Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Waimea Brewing Company and Beer Reviews

As devoted readers of The Pineapple Project know, I enjoy beer.  I especially like microbreweries and trying and sampling new beer styles and flavors.  With so many different combinations you never get bored. It is also a great way for me to get different ideas for recipes I might try at home.  Imagine my surprise (and delight) when I discovered the Waimea Brewing Company in Kaua'i driving back from the Waimea Canyon.  Located right off the main road (Kuhio Hwy), this small micro-brewery was in a serene location with quiet outdoor seating.  It's located right on the Waimea Plantation grounds where they used to grow sugar.  The ambiance was perfect for an afternoon visit when we stopped by.  Unlike the Kona Brewing Company, the Waimea Brewery is a much smaller production, but it does get to say it is the World's westernmost brewery.  Despite living on nearby O'ahu, I had never even heard of it before.  I asked the waiter whether they sold beer on the other islands and he said they did not.  I have not seen the beer, so I am inclined to believe him.

I read a few reviews of this place in preparation for writing this post and was really surprised by what I saw.  Everyone was pretty negative.  There were a lot of complaints about the service and the fact that they were out of certain types of beer.  I attribute those reviews to East Coast assholes who can't figure out that they are on a small island in the pacific at an even smaller microbrewery.  One of the nice things about this place is that you can just sit back, grab a beer, and relax.  If you're looking for a 5-star dining experience, don't go to a small microbrewery.

Our experience was pleasant.  The selection of beer was great.  Waimea Brewing Company has 9 different beers of different styles listed on their menu as well as a 10th "brewer's choice" that rotates regularly.  Although they were out of the Leilani Light, there were still plenty of options.  The restaurant also offers a beer flight with four-6oz samples for about $8.50.  We ordered two flights so we could try 8 different beers and the waiter threw in a free brewer's choice beer since they were out of the Leilani Light.  The service was like that the entire time we were there.  Very attentive and incredibly friendly.

Overall, I was not too impressed by the taste of the beer.  There were a few that were good, but nothing too special.  The best way to describe it is to say that if offered by a friend, I wouldn't refuse.  At the same time, I wouldn't be upset if they ran out and I couldn't have another.  We had some disagreement about which was the best one.  I am typically a fan of chocolate/coffee porters and stouts and hate IPAs and hoppy beers.  I also really like wheat beers and the occasional pale ale and lager.  All right, here's the list and my review:

Lilikoi Ale - an American blonde ale with a passion fruit flavor.  I was disappointed by this one.  I thought it seemed a little watered down and almost flat.  The passion fruit was non-existent but it was still a "fruity beer."  I just couldn't tell you what fruit was there.  It was just sweet. I actually think this would have benefitted from being served colder.  It was kind of warm when we got it.  It has a hazy to opaque thick gold color with very little head.  

Pakala Porter - this was my favorite of the bunch. I love dark beer and the Pakala Porter has a smooth and malty roasted flavor with a creamy head and coffee overtones.  A bold, full-bodied, robust porter with a rich chocolate, roasted flavor. Not for the light hearted beer drinker but a delight for any dark beer fan.  Fun Fact: This beer was named after the famous west side surf break.

Uli Uli Brown - At 3.8% abv, this is not a very strong beer, especially for a Brown Ale.  There is a subtle coffee aroma that complements the strong roasted malt taste and slight hop finish.  Light carbonation and a luxurious mouthfeel place this brown ale among other English Dark and Mild.  Fun Fact: ’Uli ’Uli are brightly colored feather gourds used in hula dancing.

Wai'ale'ale Ale - Kind of unremarkable.  There is a slight Golden/Blonde Ale taste balanced with a touch of sweet light malt coating a light hop taste.  Unfortunately, it is also a little watery.  The malts are so lightly roasted they don't have much to offer and there are scarcely any hops to speak of.

NaPali Pale - More body, color, and hop character than the Wai'ale'ale Ale.  This American style Pale Ale is an easy drinking beer, perfect for the warm climate of Hawaii. This beer is darker than Wai'ale' Ale, and has a small bitter zing to it. 

Captain Cook's IPA - If you're a big fan of the hoppy, bitter taste of IPAs, then you may find this one under-whelming.  I thought it was pretty good and as I said, I'm not a big IPA drinker.  It only had a slightly bitter finish but was otherwise smooth.  An argument could be made that it was weak, but I thought it had a complex aroma with a nicely balanced finish.  This might have been my second favorite of the group.

Cane Fire Red ale - It has a nondescript aroma and deep red hue.  The flavor was nicely balanced and I thought this one was very drinkable.  There is a rich malty taste at first but then the beer finished with a slight bitterness that gave it some complexity that the other beers were lacking.  Overall, this one was pretty good.

Westside Wheat - another disappointing one.  This was served up with a lemon and I thought it would have a strong fruit taste to it.  It's a traditional American wheat ale, lightly hopped with a refreshing clean crisp flavor, but it wasn't very complex.  Again, a little watery.  After the lemon sat for a little while and steeped, that's all you could taste because the beer wasn't strong enough to balance the fruitiness. 

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