On Tap in Hawaii: New distributor brings exciting beer options to Oahu
It may seem like the beer aisle is packed with every beer ever made, but in reality only a fraction of the world’s breweries have a presence in Hawaii.
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It may seem like the beer aisle is packed with every beer ever made, but in reality only a fraction of the world’s breweries have a presence in Hawaii. Still, selection has grown tremendously over the past five years and earlier this month a handful of especially exciting new breweries gained a foothold on Oahu.
Odom Corp., a large distribution company based out of Washington state and Alaska, took over as Oahu’s Coca-Cola supplier in 2016. Odom also has a huge beer portfolio and just began bringing some of those to town. This means we now have access to some amazing new breweries — brands like Alaskan, Founders, Ninkasi, Reubens, Bale Breaker, Everybody’s, Black Raven, Mac & Jack’s and Vailima. Beer lovers who’ve lived in or traveled to the Pacific Northwest are probably be familiar with many of them.
We’ve got a lot of new options to choose from and I’ll highlight some of my favorites:
Alaskan Brewing Co.’s Amber Ale is a classic that will stoke nostalgia for many. The clean, crisp and slightly malty ale has been around since the brewery opened in 1986 and is one of the few remaining amber ales available. The beer is actually a German-style altbier (“old beer” in German), which uses a much longer, colder fermentation to create a cleaner and drier finished product.
The arrival of Founders Brewing Co. is exciting news for anyone from the Midwest, specifically Michigan. The Grand Rapids-based brewery produces the extremely popular All Day IPA, a refreshing low-alcohol, 4.7% alcohol-by- volume IPA that is thirst-quenching and really easy to drink. Bright citrus notes, a subtle cracker malt base and a snappy dry finish with just the right amount of bitterness make All Day a perfect year-round beer for Hawaii. Even better, it comes in 15-packs of cans at a really affordable price ($20-$21).
Stout fans, be on the lookout later this year for Founders’ Breakfast Stout, an intense imperial coffee stout that is so smooth you could have a pint with your Spam and eggs!
TWO SURPRISE favorites come from Washington state — until now, beers from there have been extremely rare in Hawaii:
Reuben’s Brews, a relatively small brewery from Seattle, consistently cranks out amazing IPAs. A must-try is its Crikey IPA, an American IPA (not a hazy) with a very dry malt profile that allows vibrant tropical fruit and citrus notes from the hops to pop. I love the dash of piney hop dankness that lingers after each sip.
Everybody’s Brewing, located in the southern border town of White Salmon, just across the river from Hood River, Ore., produces The Cryo IPA, bursting with hop aroma, yet with a restrained bitterness.
Cryo Mosaic hops give this beer its massive ripe berry, cantaloupe and tangerine aromas. Cryo hops are a relatively new innovation in the industry. The whole leaf hop flower is cryogenically frozen, then concentrated lupulin powder is separated from the green material to preserve the lupulin’s essential oils and resins (these provide bitterness, aroma and flavor). The Cryo IPA has an intoxicating scent if you are an IPA fan!
Be on the lookout for all these brands at your favorite beer spot. It’s always fun and exciting to try something new or revisit an old favorite.
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.