Sunday, December 30, 2018

Maui Brewing Co. Restaurant Opens in Kailua!

Mural by Kamea Hadar
Maui Brewing Co. opened their fourth location in the state this weekend at the Lau Hala Shops in Kailua Town on Oahu. The area was formerly Macy's and has since been developed into commercial spaces and a new parking garage and neighboring lot. The opening of the MBC Kailua Restaurant is a welcome addition as it offers local beer at an open air bar and dining area with Hawaii sourced ingredients.

Draft Beer Selection
Special thanks to Cindy Goldstein and owner Garrett Marrero for the invitation for Kristine and I to the private soft opening event. For our dining experience we met Cindy at the host stand and we were all taken to our table for the evening. I believe the entire staff was working as the event was designed to help train the servers, bartenders, and chefs. Everyone was extremely friendly and happy to be open and serving the first customers. Thank you to our server Marissa for the excellent service and always answering our questions, and to Floyd for remembering us from Waikiki and dropping by to chat.

The author and owner Garrett Marrero

The restaurant is modern with exposed concrete and subdued colors. The wood tables are bright and big enough to spread out. I loved the orange and blue bar chairs, they really popped.  As far as art goes, the mural painted by Kamea Hadar highlights the island vibes with a woman holding a bundle of hops and grain. As Garrett pointed out, her tattoo sleeve is a stylized interpretation of the beer ingredients of the Reinheitsgebot: grain on the shoulder, water on the upper arm, hops on the elbow, and yeast at the bottom. The high ceilings give a cool, bright, and airy vibe; I'm sure it'll stay comfortable even in the summer. They offer inside and outdoor lanai seating, but the entire place is open to the outside. The bar seats face the main street and would offer a great place to people watch. For sports fans, they have TVs around,  but they don't detract from ambience. One special note is how much I appreciated the well-designed restrooms, I always privately thought many small rooms is a must for a bar!

As part of the event, we were each given a unique menu to ensure a good mix of orders for the chefs to practice. The three of us opted to order a bunch and share everything. The menu is similar to that of the Waikiki location with some differences. Please see the photos and captions for some of the highlights. As far as beer goes, they will have a selection of 12 MBC beers and 4 guest taps. For our evening, we were treated to their core beers and one special treat: the newly tapped Imperial Hemp Brown ABV 8.7% IBU 25.

With our bellies full, Kristine and I visited Grace in Growler's new expansion including Grandma's Living Room, their bottle selection, and outdoor lanai. It's worth checking out!  We also tried two new beers at Lanikai Brewing Company, we hadn't been there in a while.  It's safe to say, Kailua has a great beer scene all by itself!
Avocado Toast

Loco Moco For Days

Ho Farms Tomato Salad

Buffalo Wings

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Look Back on 2018 and BJCP Exam Results

Keg Tree at BeerLab University
With the announcement of BJCP classes being offered for free on O'ahu in early 2018, I didn't know it would set my focus for the year. In the fall of 2017, I volunteered to be a steward for the first Oahu homebrew competition, which offered a window on the world of beer judging. I knew right away I wanted to take the courses but was unsure if it would yield anything, including whether or not I even wanted to take the exam. For those following along, there were half a dozen monthly classes focusing on many topics related to the BJCP and beer in general. More on this later.

The latter part of this year ended up being all about my own personal beer journey, as is the theme of this post. If you're reading now and have been all year, I thank you for taking the time to do so! It's fun to share all the opportunities that are out there to learn about beer and not just get drunk every weekend on the same swill.  Part of my lack of motivation for not writing as often as I originally planned is that there are too many little happenings to keep up with on this medium, and simply not enough big ones worthy of the effort. For the most part though, the holidays are a busy time of the year for my hobbies outside of beer! For the little things including beer notable beer releases and smaller events, be sure to check out my Instagram at alohastatebeer. Two of my favorites were the New Belgium Sour Symposium at Village Bottle Shop and the re-inauguration of the HOPS Homebrew Club in Kailua!

We had two beer festivals on Oahu. There were many tap takeover events and pub crawls around, including with the Hawaiian Craft Brewers Guild. I was hired by them to design the new website, which quietly went live a few months ago. Please check it out here.

My personal highlight was the much-delayed publication of my article about the growing beer scene in Honolulu in BeerAdvocate magazine. I had a ton of fun writing it and sharing it, and this is the last I mention it, I promise!

