Brew Review – Honolulu Beer Works (www.honolulubeerworks.com)

www.honolulubeerworks.com

Location:  328 Cooke St., Honolulu HI, 96813
Date of Visit:  Thursday, November 12, 2015

With the limited time available for my visit to Oahu, I only had an opportunity to visit one craft brewery during the tour.  I’d received recommendations for three venues from Oahu natives in my workplace, so I elected to start at the top of the list and headed off from Aulani to downtown Honolulu and the Honolulu Beer Works.

Thanks to Miz Google, and despite the terrible rush-hour traffic, we located our destination without problems.  There is no parking lot available, so parking is limited to available street and metered parking.  I quickly found an open spot a block from the establishment, checked the coin-only old style meters adjacent to cars already parked and no one seemed to be feeding the meters.  I figured it must be after enforcement hours, so Darling-Darling and I headed off to sample some malted beverage products.

The Venue
The facility is similar to craft brewery/pubs I’ve visited in the Ballard district of Seattle:  Simple warehouse, metal frame, walls and roof, concrete floor, wood benches and chairs, raised and normal-height tables, sturdy wood back stools for the bar and the raised tables, and an open-air area off to the side.  Quite breezy inside as the air blasts from the open air area through the seating area and out the open garage-style door on the street.  One difference is:  No insulation on the walls or roof.  Obviously unnecessary for the climate, but I suspect that their brewing area is a little more rigorously climate controlled, as is their keg room.  The beers are served at a pleasantly cool-but-not-cold temperature that allows free reign for the full flavor and aroma of the beverages.

The Fare:

HBW offers a limited selection of beer food.  We chose the Mac ‘n Cheese – which I strongly suspect is NOT prepared on premise from scratch.  It was served in an aluminum pan looking strictly food factory.  The topping was nicely crunchy, but the taste was lackluster at best.  Darling-Darling inquired as to whether there was really a lot of cheese involved in the mix because it certainly lacked the creamy texture and cheesy tang one might expect.  But then this is a craft brewery, not an upscale lunch and dinner establishment so one should not expect an offering comparable to the Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese at Seattle’s Purple Café!

The customer base was definitely on the younger side when we arrived, but later on there was a distinct graying of the consumer population, so either the product has substantial aging properties, we were there a lot longer than I remember, or there’s a truly broad appeal for the product.  Sure seems like the latter!

The Beverages
HBW offers a small selection of wines and non-alcoholic beverages, but I was here for the beer.  They had 12-15 brews on tap – I didn’t count – including their staple products plus several seasonal brews.  Looking over their selection, I ordered a Beer Flight of a half-dozen – a cross section of their standard and seasonal offerings.  My selections included:
• Pia Mahi’ai Honey Citrus Saison – a wheat-based Belgian style brew at 5.9% ABV and 24 IBU
• Sheltered Bay IPA – a classic, hoppy offering with 7.0% ABV and 70 IBU
• Cooke Street ESB – 5.9% ABV and 34 IBU
 Point Panic Pale Ale – 5.8% ABV and 36 IBU
 South Shore Stout – a smoky dark with 6.7% ABV and IBU 52
• Equinox Wet Hops Red – A classic dark amber with 5.1% ABV and 50 IBU.

The Tastings

1. Honey Citrus Saison:  I’ve never been a particular fan of Hefeweisen – Wheat is for bread.  Barley is for beer (and lots of other things…).  This offering is a mildly sweet brew, with the wheat understated in the taste (if not the ingredients) – perhaps overshadowed by the strong citrusy flavors as you might expect from the ingredients.  The overall impression is somewhat bland but definitely palatable.  All in all, this offering might begin to crack my aversion to the Belgian style.
2. Sheltered Bay IPA:  A good, solid IPA – nicely hopped but not overwhelmingly so.  It offers a taste that gains your attention without shouting at you, and is eminently drinkable.  Darling-Darling is not a beer person, but she liked this one – even so far as taking second and third sips.
3. Cooke Street ESB:  To my uneducated palate (you know how it is – don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout beer, but I knows what I likes!) this particular brew seems a bit sweet for an ESB.  It’s very, very smooth as you might expect from the IBU, but perhaps a little too smooth.  That smoothness is offset by a subtle mix of flavors (their description says “toffee, toasted bread, and caramel”) that matures into a very pleasant after-taste that fades nicely.  An interesting brew, though not my favorite of the evening.
4. Panic Point Pale:  Ah, the Pale.  That’s what I’ve been awaiting.  My home refrigerator standard is the Henry Weinhardt’s Blue Boar Pale Ale.  In comparison, the Panic Point seems a bit watery – a less substantial body than I’d like.  But it has a nice crisp flavor that gets your attention, pleasantly more hoppy than the 36 IBU might lead you to expect.  Like the IPA above, it gets your attention from the first sip and keeps it throughout – with every taste revealing another aspect of its character.
5. South Shore Stout:  Like Hef’s, Stouts and Porters have never been among my personal favorites.  I suspect that’s about to change!  The very pleasant smoky flavor derives from the roasted malt and is nicely presented – this brew definitely affirms that barley is for beer.  Very smooth, with less bite than might be expected from the 52 IBU, it finishes with a very nice after-taste that complements your food selection without smothering it.  I like it, Albert!
6. Equinox Wet Hops Red  This is a Red that compares VERY favorably with a couple of the classic Seattle-area Reds from breweries like Silver City Brewing (Ridge Top Red) and Elysian Brewing (Men’s Room Red)…  A well-rounded body (which is always an asset!), with a bold flavor.  Nicely balanced, not bitter but just enough bite to keep your interest.  More like a hard nibble.  It starts fresh and finishes clean, with a very pleasant after-taste.  Very nicely done, HBW!

