Wednesday, November 8, 2017

1st Annual Oahu Homebrewing Festival & Competition

HIP Fermenters homebrewing club with assistance from Homebrew in Paradise hosted the first Oahu Homebrewing Festival and competition the first weekend of November 2017. The main draw was the beer judging competition, which was open to all homebrewers in the state. Drop off days were organized in the weeks leading up to the festival, with the majority of entrants arriving fresh. With almost 90 distinct beers, ciders, and meads, the judges had their work cut out for them!

All day Friday November 3rd, around a dozen Certified Cicerones, BJCP Certified, and brewery industry judges came together to crack open the beers, offer thoughtful feedback, and rate them.  It was a long and fun day for everyone involved, starting at 9am and going through to after 6pm. Despite the time and heat of Kalihi, the beers were ready for the awards!  I personally enjoyed hearing the insights from Joe Lorenzen of Waikiki Brewing Company and Cindy Goldstein from HOPS Homebrewing Club.

On Saturday, the day of the festival, the top nine beers and six ciders/meads were each taste-tasted for the Best of Show category to be announced that afternoon.

The festival itself had a great turnout of club members, entrants, beer enthusiasts, and curious drop-ins. Food was generously provided by club members as well as fresh hamburgers with a twist from Square Barrels' owner Thomas Ray. 

Head-brewer Euler of BeerLab Hawaii also donated a number of fresh crowlers for tasting, see the links below.  Tastings were flowing all afternoon, with the leftover submissions offering the perfect variety of beer.

Club members had a number of different homebrewing systems set up and brewing; the smell was the best part!

Awards were conferred around 2pm, with the festival winding down afterward.  For those curious of the winners, the complete list can be found here.

I hope the popularity of this event grows; here's looking to next year!

Friday, October 27, 2017

A Weekend on Mau'i

 Mau'i was my last principal Hawaiian island to visit and it far surpassed expectations. The island has so many distinct geographic areas: hot arid scrub land, fields of sugarcane, mountains, jungles, and Haleakala volcano that feels like you're above the world. Not to mention the gorgeous beaches and views of other islands. While the main point of the trip was to see the natural splendor, we also made it a point to do some beer touring!

Friday we visited Kohola Brewery in Lahaina for a tour and tasting. While still small, they're making a splash with tons of special events and excellent beer. Be sure to look for their upcoming collaboration with Revision called Owyhee, an Imperial IPA.  The brewery is hot and real; a full production facility with a bar area.  The tour includes a flight of their four flagship brews and a sample glass to take home.

That evening we stopped by Maui Brewing Company's Lahaina tasting room.  Located in Ka'anapali, it's unassuming from the outside. The interior took me back to the high-ceiling brewpubs of California; this place feels spacious and comfortable. They have a huge selection of Maui beers, guest taps, as well as an extensive food menu. It's a fun restaurant in a beautiful area, worthwhile to stop for a meal.

Sunday we booked a tour at Maui Brewing Company's new main Kihei brewery. The facility is amazing; huge compared to all others in the islands. Everything was designed for increased production and expansion. The facility is the most sustainable in Hawai'i and aims to be fully off the grid in a few years.  I was interested to hear they'll be distilling spirits as well.  After the tour, we had a tasting of their four flagship beers and got to keep a full-sized glass here as well. We met local friends who joined us for the tour and a few beer tastings afterwards.  I'm excited to return once their restaurant opens in the new year!

Beer souvenirs were the last things we picked up from Safeway, Foodland, and Whole Foods. Maui has a different distribution network than the rest of the state due to the Maui-Stone partnership. I scored some Oskar Blues, Pizza Port, lots of Stone, and others to enjoy at home.  I was only sad I couldn't carry more!  There's always next time!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Oktoberfest! - Hale Koa Hotel

My favorite time of the beer year is autumn. Festbiers and pumpkin beers I find most delicious; maybe it's the lead up to Halloween or the aroma and spices, I'm never sure.  In the past few years, formal Oktoberfest celebrations have really exploded in Hawai'i. It seems like almost every brewery and bar does their own version with amazing beers and beer and German food.