There were no brewery openings on Oahu in 2018, but we did get to experience Paisley Meadery downtown and Paradise Ciders' taproom in Kalihi. I know there are many coming down the pipe, so 2019 should be an exciting year for new beer!  I was honored to be invited to Aloha Beer Company a few weeks before the release of three new beers; it was great to talk to Dave, taste unfinished products, and share my experience.

In October, a group of seven of us took the tasting exam, which was hosted by Aloha Beer Co. in the HiBrau Room on a Saturday morning. It was a fun yet exhausting experience; taste, think, and describe 6 beers in 90 minutes with no access to notes or guidelines.  The written exam scoresheets are graded by experienced judges, so in the time between I figured I'd start working on something else.

I started with the Road to Cicerone Coursebook: Brewing Ingredients and Process. These books offer a focused approached to a single group of subjects and include the coursebook and exam.. Once you pass, you get a badge on your profile and subject pin to compliment to the one for Certified Beer Server. I passed in mid-November and received my pin shortly thereafter. I purchased the Beer Keeping & Serving book, which I'll be starting in the new year. I saw the Certified Cicerone exam is scheduled on Oahu in the spring, but that is probably too soon for me to tackle.

That brings us to today. I received the exam results for BJCP and could not be happier! I passed the tasting exam at a percentage level high enough to be awarded Recognized Judge immediately and eventually Certified Judge rank when I accumulate enough experience judging points. I earned two in November's Brew Oahu Homebrew Competition, so I only need three more for the next rank. It'll be fun gaining experience at competitions around the state!

Again, thank you for reading! Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau'oli Makahiki Hou!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Brew Oahu Homebrew Competition & Learn to Homebrew Day 2018

 The first weekend in November saw the culmination of months of planning by members of the HIP Fermenters Homebrew Club that meets at Homebrew in Paradise in Kalihi. The second annual competition and festival was held at the store with entries from Oahu, neighbor islands, and the mainland. This year's competition was the first to be BJCP certified, which led to new opportunities for entrants and judges.  

For those of you that follow me or read regularly, you know that I had been taking advantage of the free BJCP judge classes offered this year. Along with half a dozen others, I took the tasting exam last month at Aloha Beer Co., after having passed the online entrance exam. While we're all still waiting for our results, we had a chance to put our new skills to the test at this competition. 
There were two judging days, Thursday November 1st, and Friday November 2nd. We had morning and afternoon sessions dividing the entries by style into flights to be judged individually, with those over a certain score advancing to a best of show round. The judging organization this year was planned by Paul Wheeler, who did an excellent job with time management so no one got too tired or drunk.  For those interested, a beer is judged on certain criteria matched to the BJCP style guidelines. It's not a question of if it's good or bad in the judge's opinion, but how well does it fit a style. There were so many excellent entries, it was a shame to have only had a cup or two! Thursday I did porters & stouts in the morning, then a mixed category including wheat beers in the afternoon. Friday morning I got to do German styles that included Mรคrzen, Schwarzbier, and Altbier.  No single judge gets to rate the beer; instead two or three come up with a consensus average score for the beer after discussion and sometimes deliberation. It was invaluable learning from the pros.

Best of Show was done on Friday afternoon, and I was happy to sit in on that panel as well. This is done differently: instead of filling out a scoresheet with notes, it's a simple flight of all Best of Show beers tasted together. Each judge narrows it down to around three beers, where then the entire panel shares which were best and eventually ranks the top three placers. Our group had one clear winner that we all liked, but second and third required discussion and opinions of each judge. All the winners will/have been posted here

Special thanks to Square Barrels for the burgers & fries on Thursday, and Waikiki Brewing Company for the pizza and BBQ on Friday! 

The "hard work" being done, Saturday was a time to enjoy food, beer, and awards. Learn to Homebrew Day is a national celebration of homebrewing. With events all over, it's a great time to learn about the hobby and watch people at their craft. There were demonstrations, leftover homebrew tastings including notes from the judges about each, beer donation by Beer Lab Hawaii, and tons of food contributed by members. Awards were given out including medals sponsored by the American Homebrewers Association and swag also donated by them.

For anyone interested, be sure to check out the above links to get involved in homebrewing, learn to judge beer, or enter the competition next year.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Aloha Beer Company's Lager Love

Last weekend, Aloha Beer Company held a tap takeover event at Grace in Growlers where they previewed a few new selections coming soon.  Dave Campbell has always been one to enjoy drinking traditional styles and he strives to make the best examples of each.  For anyone who's visited their brewery, the love of the craft is everywhere. 

