I am a sucker for the sampler pack, especially when on travel because I want to try as many beers that I cannot get at home. Buying a six pack of each type is generally not practical because of volume or cost and a lot of craft brewers are foregoing the 22 ounce single bottles for multi-packs or cans.
On Kauai, I ran across this beauty at Costco:
If you spend any time on the islands looking for beer you will run across Kona Brewing Company’s products. The primary facility is located on the Big Island of Hawaii in Kailua-Kona, thus the name Kona Brewing Company. In 2010 I tried to visit the brewery but was thwarted by a tsunami warning and spent the day upcountry in Waikoloa Village. Bad memories. There is also a pub on Oahu.
So, four beers are included in this particular case: Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, Fire Rock Pale Ale, and a season offering—Koko Brown Nut Brown Ale.
I apologize for not having any pictures of the beer alongside the bottles, but I did not have any glasses of sufficient clarity to really capture the color. Use your imagination, I have faith.
It’s hard to swing a pint glass and not find Longboard Island Lager on the beer menu in the islands. That is not a backhanded compliment because this a beer that fits its place perfectly. When you sit down to have a drink after spending a day snorkeling or hiking or doing whatever outside in the brilliant Hawaiian sun you want a beer that is refreshing. It also helps if the beer tastes good cold. Longboard does this well. I will admit that the beer is better as a draft than out of a bottle, but that may have been helped by a plate load of fried food at Kalapaki Joe’s during happy hour.
Big Wave Golden Ale and Fire Rock Pale Ale are a lot like Longboard in that respect. These are perfect beers to drink while watching the sun go down on the lanai. Do either of these beers blow me away with originality? Nope, but that is not really what the future of brewing is all about. I believe that crafting beers that are right for a certain time and place is the future of brewing. You do not always want to drink a stout, but when the winter winds are howling and a bowl of hot soup is on the table a stout is an excellent choice. Take that same stout to Hawaii last week and I would look at it askew wondering how it got there.
Koko Brown Nut Brown Ale is an abomination. I did not read the label fully before taking my first drink and almost did a spit take afterwards. What could be so wrong with a nut brown ale? I love Newcastle, so it should be a home run right? Except for the inclusion of freakin’ toasted coconut. There are two flavors, in my opinion, that should never, ever be included in any beers: coconut and banana. No ifs, ands, or buts about the exclusion. It’s an absolute. I left five full bottles for the cleaning crew to take home or give to friends, if they can find someone willing to stomach the sickly taste of coconut in their beer.
Since 2010 Kona Brewing Company is part of the Craft Brew Alliance. CBA is a partnership between Widmer Brothers Brewing, Redhook Ale Brewery, and Kona Brewing Company to leverage the combined expertise of the three companies while executing independent business plans. It’s an interesting answer to the trend of big macro brewers buying up smaller fish to improve their “beer cred.” It’s something that I am going to have to look into.