Growing up in Montana in the mid '80s, listening to the Surf Punks was the closest thing most of my buddies and I got to visiting a beach. I can't remember the specific song (help me out if you know), but in the middle of one of their pieces, a band member interjects, "Primo Beer". I always thought he just meant, "great beer". But then I was informed by one of my more worldly friends that Primo was a brand of Hawaiian beer. (Remember brah, our exposure to island culture was limited - so I didn't know any of this.) That was 25 years ago, but I still remember this clearly.
Now I'd like to segue from clean & light beer to coconuts. There are now several breweries in Hawaii (nine according to http://beervana.blogspot.com). Probably the best known is Kona Brewing. During my short stay on this trip I sampled a Coco Loco Coconut Brown Ale from Kona Brewing, and I also found another coconut beer, Maui Brewing Co's Coconut Porter.
First I'll start with Maui's Coconut Porter. Their motto printed on the bottom of the can is "...Like hot chicks on the beach." I'm not sure how that relates to their beer, but it is fine with me. This 5.7% abv beer won a gold medal in the Herb & Spice Beer category at the 2006 World Beer Cup competition. For a moderate strength beer, it packed a lot of flavor. The coconut used in this beer is "hand toasted" according to the label. I could detect some coconut flavor, but in my opinion it lent more of a toasty or roasted barley type of flavor to the beer than anything else. The coconut played the same role as roasted barley and turned the Porter into more of a Stout tasting beer. It was a very pleasant, albeit heavy, beer. It probably even tasted better, because I drank it at LuLu's Surf Club in Waikiki as I watched the sun set into the ocean. It doesn't get much better than that.
The second coconut beer I had that evening was Coco Loco Coconut Brown Ale from Kona Brewing. Coco Loco was a much different beer than the porter. Basically a traditional Brown Ale, but spiced with coconut. I was not able to detect the coconut in the flavor nearly as much as I picked it up on the nose. Very effervescent. A very "tropical beer" aroma if there is such a thing. Much lighter and more refreshing than the Porter, and like the Porter, also an excellent beer. I'm not much of a gadget beer guy, but after seeing two coconut beers in the same day, I figured it must be some sort of a Hawaiian specialty and that I should try them. It was a pleasant change up.
Securely on board with the craft beer movement, Hawaii now has something to offer beer lovers. Most bars still serve the obligatory brands (Stella, Bud, etc.), but if you like to drink local, try out Primo for something light and refreshing, or hunt down an offering from one of the other craft breweries, which usually offer the full slate of traditional styles from Golden Ales, to Hefeweizens, to Pale Ales, to Stouts.
Enough about Hawaii. Tomorrow morning I'm off to Montana for Christmas where it is safe to say I probably won't be watching any sunsets into the ocean. I'm trading in my Aloha shirt for Sorels.