I was invited to meet up with Dave this week and try the new beers coming soon. A quiet Monday evening is the perfect time to talk story and think about what's in the glass in front of you. Dave's love of the craft is infectious, be sure say hello if you stop by. Releasing 'probably' this Thursday, October 4, 2018, are two lagers, which are based on some of his favorite recipes, both from other breweries and his own from past ventures. I have to say, I personally love these styles and am happy to have them pouring locally.

Queen St. Pils
First is the Queen St. Pils, a Czech style Pilsner with an American hoppy twist. Coming in at 5.2% ABV and 28 IBU, it's a light and refreshing beer perfect for hot weather, yet full-flavored to avoid that "lager is water" stigma.

Blackish Bier
The second is just finishing up in the tanks, their Schwarzbier named Blackish Bier. Coming in at 5.6%, it's full-flavored with chocolate malt notes, yet easy drinking. He laughed about the misnomer of the style that inspired his name for it: although schwarz is German for black, the beer is more of a dark brown with red hues. The full head was almost nitro like, leaving a great mouthfeel with the complex flavors.

Both recipes are subject to change in future iterations based on what people like and how Dave and brewer Kaiao Archer feel about how the final product turned out. Dave said he'd like to get the ABVs on both down a little bit.

Froot Lupes
As an added bonus for hopheads coming mid-October is a new double IPA: Froot Lupes. Coming in at 7.8% ABV with 40 IBU, it's not an overwhelming bitter beer, but it is misleadingly strong. With a fruity aroma, the mild bitterness is perfectly balanced with a full malty profile. The name is fitting: "Froot" for those complex fruit tastes, and "Lupes" for the generous lupulin.  Be sure to give this one a try!

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the friendly bartenders Isabel and Roberto who made the evening fun!  Cheers!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Paradise Ciders: New Taproom Opens in Kalihi

Paradise Ciders is a prime example of what you can do with a dream, opportunity, and a lot of hard work. The cidery is the first in the state of Hawaii. Located in Kalihi, it's certainly off the beaten path, but well worth the trip for any fan of locally brewed alcoholic fruit cider. Paradise just recently opened a taproom, where you can taste all their offerings right at the source. It's bring-your-own-food, but they plan to add their own offerings in the future. They have a few parking stalls out front, otherwise street parking is free in the neighborhood.

Two former Yard House bartenders, Shaun Peck and Kasey Sulheim noticed there was no local cidery, so they filled the niche and have since been selling kegs to many local restaurants and bars as an alternative to beer (cider is much sweeter and less bitter). All their ciders are apple juice based with other local fruit adjuncts added. Guava, pear, mango, calamansi, and many others make a wide array of colors and flavors to try. At the taproom, you can order ciders to taste, either $2.50 for a single glass, or $8 for a flight of 4. Every detail has been thought of, including marking the flight trays with what you're drinking, purse/bag hooks under the bar, super clean restrooms, comfortable seating, and games. Impressively, everything here was homemade by the owners: wood walls are reclaimed shipping pallets, the dart board backing is wine corks, and bar stools were broken ones from Yard House recovered to contrast their decor. Cozy lighting really adds to the ambiance.  Their pride and enthusiasm are infectious, be sure to ask questions and talk story!

The logo design is perfect and is seen on everything from the glasses and growlers, to bottle labels, and even on the tables. They've created a unique local brand. I've enjoyed trying their ciders at Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room, Maui Brewing Company Waikiki, and other locations, but there's something extra special about going right to where it's made and served by the people that made it.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Hawaii Beer Fest 2018 and BJCP Exam Class 2

It's been a busy week for beer! The 2018 Homebrew Competition committee is busy planning and we're looking forward to a fun event this November.

On Thursday, June 14th, the second BJCP Exam preparation class was held at Homebrew in Paradise in Kalihi. The group turnout was smaller, but was met with more discussion and in-depth learning. Again led by Cindy Goldstein of HOPS Homebrew Club and the Hawaiian Craft Brewers Guild, with esteemed Certified Cicerone instructors Scot Ahlers and Alyssa Gundersen, the class took a deep dive into descriptive language and how to complete a scoresheet. We then focused on three mores styles, filling out a sheet for each one and sharing our scores and descriptions. We covered: American IPAs, American Porters, and Blonde Ales, with a commercial or homebrew example of each. The highlight for me was seeing how close all the scores ended up being, of course with outliers and a discussion into the differences.  If you're interested in joining our next session in July, please email , there is no cost to attend, only the cost of beer samples.

