Monday, 20 August 2012

Beer Reviews - Two From Kona Brewing Co.

Born on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1995 and based Kailua-Kona from which it gets its name, the brewery was started by father and son team Cameron Healy and Spoon Khalsa out of their dream to create fresh, local island brews. The flagship brewery is still there, but now they have stretched to three pubs and additional breweries in Portland, Oregon and Portsmouth, New Hampshire producing mainland draft (draught) beer and bottling beer under strict guidance.
I've been wanting to try beers from these guys for a while, not least of all because I ride a Kona Coiler Dee-Lux 2005 mountain bike, which although now 7 years old and, in truth, a bit of a heavy-weight, is still my pride and joy.
I picked these two up at the House Of Trembling Madness in York which really is an essential stop for any beer lover heading to that city. It has a good, if slightly unusual upstairs bar but an astonishing selection of local, UK and foreign beers, as well as some interesting beer-related books. Visit it late in the day because you'll want to take a good few beers away with you. Better still, stay in York which has many fantastic pubs and bars to distract you, and then you can do lots of trips back and forth to your hotel or guest-house.
Let's get stuck into those beers.

Kona Brewing Co. - Longboard Island Lager 4.6%

This premium lager was first brewed in 1998 and is fermented for 5 weeks at cold temperatures.
It pours a pale golden yellow with white pillowy head with a tart, slightly spicy, malty and sharp aroma with a hint of white pepper. Sharp and a little prickly over the tongue, it's a little watery at first with more white pepper and satsuma juice combined with the merest drop of good extra-virgin olive oil. This sounds a touch strange, however it's quite rounded as corn and malt highlights really balance it out. The finish has a little watermelon juiciness and a little crispness too.
It has some classic pilsner flavours mixed with some different but not unwelcome ones and is very good indeed.

Kona Brewing Co. - Fire Rock Pale Ale 6.0%

One of the first beers Kona produced, it is brewed with liberal amounts of Galena, Cascade and Mount Hood hops.
It poors a deep orange amber with a light, fluffy beige head. I was expecting something something a little, well ... paler from a Pale Ale, but apparently this colour comes from an unique blend of speciality roasted malts. The aroma has lots of malty orange cointreau marmalade and caramel with some pine lurking in the background. It's a little thin side but the sharpness when it comes, although fleeting, is quite biting. The initial intense maltiness melts delightfully, via a very brief chocolate orange hit, into a sticky orange sauce with whispers of grapefruit and resinous pine. The finish is sweet with orange marmalade foamy dryness which coats the tongue and lingers a while.
This beer, whilst being less intense than other American Pale Ales is quite laid back, true to its Hawaiian roots I guess and it's creeping, increasingly orange flavours make it a little different and a little special.

I've been quite impressed with these two from Kona. They don't have the over-whelming, sensory-overload of many US offerings I've had of late and I'll certainly be seeking out more of their ten regularly brewed beers. If you want something that isn't a hop-bomb hit that is nonetheless quite flavoursome you could do a lot worse than give these a try.

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