Sunday, July 30, 2017

Kona Brewing Company - Koko Marina Pub

 When I first moved to O'ahu a few years ago, there were only a few places to get locally made beer.  Since then, many craft places have opened, all with a unique vision of what beer is.  Going back to the beginning, one of the most special places to go for beer was Kona Brewing Company's Koko Marina Pub in Hawaii-Kai.  At the time, taking the bus out there from the city was a trek.  Their food was different, beers excellent, and the lanai on the water picturesque and distinctly Hawai'i.

In 2014 I got to visit the original brewery in Kailua-Kona on Big Island, which I loved. As time went by and I had new locally made truly craft breweries opening all over the island, it was rare to head back to Kona's Pub. Going there didn't feel special anymore; times had changed quickly. I won't go into the controversy in this post over what is "craft beer" and what does "locally made" mean; but the fact is, Kona Brewing Company makes some really good beers.  In the past year or so, I've seen another turn around in the Koko Pub; it's fun to come here again. The staff is plentiful, professional, and seem to truly love their jobs. The quality of food has gone back to what I remember.  And most important: beer is key again.  Kona always had a fantastic selection of beer types, but lately they've been experimenting more both with global beer trends and Hawai'i inspired ideas. For a long time I'd stop in and have nothing new to try; now, it seems there's always a handful of new limited and seasonal brews.

Sunset over Waimanalo Bay
The Pub is still somewhere I love to bring out-of-town guests, especially since Kona beer is known across the country. What sparked this post?  Yesterday, my family went on an east side excursion to eat with the ultimate destination of seeing the sunflowers at Waimanalo Country Farms and playing disc golf at Bellows Air Force Beach Park.  The plans came together last minute and it ended up being the perfect day. On the way home, parched from the heat and sun, we stopped at the pub.  I was thrilled to see a nice list of seasonal summer beers, with four new ones for me to try. The bar area was packed, I took an individual seat at the end near the server area.  Special thanks to my bartender for talking about the beers with me, organizing the flight, and giving me a few free samples of other beers. It made for yet another great time at Kona's Koko Marina Pub!

(If anyone from Kona Brewing Company is reading, a suggestion about Untappd: The brewery is an Untappd Verified Venue. I was excited to see the Koko Marina Pub was also earlier this year, although briefly. I've since noticed it not longer is, which is a disappointment. Please consider trying the platform for a longer period, the live menus work wonders for constantly changing selections.)

Taster Glass

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Primo Beer - A Brief History

This evening we went to Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, which is a must visit for anyone in Honolulu. Beyond the food, you'll find $1 beers, which is a fun relief from the paradise prices of most goods.  One of the brands they offer is Primo, which is my go to when eating here. It's a crisp refreshing lager, very traditional and perfect for the hot local weather.  When I was learning about here, I was interested about its history; especially since I just kept running into references to the historic beer.

For any beer lover visiting Hawai'i today, it's impossible to go to the bars, restaurants, and stores of the islands without running into Primo Island Lager. It claims to be Hawai'i's original beer, and in a loose sense it is. No longer brewed locally, it has had a resurgence in popularity since 2007 when Pabst Brewing Company decided to bring back the brand after years of absence.

The Honolulu Brewing & Malting Company on Queen Street
But we're jumping ahead. After many false starts, and on a very small scale, local Hawaiian breweries weren't doing well. Honolulu Brewing and Malting Company was founded and released the first Primo on February 13, 1901.  For those interested, the original red brick building still stands on Queen Street near the Punchbowl intersection across from Kawaiaha'o Church Cemetery.  It was the most popular beer of the time, up until prohibition. After prohibition ended in 1933, Hawaii Brewing Company was formed and re-released Primo from its new facility a few blocks away. In the ensuing decades, Primo gained popularity and moved to larger facilities. Under its owner Schlitz Brewing Company, its most popular point was in 1969 when it held 70% of all local beer sales. Schlitz only partially brewed the beer here, which may have caused anger among its customers. With tremendous competition of the macro breweries, Primo took a nose dive. 1979 saw the last locally brewed Primo.  Stroh bought the recipe and brand in 1982 and tried to market it until its ultimate end in 1998.  Pabst acquired the rights in 1999 but just held them until 2007.  The modern marketing push can be attributed to the return of the original label, bottles, and recipe. Although brewed in Los Angeles, it does have Hawaiian roots.  At antique stores and collectible shows in the islands today, you'll find a plethora of Primo marketing material from its history: metal signs, bottles, openers, caps, posters, and bar items.