Then came Saturday, June 16th and the first Hawaii Beer Fest held on the Great Lawn at the Bishop Museum. Offering a view of Diamond Head and Waikiki, it was a picturesque fresh air festival. A ring of tents around the lawn provided shade for all the Rotary Club of Honolulu volunteers who poured a never ending stream of the good stuff (a portion of the proceeds went to the club for their community projects). Sponsored by Paradise Beverages, ABInBev, local media and tourist companies, the festival had a mostly big beer presence. I was happy so many local breweries were represented: Inu Island Ales, Honolulu Beerworks, Waikiki Brewing Company, Lanikai Brewing Company, Ola Beer Co., Kohola Brewery, Maui Brewing Company, Gordon Biersch Honolulu, and probably a couple I'm forgetting. In short, we had a fun time trying a bunch of new and hard to find beers for the island. The music was good, games were everywhere, a fire dancer performed, and everyone was laughing, happy, and enjoying themselves. If you'd like to read my complete review of the event, both positive and negative, please check it out here on Yelp.

The summer weather is here; it's the perfect season for some cold beer! Mahalo for reading!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

BeerAdvocate: "How to Drink Your Way Around Honolulu"

I'm excited to announce that I wrote a city profile for BeerAdvocate Magazine, titled "How to Drink Your Way Around Honolulu!" Look for it in Spring 2018 issue #132, on newsstands and shipping to subscribers now! The hardest part was limiting the featured locations due to space or not fitting on the map area; it's a great time for local beer when there's too much to talk about! If you'd like to order a single copy for the island beer goodness, you can do so here: BeerAdvocate Shop.

Also, congratulations to Inu Island Ales for being named among the 50 Best New Breweries in the same issue! 

I'll post a link to the electronic version of the article when it's available.
Next weekend is the first Hawaii Beer Fest at the Bishop Museum, tickets are still available. We'll be there!

Monday, May 21, 2018

BJCP Exam Classes - Free Beer Judging Seminars

For anyone that's been stopping by the blog the last few months, there hasn't been much activity here. Chock it up to being busy; sometimes I just feel like there aren't huge happenings to talk about. New brewery openings are few and far between (but there are some exciting ones coming soon). In this exciting time of lots of craft independent breweries already operating in the islands, there's too many new releases to write about each one, so Instagram and Untappd do a great job of sharing what I'm drinking.

With the summer beginning, there's a lot more time to drink new beers and study what makes them amazing. If you have a basic interest in beer and want to learn the complexities of styles and how to describe that new favorite, I invite you to come to the free beer judging classes being offered by Cindy Goldstein of HOPS Homebrew Club and the Hawaiian Craft Brewers Guild. With the assistance of local BJCP Judges, Certified Cicerones, brewers, and enthusiastic hobbyists, they're offering an invaluable service to teach about the exam, content, and judging beer. These sessions are held monthly leading up to the tasting exam on October 13, 2018. In order to take this tasting exam, you must first pass the online exam, details of which can be found on the website below.
What is the BJCP? The Beer Judge Certification Program is the recognized standard of how to rate, describe, and educate about beer and beer styles. Ranked judges are present at homebrew and brewery competitions to ensure a judged beer is true to style and determine which are the best examples. Even if you don't plan on taking the exam or judging competitions, the course and style guidelines are the perfect resource to help you learn more about what you already like and maybe help you discover something new. Tonight's first session was held at Honolulu Beerworks in Kaka'ako. Future ones will rotate around to other breweries on O'ahu.

It's not all work and reading from manuals. The class has a tasting component, which is important to develop your palate, nose, and eye. Tonight's first session was broken up with three beer style tastings. The first was the classic Saison; a Saison Dupont was paired with the local Pia Mahi'ai from Honolulu Beerworks to show a clear example, a local take, and the differences and similarities of the two. Later in the session we talked about a Weissbier and finally a Foreign Extra Stout.  These classes are being taught for free; the only cost is paying for the beer and tips as necessary.

For more information, to request the syllabus, sign up for emails, or receive information about the next session on June 7th, please email

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Hawaiian Craft Brewers Guild & Tap Takeover Event!