The last two years we went to the Hale Koa Hotel's Oktoberfest celebrations, which are held the last weekend of the month. They bring in a traditional German polka band for great music and activities. The hotel goes all out with decorations, games, and authentic food not available the rest of the year.  They turn the Banyan Tree room into a Bavarian beer hall. Dancing is encouraged and one of the highlights of the night.  Samuel Adam's Octoberfest beer is our go-to choice of the evening, with pitchers flowing non-stop.  We had bratwurst galore with all manner of fixings like saurkraut, dumplings, bread, red cabbage, and soups. You barely feel the beer when you eat that much!

The contests are silly and fun. They do a stein holding contest for the ladies and gents; there are some amazing shows of strength! The chicken dance contest lets you see people really shake it and let loose.  The chugging contest is tough due solely to the lousy non-alcoholic beer involved, but we won anyway.
I'm thankful for places like this that let a Pennsylvania boy celebrate his roots, and enthusiastic people to join! Prost!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

HOPS Homebrewers Kaka'ako Pub Crawl

Hawai'i never ceases to amaze. With a relatively small population and isolated geography, you can literally find a club or group for any interest. O'ahu has a few homebrewing clubs. I personally don't have the space to brew at home, but it seemed like a great way to meet like-minded people and learn more about the process of making beer. 

I jumped in at the right time. Homebrewers on Pacific Shores, or HOPS, had a pub crawl last weekend. Right from the start, people were friendly and ready for the day. Decked out in beer gear, we all met at Waikiki Brewing Company's Kaka'ako pub for lunch and a tour. It was very well organized thanks to Cindy and Siri: name tags provided, arrangements made with breweries, and just a well thought out full day.  The club is an all volunteer organization that supports the hobby. At Waikiki, we learned about the new facility with headbrewer Joe Lorenzen. They were clearly proud of the restaurant/bar area and their gleaming new equipment. The larger space gives them more room for canning and the ability to brew more than they ever could at the original location.

From there we walked to Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room, a usual haunt. Tim Golden talked about his concept for the place, which is why we like it so much there. "I'm done with dank."

We then walked to Aloha Beer Company where we had some pups. We met owner Dave Campbell for a beer history lesson, which was fascinating. He's been brewing for decades and owned the first homebrew store in Hawai'i. They graciously extended us their new British pint promotion: larger size glass with normal priced refills, plus take the glass home!

Last but not least, we headed to Home of the Brave Brewing Company / Brewseum. Here I finally got to try the Wiki Waki Woo Brew Hefe and some other newbies on tap. It's such a festive and fun place, all the newcomers loved it. We spent time in the Wiki Waki Woo Speakeasy too!  Owner Glen Tomlinson was working his cocktail magic.

Drinking is fun, but drinking with new friends is even better!

Monday, October 2, 2017

First Step on the Road to Cicerone®

It's hard for me to get into a hobby without diving head first. At some point in the last few years my casual interest in beer exploded into a passion - something I wanted to learn about, experience, and share.  You start with "beer is beer," but quickly learn how many styles and variations are out there. That's not even to mention different brands, breweries, and home brews are out there. Humans have a natural urge to classify everything, so it comes as no surprise there are strict guidelines to style. Brewers have the freedom to do whatever they will and make a delicious beer, but it may not "be true to style." 

For me, this seemed insurmountable; where do I begin? Untappd was a great place to start; they have badges for most main styles and groups that tell you what they are and keep you organized. But these things didn't pop up overnight. Beer has been brewed in some form for thousands of years by more cultures than we could ever know.  It has a rich history. How to learn? 

A few months ago I heard about the Cicerone® Certification Program, which is the industry standard of excellence in knowing all things about beer.  There are many classes and certifications one can take, but Cicerone® differs in that it actually tests your knowledge, not just participation. You have to know styles, brand examples, proper ways to serve and store beer, common off-flavor examples, and even pairings with food.  The program is divided into four levels: Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone®, Advanced Cicerone®, and Master Cicerone® (the last title, only about a dozen individuals in the word can claim). Each level has its challenges; but really it's an adventure to learn more and more about beer. 
When I first read about the program, I knew it was something I wanted to try. In September, I finally started my journey after studying the free syllabus and took the exam for Certified Beer Server, which I passed. It was a great overview of the more difficult things to come.  For beer enthusiasts, it's a genuinely fun exam to take as well, after all, it's about beer!  My goal is to study for the next level and eventually take the Certified Cicerone® exam. I figure it's a tangible goal to really aid in developing a burgeoning passion. As opposed to the first level being all online, the second is in-person and includes a blind taste test and off-flavor exam as well as written component. It'll be a fun adventure! Maybe you'll come along?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Dark Crystal Märzen & This One's For You Cassini - Honolulu Beerworks 9/20/2017

