Hawaii : The Islands of Aloha

On August 21st, 1959, the United States admitted Hawaii to the Union, growing to its present size of 50 states. And with that, we are wrapping up 50 weeks of drinking beer from each of the 50 states.

This week, we close out the project with two brews, a lager and an ale from a Hawaiian brewery, Kona Brewing Company.  One of the goals of this project was to see what beer from each state was available to me, here in New England. And if it wasn’t available, what steps were required to get my hands on beer from the state.

As has been chronicled here, some states required more work than others, and as we discovered over the course of the year, there are still some prohibition era distribution laws in place that prevent wide spread distribution for many brewers. The store in Georgia that can see the Tennessee border from their front window, but can not bring Tennessee beer across the state line springs to mind.

But these laws are not the only issues limiting access to beer. There is also supply and demand issues. Some breweries are small shops with a fervent local customer base. These breweries do not have to bother with getting wide spread distribution. They can focus on making a fresh product that is often picked up right at the brewery. An other issue is distribution costs. It is not cheap to move a product across the country. And that brings us to this weeks selection.

After much thought, I decided to use Kona as the final brewery in the project. Kona Brewery is located in Kailua-Kona and has been in operation for almost 20 years now and produces a nice line of beer. But what makes Kona different from every other beer consumed this year is that our beer was not actually brewed on the Big Island, or on any other Hawaiian island. If fact it was brewed right here in New England, 20 minutes from my house.

Our Kona beer is contract brewed. A quick search of the web will produce many articles (pro and con) about contract brewing. I would recommend starting here to learn more. Basically, contract brewing allows brewers to find a regional brewery that can produce, package and distribute their product, using the original recipe. For Kona, getting their product across the mainland is a daunting task without a system like contract brewing. By hiring a few regional breweries to make their product, they can reduce their costs while attaining a wider distribution market. My opinion is that this is a good thing.

Hawaii Craft Beer

Longboard Island Lager from Kona Brewing Company

The first beer we hand from Kona was the Longboard Island Lager. This beer had island all over it. From its light color and body, it was a beer that needed to be drank on a sunny beach, not in snowy New England. The first comment on this beer was that it tasted like Pilsner Urquell. Which was interesting, because this beer is a lager and not a pilsner. This brew did not have the big over the top flavors we came to expect over the course of the year. Instead, this was a fun, grab a six pack and hit the beach beer. Everyone enjoyed it.

Hawaii Craft Beer

Big Wave Golden Lager from Kona Brewing Company

The next beer we tried was actually the first beer brewed by Kona back in 1995. This Beer was a golden ale called Big Wave. Unlike the Longboard, this beer had more of a nose,  emitting a nice fruity smell. This beer was also slightly darker in the glass than the longboard. This was my favorite beer of the two, but I would not turn down either beer.

Would the beer have tasted different if it was brewed with Hawaiian water? Maybe. Could there have been something in the Hawaiian air that changed the flavor and characteristics of these beers? Do they lack Terroir? Possibly. These are debates that will rage on, but in the meantime, grab yourself a Kona and enjoy the day. To better locate Kona at your local hangouts, study their tap handles at this cool beer tap handle blog.

Thanks for joining this adventure. It is hard to believe 50 weeks have come and gone. Drinking a beer from each state over the course of 50 weeks was an interesting task, and I learned plenty. Over the course of the next 2-3 weeks, I am going to work on a summary post, so keep your eyes out for that, and have a happy New Year.


Connecticut: We’re full of surprises


Just four days after Georgia, in January 1788, Connecticut ratified the Constitution,  becoming the 5th state in the Union and week five of our adventure.