The Hawai'i Beer Book by Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi 2007 pp 8-12 "History"

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Street Beer - Honolulu Beerworks Exclusive to The Street 7/25/2017

It had been a while that Kristine and I attended a Yelp event, so we RSVPd for one that sounded fun at The Street A Michael Mina Social House. The concept of the business is like food markets around the world: lots of sights, smells, and flavors all together in one location. Among many food options, they also have three bars each specializing in a different type of booze. Needless to say, the one called simply BEER was my favorite. Thanks to the generosity of the business and Yelp Hawaii, we were each given one of the VIP badges (usually $37) that has 7 stamps for a special dish at each restaurant, a cocktail, or any draft beer.  At the beer bar, they not only had a great selection, but also a locally brewed beer only available for purchase and enjoyment at The Street! Brewed by Honolulu Beerworks in Kaka'ako, The Street Beer was a nice balanced selection, perfect to compliment all the varied food types available. To make it feel more local, it has a light taste of roasted coconut.  Speaking with the general manager, I learned that Michael Mina reached out to all the local breweries but Honolulu Beerworks won the selection process with not only the flavor of the beer, but willingness to work together. If you're in Waikiki, The Street is worth checking out as is The Street Beer!

Very light and crisp, mild aroma, hint of roasted coconut. Perfect for this place!


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Makai Pier Gose - Aloha Beer Company 7/22/2017

The Hi Brau Room is one of Honolulu's new speakeasies, located above the Aloha Beer Company on Queen Street. Having had their beers at PokeFest, it was a must to go try their new gose, a variation on their original gose from 2013. Aloha Beer Company used to be located along Nimitz as part of Sam Choy's Big Aloha Brewery, which closed that same year making the gose one of their last beers. Having met owner and brewmaster Dave Campbell at PokeFest, I asked him about the new beer. He said it was their aim to make the gose as authentic to the original European varieties as possible. He said these original goses had a high salinity creating a tartness, not a sour taste as many modern ones are. The water was collected off of the makai pier of Waimanalo Bay on O'ahu's east shore, hence the name Makai Pier Gose. I loved the beer; it was tart but with a slight saltiness that lingered on the lips. The Hi Brau Room itself is a chill and comfortable place for a beer or cocktail: big leather chairs, fireplace, stuffed animal head, cozy lighting, gold curtains, and a colorful yet classy bar.  The noise of a Saturday night was just fun and jovial.  I definitely hope to enjoy more beers here with friends!

Very light aroma, super clean taste, tart flavor from the seawater, dry and flavorful!

Hefeweizen - Gordon Biersch Brewery 7/22/2017

Kristine and I ventured to Gordon Biersch at Aloha Tower Marketplace after I saw on their Instagram that this year's Hefeweizen was released.  We sat at the bar, had a friendly bartender, and relaxed after a busy PokeFest.  Gordon Biersch is one of those places that I didn't fully appreciate until lately: it's perfectly located on the harbor, has the benefit of a sea breeze coming through, and has cozy lighting with live music.  The beer is cheap and no-nonsense.  It was nice to meet and talk to the goateed general manager Joe Glarner. All the staff here are friendly, it's great to drop in and try the new stuff. Be sure to check them out on Taplister for the newest brews.

Aroma of banana, very light flavor of cloves and spices, light citrus, refreshingly flavored for summer.

Honolulu PokeFest 2017

Frolic Hawaii hosted the first ever Honolulu PokeFest on July 22, 2017. My girlfriend Kristine was lucky to win tickets to the event, which included different raw fish poke from over fifteen local restaurants.  At the entrance we picked up a rice bowl and went to town, quickly trying and eating way too much! Located at Pier 11 next to the historic Aloha Tower, we enjoyed our food in the same area used for cruise ship boarding.  I had seen that beer would be available as part of the event and assumed it would be a more usual fare. Kristine kept it a secret that Aloha Beer Company, one of our favorites, was supplying the brews! As part of our tickets, we got to enjoy two each of Kaka'ako Kommon and Aloha Blonde. It was nice to meet ABC's owner Dave Campbell who was pouring beer for the event. Their table and taps looked great in the black fabric, white logo, and fresh plumeria. With all the richness of the food, it was absolutely necessary to have the perfect beer compliments! Mahalo to Kristine, Frolic, and ABC for a wonderful evening!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Blog Purpose

Aloha All! The purpose of this blog is my creative outlet to share my experiences with beer, breweries, and everything related while living in the Aloha State, thousands of miles from the next closest place to taste that gift from the gods. I've been enjoying collecting beers over the last few years and have made a concerted effort to try all the local releases in Hawaii. The idea is to share brief stories about each new local brew and go from there. If you're reading, thank you for joining me! Cheers!