Little Dickey Carroll’s Stack Ranking:

1. Equinox Wet Hops Red.  They need to reconsider its “seasonal” status.  This is a truly good product that (in my opinion) should be one of their staples!
2. South Shore Stout.  I surprised myself with this one!  I went in expecting the IPA or Pale to be among the top 2 and the Stout to be at or near the bottom.  Not so!
3. Sheltered Bay IPA.  As noted, a good, solid IPA which should remain a staple for the brewery.
4. Point Panic Pale.  Lower in the stack rank than I’d have expected, but still a quite respectable Pale.
5. Honey Citrus Saison.  Based on my personal preferences, I’d have expected this would be among the bottom feeders.  But that’s as much me as anything else.  The fact that it’s not in last place says good things about it.  And, as noted, I may begin to change my mind about wheat beer based on this offering.
6. Cooke Street ESB.  Least of my favorites among the sample.  ‘Nuff said.

Honolulu Beer Works Says:

Pia Mahi’ai Honey Citrus Saison “Farmers Beer”: 5.7% ABV 25 IBU
Our flagship saison, Pia Mahi’ai (Farmers Beer) is a tribute to the farmers of Hawaii and our take on the classic Belgian farmhouse ale style. Brewed with locally grown oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, lemongrass and Big Island Honey, Pia Mahi’ai explodes with fresh pungent citrus and spice aromas that follow through in the taste. Our house saison yeast creates complex flavors of allspice, clove and a slight peppery finish. This unfiltered ale is brewed with up to 30% wheat which helps provide a gentle smoothness and a wonderful cloudy appearance. Bright, refreshing and satisfying, we’ve captured Hawaii’s sunshine in a glass.

Sheltered Bay IPA: 6.75% ABV 70 IBU
This Pacific Northwest style IPA is full of bold hop flavors that are balanced by a strong malt backbone. With a deep copper color, our Sheltered Bay IPA has a complex aroma of sweet toffee, freshly baked bread and vibrant orange and grapefruit zest. The medium-full body has a base of toasted malt with just a touch of sweet caramel to provide a great balance for the bold hoppy bitterness from the tons of Cascade hops we use.

Cooke Street ESB: 5.9 % ABV 34 IBU
Our version of the classic Extra Special/Strong Bitter style has a beautiful deep amber color with a frothy white head. Bitter in name only, this ale is extremely balanced with a wonderfully complex palate of toffee, toasted bread and hints of caramel that isn’t too sweet because of the mild hop bitterness. Slight earthy and woody flavors are provided by hops helping to create an enjoyable full flavored and medium bodied, malty ale.

Point Panic Pale Ale: 5.6% ABV 36 IBU
Like the famous bodysurfing break it’s named after, this pale ale is smooth, well rounded and has just a bit of kick. While some pale ales are venturing into the IPA realm of bitterness and alcohol, we’ve created our Point Panic pale ale to be light and enjoyable with just enough piney hoppiness to kick your taste buds. We use generous amounts of Cascade hops throughout the brewing process to layer this pale ale with bright citrus notes and a mild lingering hop bitterness. We round it out with a solid malt backbone providing notes of toasted bread and just a touch of sweetness.

South Shore Stout: 7.0% ABV 52 IBU
Just because you’re in Hawaii doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a dark, bold stout. Our stout is rich, luscious and black as Pele’s lava fields. The bold roasted malt backbone is hinted with notes of dark chocolate, sweet tobacco and burnt caramel. A touch of sweetness, a touch of bitter and a touch of roast combine to create a perfect full bodied and full flavored stout.

