Ask any sourdough about Cabin Fever and you're likely to get an earful of stories about the strange effects our long, dark winters can have on people. Most Alaskans are also very familiar with the best cure for Cabin Fever: two weeks in Hawaii. Since the missus and I were feeling pretty feverish, we took the cure, returning late last week. Like Nixon in '68, now we're "Rested, Tanned, & Ready!"
I lived in Hawaii from mid-1991 to mid-1994, so this was also a bit of "old home week" for me. The biggest and most amazing change I noted from 15 years ago was in the local beer scene. When I left in '94, Hawaii was a beer wasteland. The growing craft beer revolution had not yet made its way over from the Mainland. What a difference a decade and a half makes!
For starters, there's a Gordon Biersch Brewpub in the Aloha Tower Marketplace. Yes, it's a chain, but they brew quality beers. My wife and I had lunch there; she had a fine Czech Pilsner and I had an excellent Marzen. And the food was great as well. Too bad they don't have one of these closer than Seattle...
Then we paid a visit to Sam Choy's Big Aloha Brewery, another brewpub out towards the airport and Pearl Harbor. Elaine tried their Blonde Ale, while I checked out their James Cooke IPA. The IPA was in the British style, as befits one named after the great explorer, and my wife gave the blonde high marks as well. On tap they also had their Hefe-Weizan, Kiawe Honey Porter, Ehu Ale (a brown/amber ale), and a Steam beer (the daily special). Since I was driving, I limited myself to only one, but I suspect they were likely all quite good.
Probably the most ubiquitous local beers are the brews from Kona Brewing Company. During the course of our stay, my wife and I drank most of their beers at various locations around Waikiki and the rest of Oahu, and they were always good. Given her predilection towards lagers, she usually went for their Longboard Lager or Duke's Blonde Ale; our daughter who lives on Oahu favored Wailua Wheat. Since I'm more of an ale man, I usually went for their Fire Rock Pale Ale, Big Wave Golden Ale, or Pipeline Porter. I never got a chance to try out their Lavaman Red Ale, Hula Hefeweizen, or Castaway IPA.
However, my favorite would likely be their Black Sands Porter, only available at their Koko Marina Pub, near Hawaii Kai, east of Waikiki. It was wonderfully smooth and dark with strong roasted and chocolate malt flavor and aroma. The full malt flavor was well complemented by the blend of hops. Their beers were artfully used in cooking many of the dishes on the pub's menu; my favorite was the Beer-i-misu, tiramisu with the traditional expresso replaced by Black Sand Porter. Mmmmm, good...
I also got to try a couple of beers from the Maui Brewing Company at the Yard House restaurant in Waikiki. They are another of the groundbreaking craft brewers who are canning their product. I liked their Big Swell IPA, but I was particularly taken with their CoCoNut PorTeR (that's their spelling). It had an interesting sweetness from all natural roasted coconut, and I can understand why it has won numerous awards.
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that the bar in The Banyan Court at the Westin Moana Surfrider Hotel has Duvel. I can't think of a more pleasant way to watch the sun go down than sitting under the banyan tree and sipping a wonderful Belgian ale...
But now the vacation's over and it's back to work. Next week I should have some new and interesting Alaskan brews to tell you about.
Until then, Cheers!