We’ve been on the Hawaiian island of Kauai for most of the past week. Strictly vacation, so no taking of notes, no conversations with brewers, no checking out the brewing equipment when we visited Kauai Beer Company and Kauai Island Brewing.
However, a couple of observations.
Kauai Island Brewing is the “World’s Westernmost Brewery.” Reason enough to visit. Basically, what was Waimea Brewing moved from historic Waimea Plantation to Port Allen and took on another name. The new location seems perfect for the tourist trade. Several charter services (catamarans) are located right across the road. We took an afternoon-into-sunset cruise that included a light meal, and we were surprised that most people left immediately, rather than stopping in the brewpub or a nearby bar. Perhaps early docking boats carry more customers.
Nonetheless, there were plenty of drinkers in the spacious restaurant, which is welcoming in an island way. Strolling past tables and looking at glasses I momentarily felt like I could gave been back in Oregon — cloudy, cloudy, cloudy.
The eleven beers on tap include two IPAs, the second called The Fonz IPaaaaaaaaaaaaaa and brewed with different hop varieties each time. Captain Cook’s IPA, a grapefruit bomb but well balanced, is made with three pounds for hops per barrel. It was tasty enough that I hope this part of the description is tongue in cheek: “Created after the hoppy ales brewed in the 1700’s for the long journey from England to Hawaii.”
Kauaui Beer Company, in contrast, is located in downtown (if that is the right word) Lihue. It is a work in progress, a brewpub that hopes have its restaurant up and running by February, for now keeping limited hours and serving beer only. In fact, this week, lagers only. They hope that Black Limo, a 4.4% ABV Schwarzbier, will be their flagship, or one of them.
It is sessionable and locals friendly, but most intriguing was tasting two helles on tap, both brewed using the same grain bill and with the same yeast, and targeting 17 bittering units. However, one was hopped with German Halltertau (guy pouring the beer wasn’t sure if it was Mittlefrüh or Tradition) and the other with the very New Worldish Eldorado.
The aroma of the former was spicy and floral, playing well with bready, cracker-like aromas and flavors from the pilsner malt. The latter was bold by comparison, the fruity aromas (mostly citrus, but reminding me of the mountain apples we’ve come across on Kauai) of the hops pretty much dominating.
We much preferred the Hallertau version, but I wonder if that is simply because it tasted/smelled familiar. A drinker who considers pale lagers “boring” is going to find the other more interesting. There’s a reason that IPA sales are up something like 40 percent again this year. Drinkers want those bold aromas.
Meanwhile, the guy pouring beer told us the next beer on tap would be an ale. And IPA. But you already knew that.