Aloha, Kona

The joyful Hawaiian spirit infuses the beers of Kona Brewing Co.

In the Hawaiian language, aloha stands for much more than just hello or goodbye or love. Its deeper meaning is the joyful (oha) sharing (alo) of life energy (ha) in the present (alo). It’s a well-known reference to the attitude of friendly acceptance for which the Hawaiian Islands are famous. And it’s the attitude and spirit of the Kona Brewing Company.

Originating out of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, Kona Brewing has become the 13th largest craft brewer in the United States. In 2010, Kona Brewing became part of the Craft Brew Alliance, joining Red Hook and Widmer Brothers in a partnership that allows for mutual support and shared capabilities and knowledge.

To meet the increasing demand for their island-inspired beers on the mainland, Kona has several of its beers contract brewed by breweries in Portland, Ore., and Portsmouth, N.H. Not only does this allow the brewery to reach more markets, but it falls in line with their commitment to sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint by producing their brews closer to market. To ensure consistency, samples from each brewery are routinely sent to the Kona headquarters for tasting and QA purposes.

Kona Brewing’s flagship beer is Longboard Island Lager, a light but tasty beer available in both bottles and on draft. It’s a “smooth refreshing lager fermented and aged for five weeks at cold temperatures to yield its exceptionally smooth flavor. A delicate, slightly spicy hop aroma complements the malty body of this beer.” For people new to craft beer, this is a perfect “gateway” beer to bring someone out of the industrial macro beers. It has a crispness and carbonation that is enhanced by a mild flavor that can bring the timid along into the world of American craft beer. This is the quintessential “liquid aloha” that evokes the Kona lifestyle. Nice and easy, laid back and refreshing, and at 4.6-percent ABV, it’s one you can enjoy several of while relaxing by the pool or on the beach. Another piece of news that should be of interest to many is that beginning this year, Kona will be offering the Longboard Island Lager in cans!

Fire Rock Pale Ale is a good pale made with specialty roasted malts and just the right amount of Galena, Mt. Hood and Cascade hops. Again in the “liquid aloha” style, this is an easy drinking pale with lots of great citrus notes and a beautiful clear amber color. The flavor is clean and crisp, with a good malt base supporting the hops in a very nice balance. The ABV is moderate at 5.9 prcent, and the carbonation lends the beer a great mouthfeel that makes it very drinkable. This is a good beer to pair with most dishes, as it will not overpower lighter fare like chicken or fish, but it holds up well to heavier offerings like meats and barbecue.

New to Florida this year after its debut on the West Coast in 2011 is the Koko Brown. This nut-brown ale made with toasted coconut is the third in Kona’s “Aloha Series,” which also includes the Wailua Wheat and Pipeline Porter. The Koko Brown is malty and sweet, with the coconut present but not overpowering. The rich mahogany color hints at the roastiness of the brew, and the 5.5-percent ABV is well within range for the style. This is an enjoyable beer that will pair well with some curries or tangy barbecue, or simply after a day of stand-up paddleboarding (as depicted on the label).

Kona Brewing Company offers a good lineup of brews aimed at a broad spectrum of beer drinkers. They do not “push the envelope” like some others, but they offer consistently delicious and refreshing beers year round.

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