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?