn’t looking.
Fire Rock Pale Ale is a “Hawaiian-style” Pale Ale that has a slightly copper color as a result of its malt addition. On top of that it has a forward but balanced hop character that satisfies the hophead without being too much for the average drinker. I’d rate the hoppiness somewhere between Sierra Nevada Pale and the new recipe Lagunitas Dogtown. In the same way that Clipper City’s Loose Cannon is a perfectly balanced IPA (even though it’s not called an IPA), Fire Rock is a perfectly balanced Pale Ale.
The beer I’ve found most interesting so far is Wailua Wheat Ale. Named for a waterfall on Maui, Wailua is a bright wheat beer that is brewed with passion fruit, giving it a slightly bitter but sweet flavor that is absolutely perfect for the summer. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Wailua Wheat; I’m pretty familiar with passion fruit and know that it’s an intense flavor that can easily be overwhelming. But the wheat seems to round out the passion fruit without the brewers having to add a cloying amount of sugar to make it work. This is the more obvious comparison to beers like Oberon, but the fruit takes it someplace else. It’s very clever and very well done.
Redhook Brewery representative Stacey Huffman will be joining me at Rick’s Wine & Gourmet this Saturday, August 9th from 12-5PM to help me introduce the Kona beers and show off Redhook’s Sunrye summer seasonal (which I haven’t tried yet but I’m a sucker for rye beers, so…). Then again, maybe you’re out of town, enjoying the summer, pool or beachside sucking down some kind of iced cocktail without a care in the world. In which case, go fuck yourself. I kid, I kid—enjoy. really.
If you’re in town, however, swing by and try some of these great Hawaiian brews with me. We’ll bitch and gripe and moan about how we all deserve a month-long vacation every year and rail against the upper class for the sport of it. Then again, I work about 10 minutes from Old Town, so maybe I’ll put a cork in the workers’ revolution. Either way, come by and check these beers out—it won’t be white sands and blue waters, but it’ll be fun anyway. Until next time.
p.s. This is very much the ‘Director’s Cut’ version of the column I’d originally written. This would never get published on Local Kicks. I have to admit, I had a lot more fun with this.