When I was first drafting the idea of this year long project, I envisioned it as a travel story in reverse. I would be visiting each state of the union through the beer brewed from that state, and thinking about how that beer travelled to me. Of course there was some, and probably will be physical travel, but in the end, the beer will be doing the majority of the travel, not me. Travel is synonymous with adventure. When people talk about travel, they often focus on the adventure of the trip, the challenges and risks they experienced, and overcame. In that respect, this blog, so far, has been an adventure. I have experienced flavors and styles of beer beyond anything previously consumed — and lived to talk about it. I had put on my explorer hat, and surf the web for places to purchase beer. And perused the shelves at stores, longingly looking for that one beer from a needed state. And so far, it has been educational, and more importantly fun. Lets hope the adventure continues.

Another component associated with adventure is mythologies and legends. There are many ancient legends of travel and adventure, from Odysseus to Ishmael. Beer is not exempt from the world of mythology. With myths such as the Finnish epic Kalevala devoting more lines to the origin of beer and brewing than to the origin of mankind, and the mythical Flemish king Gambrinus who is sometimes credited with inventing beer, one doesn’t have to look far to find mythology in beer.

And that brings us to this weeks tasting, and the legend of the Sea Hag.

This week, we will sample beer form two different Connecticut breweries. Early in the project, I was exchanging messages with a friend and he told me about a beer from Connecticut that I must include in my tasting. And it just so happened, he was going to be driving to Massachusetts from Connecticut and we could meet up for an exchange. When we met, he brought along two different IPAs from Connecticut, one from New England Brewing and another from Two Roads Brewing. Given that Connecticut is just one border away, I wanted to round out the selection with maybe something from Thomas Hooker, so I headed over to the Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont, and to my surprise, they did not have anything at all from the state of Connecticut. This came as a shock to me. I assumed the western states would be hard to acquire during this project, but I never thought I would have an issue getting beer from our neighbor. So, thanks to Matt S., Connecticut was saved and the project lives for another week.

In the late 1700′s or early 1800′s, a traveler and charlatan named Robert Henway came to New Haven in search of his latest business exploit. While there, he married a young beautiful local named Molly. As Henway’s business prospects soured, he abandoned Molly and boarded a ship to a distant location. Molly, impassioned by her love (and possibly fury) for Henway, stowed away on the ship in pursuit of her husband. During the voyage, Molly mysteriously disappeared. Her spirit returned to New Haven to haunt the port city.

New England Brewing – Sea Hag IPA

Connecticut Craft Beer

New England Brewing – Sea Hag IPA

The first beer of the night is an IPA from New England Brewing, located in South Norwalk. In operation since 1989, New England Brewing produces three different types of beer, an Amber, a Lager and an IPA. For this week, we are tasting their Sea Hag IPA. This beer is named after the legend of the Sea Hag, and old Connecticut sea myth.

During my research for this post, I was looking for some more information about the Sea Hag myth, another beer mythology link was worth investigating. I found this blog, where the quote above is from, but that was the only info I could find. There wasn’t even a wikipedia page, and that set off an alarm bell. A few more creative wikipedia searches turned up a deleted page about the Sea Hag, and in the comments section, I found a link to this story from CNN which goes on to explain how that Sea Hag myth was started as a guerrilla marketing campaign by New England Brewing to market their new IPA. Now considered one of their best selling beers, the myth generation apparently worked.

As far as taste, this beer generated many comments. Overall, it was a well received beer. For an IPA, it was much lighter in color than what I would typically expect, but it had a nice mild hoppy taste. “A decent IPA, one I would be happy to drink again.”

Two Roads Brewing – Double IPA

Connecticut Craft Beer

Two Roads Brewing – Road 2 Ruin

The next beer in the selection was a double IPA from Two Roads Brewing in Stratford called Road to Ruin. This IPA was a bit darker than the Sea Hag, and also had a bit more hops kick. The smell was a nice citrus smell. I enjoyed this beer, but when drank with the Sea Hag, they both blended together into a non distinct flavor. Everyone in the drinking party enjoyed this beer, but nobody was completely floored.

In the end, I enjoyed both beers from Connecticut. They were drinkable and enjoyable. I could easily revisit either beer at anytime. However I was surprised at how hard it was to come across beer from Connecticut when we are border states.

Next week, bringing it local for Massachusetts.

Thanks for reading.