Dark Crystal Märzen
Untappd Oktoberfest Badge
Oktoberfest time is the most wonderful time of the beer year! There is nothing more delicious to me than a märzen, and it's always special when local breweries get in on the fun!  Oktoberfest formally kicked off this past weekend in Germany, so many places had their party. Luckily for us, there are more happening around Honolulu in the next few weeks! I missed Honolulu Beerworks' party, but got to try their märzen and it didn't disappoint! (For those keeping score at home, usage of "Oktoberfest" for a beer style is equivalent of "champagne," for the wine, it has to be made in the Champagne region, for the beer, it has to be an approved variety brewed in Munich. Märzen is the proper term for that style outside of Bavaria.)

Untappd Imperial Czar Badge
This One's For You Cassini
While stopping in, I also got to try the This One's For You Cassini, a Russian Imperial Stout dedicated to the memory and hard work the Cassini probe has been doing around Saturn for more than a decade. It's an excellent beer, well worth the commemoration.

I ordered their fantastic Reuben. In a bit of serendipity, I realized the sandwich paired perfectly with both beers: the sandwich style and saurkraut with the German märzen, and Russian dressing with the Russian Imperial Stout! For Untappd lovers out there, I finally got the Imperial Czar badge and leveled up on the Oktoberfest. Prost!
Smokey aroma, dark amber color, clean dark flavor, notes of roasted malt.
Dark as space, malty aroma, initial bitterness, hints of roasted coffee, very mild, I enjoy this.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Ehu Ale - Aloha Beer Company

Instagram can be a great tool. Today I was going through the local breweries and saw the post from Aloha Beer Company about the re-release of their Ehu Ale. Ehu Ale was first brewed in 1996 by Dave Campbell at his Oahu Homebrew Supply store.  From the brewery: "digging through old files, we found the original handwritten notes for the first 1/2 barrel batch of Ehu."  It was previously served at Big Aloha Brewery and the former Aloha Beer Company for over 16 years before disappearing. Today is the first it's available again, and I'm glad it is.

When it comes to history, and beer history in particular, there's an added draw to get me out and try it. Like an extinct species returning. "Ehu is named for the beautiful reddish-orange hue of this American Amber style of beer. This easy drinking ale is 5% ABV and has 31 IBUs. It features smooth caramel notes with a touch of roastiness, and is balanced by East Kent Goldings hop that lend an earthy spiciness to the finish."  Be sure to go grab a glass today!

Shout out to Kaiao Archer, brewer at Aloha; it's great to meet the people who create what you love! And thanks to Dave for the IG story and resurrecting recipes!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Lanikai Brewing Company's New Brewpub! - Kailua, HI

Just a few short years ago, Kailua got its first locally made beer in the form of Lanikai Brewing Company. Their beer is quality stuff and quickly made its way around the island, both on tap, and a few year-round bottle selections.  Limited brews appear in both bottles and countless small batch varieties on tap only in their small taproom.  With great excitement, Lanikai announced the opening of their second location right down the street. A dedicated bar and tasting room, Lanikai Brewing Company now has the space to serve a larger amount of customers at a time, which is also perfect to make everyone feel more comfortable.

The new location is literally just a few hundred feet from the brewery along Hamakua Drive. Parking
is limited, but they do have several dedicated stalls as well as being a short walk from the shopping center lot. Kailua is also filled with bikes and easily walkable.  

It's an awesome start and there's lots of potential here.  On entry, you'll see nice light walls and lots of seating space. All the wood is koa and was done by a local artisan. It's a gorgeous surface on which to drink. The tables are large and would be perfect for board games. They have high top tables, a bar, and booths. They have a very well done half-barrel shelving swag shop with all the t-shirts, hats, growlers, and glasses.

