On Tap in Hawaii: Balance poke with the best beer
With so many different styles of poke available, we can have fun changing up the beers we drink with them.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
On a hot afternoon after a dip in the ocean my absolute favorite thing in the world is some fresh poke and a cold beer. It’s a combination I sometimes take for granted, having access to so much incredible poke.
The really cool thing is that with so many different styles of poke available, we can have fun changing up the beers we drink with them.
Let’s start with the most common, and probably the most popular style of poke, shoyu — fresh chunks of ahi layered with sweet onions, scallions, shoyu and a touch of sugar and chili pepper. It’s a flavor combination that swings from sweet to salty to umami, with a touch of crunch.
As simple as it is, there’s a lot going on flavor-wise, so I try to pair it up with a beer that is clean but with just a touch of hop bitterness to help cut through the saltiness.
I’m currently loving Breakside Brewery’s True Gold, a wonderfully light golden ale with a super- vibrant citrus hop finish. Don’t let the light color fool you, this beer is packed with bright aromas of berries, oranges and grapefruit zest and is super clean on the palate. A sip after each bite of poke adds an awesome citrus ting, and the beer’s carbonation zings with the sweet onions.
SPICY AHI poke, the glorious combination of spicy Sriracha sauce mixed with creamy mayonnaise, is really fun to pair with hazy IPAs. A newish variation of IPA is softer and less bitter than the typical IPA from 10 years ago, and is focused more on the fruity, juicy and citrusy flavors of the hops.
They are also very hazy, like a hefeweizen, with a soft, pillowy mouthfeel. That soft, gentle smoothness complements the creaminess of the poke, while the bright fruit flavors help balance some of the spicy notes.
My favorite hazy IPA with spicy poke comes from Beer Lab HI. The Ko‘olauloa IPA has a very reserved bitterness and dances with bright tropical fruit notes. What’s even better is that it is now sold in bottles, so you can swing by any Beer Lab to grab a few to take home!
LIMU POKE is more of an acquired taste. Some people love it, some not so much. The addition of seaweed brings a clean, briney taste of the ocean, along with an awesome crunch. The flavors here are so delicate and light that you really don’t want to overpower them with what you are drinking so I find it best to keep it simple. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to sacrifice flavor! My go-to is Flensburger Pilsener, a traditionally made German pilsner that is brilliantly clear and will surprise you with how much flavor it has.
Upfront you get soft fresh bread notes and the finish is dry with an assertive yet not overpowering bitterness. The fresh ocean saltiness from the limu, combined with that dry finish, leaves your mouth watering after every bite and sip.
TAKO POKE can really stand up to a bigger and bolder beer. Octopus has a slightly sweet taste and many times it is slightly smoked. That combination of flavors, along with the chewy texture of tako, is perfect for a darker, more robust beer, like Maui Brewing Co.’s Imperial Coconut Porter.
This is a bigger, more intense version of Maui Brewing’s famous Coconut Hiwa porter, that clocks in at 9.4% alcohol by volume. I love how the sweetness and robust coconut flavors of this beer complement the tako. This beer is dark and rich, coating your mouth with flavor that lingers. With each bite of poke you have a touch of coconut and roasted dark chocolate that adds to the overall flavor. Pour out a small glass of beer and enjoy sipping and chewing!
Tim Golden, a certified cicerone, shares his obsession with all things craft beer on the third week of each month. He is part owner of Village Bottle Shop in Kakaako.