 For any fan of locally produced beer, it's important to know how difficult an industry it is. Craft brewers are constantly competing with large entrenched macro breweries, many of which own controlling shares in distributors, which makes it hard or impossible to find shelf space at retail or access to quality ingredients.  To combat the 'big guy,' many small breweries band together in associations to the benefit of all.

Guilds started in the Middle Ages in Europe as a formal association of artists or craftsman to oversee the quality and function of a particular skill or product. With the explosion of local Hawai'i beer in 2005, the now-defunct Aloha Brewers Guild was formed to link these new breweries. It wasn't successful, but stood as a start.

In 2014, the Hawaiian Craft Brewers Guild was formed to further organize to make it easier for local breweries to produce quality beer and serve their communities without interference.  In recent months, the Guild has been submitting testimony to the state legislature for increased sales limits, and the ability to be family-friendly, among other initiatives. The Guild represents breweries based in Hawai'i that produce 100% of their beer in the state. As reported by Lanikai Brewing Company's owner Steve Haumschild, only 5% of beer consumed in the state is produced here!  Beyond lobbying, the Guild stands to educate and promote drinking local.

To that end, the Hawaiian Craft Brewers Guild will be hosting a Tap Takeover event at Square Barrels in downtown Honolulu on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 starting at 6pm! Brewery owners and representatives will be present from all members to talk story and raise support for the organization. Come down and meet:  Honolulu Beerworks - Geoff Seideman; Kauai Beer Company – Justin Guerber; Kauai Island Brewing Company – Dave Curry; Lanikai Brewing Company – Steve Haumschild; Maui Brewing Company – Garrett Marrero; Stewbum & Stonewall – Darren Garvey; and Waikiki Brewing Company – Joe P. Lorenzen.  In addition to the people, Square Barrels always has fantastic food. Each brewery is, of course, bringing beer! It's a great opportunity to try outer island breweries that aren't always available in Honolulu.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Stone SALT Pub Crawl & POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018

For anyone who frequents or just visits the area, it's easy to see that Kaka'ako is flat hot land perfect for warehouses. Decades ago it was salt reclamation land, hence the moniker of the SALT complex.  These drab warehouses dominate the architecture of the area, so something had to be done. Instead of boring concrete or unsightly graffiti, colorful artwork adorns every empty wall in the neighborhood.  Every few years POW! WOW! comes to Kaka'ako, bringing artists both local and from around the world, to paint over what had come before and create something new. Like life, these works of art are fleeting; they are to be enjoyed, but only for a year or two.  As a frequent explorer of the neighborhood, I feel like I was always seeing something new, as you can find these murals down alleys and behind buildings where people usually don't drive.  POW! WOW! 2018 is going on now; it's a great time to explore and watch the artists at work. It's okay to take pictures and talk to them about who they are and what they're creating.  You never know, you may discover a new favorite artist!

This Saturday is the perfect excuse to explore. Walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon, then head to SALT for their monthly pub crawl. This month is featuring one of my current top-5 favorite breweries, STONE out of San Diego.  The tap list is killer; most are at Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room, with a few at Moku Kitchen. The Boiling Crab and Pitch Sports Bar will also feature drink specials, but not of the featured brewery.  The Hawaii Blood Bank will also be taking sign ups for donation (doing so before or during drinking isn't encouraged for obvious reasons).  STONE only recently made it to Oahu after only having been distributed on Maui due to their partnership with Maui Brewing Company. It's great Oahu gets to share in the great beer!
Village Draft Line Up - (As taken from Village's event page)
Stone IPA
Stone Delicious IPA
Stone Ripper Pale Ale
Stone Ruination DIPA
Stone Go To IPA
Stone Vengeful Spirit
Stone Arrogant Bastard
Stone 2016 Double Bastard
Stone Bourbon Barrel Aged Arrogant Bastard
Stone Barrel Aged Imperial Saison with Peach
Stone Wussie Pilsner
Stone 2016 Imperial Russian Stout
Stone 2015 Old Guardian Barleywine
Stone Merc Machine DIPA
Hop Concept Dank & Sticky IPA
Great Divide Strawberry Rhubarb Sour

Moku Kitchen will be featuring
Stone Tangerine Express IPA
Great Divide NITRO Yeti Imperial Stout
Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale

As an exciting side note: Village now has a nitro tap! Hope to see you there!