The main reason you're here is for the beer! Lanikai offers a large rotating selection of beers including beers from other breweries. For their opening weekend, they offered four new beers on top of their three main ones (Moku Imperial IPA, Pillbox Porter, and Route 70 Saison).  The menu was done digitally, which made it easy to read.  They have a new supply of glasses, with different ones for the various sizes. They're all delicate and a huge step up from plastic tasters.  If you like to try new beers, it's best to get a sample size. You can order up to four 4oz tasters at a time. Each beer is a different price depending on rarity and ABV.  I love the physical bar itself also, hard wood with unfinished glass racks.

All in all, this is a fantastic expansion of Lanikai Brewing Company. There's only better to come. If you enjoy their beer, be sure to stop by soon and support the new place!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Square Barrels - First and Only Untappd Local Badge on O'ahu

Collaboration over Competition - That's the business mantra Square Barrels exudes in all they do.  We went into try two new beers from Big Island Brewhaus, one of my favorite breweries in the islands and one that is typically hard to find on draft. I ended up learning a lot about Square Barrels thanks to a slow evening and nice chat with one of the owners, Thomas Ray.

As an Untappd addict, I had been trying to get into Square Barrels again to unlock their Local Badge. For those uninitiated, Untappd is a beer collecting app that allows you to rate, check-in, and remember what you like. The badge feature rewards you for types of beers and venues visited. The third type are sponsored badges by breweries and events around the country. Recently Untappd added a Local Badge feature where bars, breweries, and restaurants can have their own badge that customers earn for checking in beers at their establishment. Square Barrels is the first and only venue on O'ahu that is taking advantage of this. As a customer, it means a lot to me to see the engagement into a small but growing community.

The Local Badge essentially functions as a rewards program. On first check-in, you receive level 1 that shows you all the details. For level 5, 10% off your bill; level 15 a T-shirt; level 25 a $25 gift card; and level 50 an unfilled growler! Each level of badge requires 5 separate beer check-ins, so for the highest level, that's 250 beer check-ins.  This encourages repeat business and building toward something.  I hope this program catches on more in Hawai'i!

Starshine Ginger Beer
Dark Sabbath
As far as Square Barrels goes, check Untappd for their menu and upcoming events. They always have a collaboration dinner or special release coming up! Also, if it's your first time, have their house beers!
Amber gold color, subtle ginger aroma, strong ginger taste yet mild in the aftertaste.
Brown red color, light lingering head, sweet Belgian aroma, strong slightly sickly sweet taste, quick change to Belgian bittersweet.

Pali Pils - Honolulu Beerworks 9/2/2017

There is nothing better than a heaping lunch of subs, sandwiches, salads, all with a side of beer. As much as I love Honolulu Beerworks' brews, their food is not something to be missed. The Italian hoagie, salmon salad sandwich, and countless food specials included baked mac & cheese, or braised pork, all hearken to the mainland, especially east coast. Some items have a local spin, but you're really in for a different experience with their food.

Despite being here to eat, I was excited for their Pali Pils. In the traditional German style, this beer is wonderful. With all the beer fads out there that lean away from real beer towards sours and fruit, it's a special treat to have a beer that tastes like it's supposed to. Beerworks really outdid themselves on this simple recipe, which is perfect getting into the Oktoberfest season.

Pali Pils -  Fantastic Pilsner, golden straw color, German style, earthy, clean, nice burning bite

Friday, August 25, 2017

Barrel Aged Pele's Breath - Waikiki Brewing Company 8/25/2017

It's been a pretty dry week for new brews in the Aloha State. I had been looking forward, however, to Waikiki Brewing Company's Barrel Aged Pele's Breath, which released Friday night.  It's an imperial red ale brewed with house kiawe smoked malt and local chilis. It's aged four months in Buffalo Trace / Manulele Distillers Kohana Rum barrels.

[Manulele is the only hard liquor distillery on O'ahu; they are a self-sufficient farm for sugarcane, lettuce, and talapia. It's worth it to take their tour!]

The beer is very limited with only six barrels produced: two at Waikiki Brewing Company, two at their new Kaka'ako location, one at Village Bottle Shop, and one at Murphy's Bar; once it's gone, it's gone. It's served not super cold

 From my Untappd check-in: Very dark red, sweet aroma, nice mild bubbles, heavy yet balanced smoked flavor, bitter lingering aftertaste, only hint of grilled pepper.