OK, first of all, this wasn’t so much of a beer adventure as much of a sitting on a beach for a few days drinking Hawaiian beer. It’s kind of an adventure… maybe?
Anyway, after Portland (Part 1 and Part 2), we headed to Hawaii for some down time. Hawaii has a few local breweries including Kona Brewing Co, Big Island Brewhaus, and Maui Brewing Co. These were the three that were most easily available in and around our hotel.
Unfortunately there wasn’t any time to visit the breweries themselves, especially because they were all on different islands to where we were staying! No, this was a trip just to relax, sit in a beach side bar, and enjoy the sun. Yep, and drink lots of Hawaiian beer!
A few things that were learned:
- Don’t drink beer then going walking on sharp volcanic rock in flip-flops. You will cut your foot.
- Beers other than a lager or a light pale ale go well despite the humidity.
- Wear sunscreen, and re-apply.
- Shave ice is awesome and better than mainland snow cones.
- Acai is a super food and a great hangover cure.
All the beers were pretty good, but a bit of a mixed bag. Most of the breweries in Hawaii make a good range of beers and styles. While they seem proud to be from Hawaii, and often make their beers with a tropical/Hawaiian/beach name and labeling, the style of their beer doesn’t necessarily have an island feel. We were expecting Hawaiian beer to have a distinct island characteristic, however, it appears that the mindset of Hawaiian brewers is no different from those on the mainland. That being said, the three breweries sampled were pretty distinct from each other.
Big Island Brewhaus
Like the other Hawaiian brewers, Big Island has decided to go with Hawaiian names and labeling for their brews, but their beer was probably the least Hawaiian in taste and style of the three breweries sampled. The styles of Big Island’s beers in general would be at home on the mainland and are very much to the generic American craft beer style: bolder flavours, higher alcohol, etc. Of course this isn’t a bad thing, it’s just an observation.
Beers we tried:
Kona Brewing Co
These guys seem to be one of the bigger breweries in Hawaii with good distribution throughout the islands as well as on the mainland. They have a good range of both bottled and tap beers. We managed to try nearly all the bottled beers available (minus the wheat beer) as it what was predominantly served at the hotel bar (oops..).
Being one of the larger breweries, Kona’s brews have a distinct macrobrew feel. They’re great beers but have been designed for wider appeal and therefore it feels like some of the care that a drinker would find in a good microbrew is lost. No need to fly all the way to Hawaii for these guys as they’re pretty widely distributed. Give them a go.
Beers we tried:
Maui Brewing Company
Maui Brewing have a decent distribution throughout Hawaii, the West Coast of the U.S., and some internationally.
Interestingly, while their beer is available on tap, off tap beers are only available in cans. Maui Brewing points out that cans are lighter and easier to ship, and there is an argument that cans may be better for the beer. Maui Brewing also note that a can is more beach friendly. While you shouldn’t leave a can on the beach, a can eliminates the potential for accidental breakage, and many beaches don’t allow glass anyway. That being said, pour these beers into a glass (or plastic cup) to enjoy the full aroma.
Beers we tried:
It was a great trip overall, not just because of the beer but just because of the general relaxation, some good hiking, and a great culture. Hawaiian beer is great, and it was fun to try them. Good bye Hawaii, you will be missed!
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