Equinox Wet Hops Red  – this is a Limited Release brew and they don’t have the description on their site, and didn’t have a flyer I could take with me.  Ah, well…

May you never stop learning and may your journeys always lead to new and exciting destinations!
LDC

2016 Allegro 36 LA (aka The Means): Maiden Journey – Labor Day Weekend, Sep 4-7, 2015

Over the years I’ve had several smaller RV ranging from a 17’ travel trailer back in the day, thru some fondly remembered years with a ‘74 Volkswagen Bus Westphalia camper, a late ‘70’s 22’ Coachmen Class C whose little freezer preserved a bunch of Kenai Peninsula salmon filets, a 2006 30’ Monaco McKenzie POS (and no, POS is NOT the Monaco-approved model name, and yes, POS in fact DOES mean what you think it might) travel trailer (they wuz’ goin’ bankrupt when they built it, and their QC was non-existent! I’llever buy a Monaco again!), to a 2006 Coachmen Epic 33’ Class A.  I liked the Coachmen Class C enough that I jumped on the Class A with the McKenzie as a trade-in – and the Epic was a great rig, with a couple of feature deficiencies for our long term needs.

Preparing for retirement, we made the transition to our brand new 2016 Tiffin Allegro 36LA (for full details, see our “Means” page!)– 37’ 6” in length, 1.5 baths, and a washer-dryer among other amenities. Time to check her out!
Our first trip in the new rig was a “getting to know, know, know you” journey a relatively short distance from home to Potlatch State Park at the south end of Hood Canal, in the Puget Sound basin of Washington State. “Getting to know, know, know you” definitely being the operative phrase here!
With the heavy-duty Sumo suspension package, I-5 beat me to death bringing the 36LA home empty when I picked it up from the dealer. After I got all the stuff from the Epic loaded, added some new “necessities” (“necessities,” of course, referring to anything that you think you might conceivably ever need and that you have room to squeeze in!) and filling the consumable tanks (fresh water and propane, and gasoline), I’m pleased to report that the rig rides and handles great when fully loaded and towing my 5000 lb Grand Cherokee.
The Kenwood Navigation and Sound System that comes with the 36LA is, I’m sure, a really great system. But Kenwood-intuitive and Little-Dickey-Carroll (LDC)-intuitive are not necessarily equivalent. Since many of the issues I have with it are the same types of issues I have with my Mickey Mouse iPhone (literally Mickey Mouse – and not in a pejorative way – it’s a company cell phone and Mickey’s paying my salary at the moment and is a major reason I’ll actualize my retirement vision! iPhone? Now THAT’s pejorative!) and it appears to be iPhone friendly but not so much Android, so perhaps there’s a reason…
After an “interesting” experience getting the destination programmed (street address of the Park since it didn’t recognize the name!) we were off. Nav display and verbal directions worked well for the first half of the journey. Then Miz Kenwood (that’s what I call her, as contrasted with Miz Google, who narrates Nav for Google Maps) invited me to make a 150-degree right hand turn at a stop sign from one two-lane road to another out on the Central Kitsap Peninsula north of Shelton. Bad Idea! REALLY BAD IDEA! The intersection was in the middle of a fairly sharp curve of the road I was joining and in a 50mph zone! Cleared both ways as far as I could see and started the turn. Not enough room with this rig to keep it all in the right hand lane – gotta hit the oncoming traffic lane to clear the corner! And, of course, here comes a car heading right toward me in the oncoming lane at 50+ mph, hittin’ the brakes and flippin’ me off. Stopped and backed – which is a no-no with the Stowmaster 5000 tow bar on the jeep, but no choice! Of course, by that time, traffic was approaching, brakin’, and flippin’ from the other direction. Not to mention the folks behind me who are all frantically trying to get out of my way! Finally got clear enough to make a left turn and proceeded on into Shelton, disregarding the instructions of Miz Kenwood ‘cause once I got there, I knew how to get to my destination.
We’d never camped at that State Park before, ‘tho we’d dug hard-shell clams and gathered oysters there many times in the past. We arrived a bit later than I’d hoped because of the detour, but still had plenty of daylight. I dropped the Jeep and headed for the camp-site. Found it and prepared to park. I love the rear cameras on the rig: Very clear, color picture, and you can scroll between the straight back view from the middle of the coach and the cameras mounted in the left and right rear-view mirrors to see what you’re about to run over that you can’t see in the mirrors. Tried backing into the site and was reminded very quickly that the site was rated for large trailers and motorhomes up to 32 feet in length. NOT rated for “Extra-Large” rigs like my new 37’ baby! That was when I remembered that when I’d made the reservations, we’d still had the 33’ Epic. Ah, well. That’s probably the last time we’ll camp at that park simply because they don’t have any sites rated “X-large.” I ended up coming back the other way and the folks in the camp site across and up one had to move their truck so I had room to maneuver my front end, but I squeezed it in and we were good to go.
I’d really hoped to get some time in over the long weekend digging some clams, gathering oysters, and hitting the late-summer King Salmon run on the Skokomish River that flows into Hood Canal a few miles southeast of the park. Alas – low-cycle low tides were in the 3:30 – 5:00 AM-ish time frame over that weekend so we never made the digs with the heavy downpours early in the AM, and I never broke from new systems orientation for long enough to grab waders and gear and head for the river. But due to the long-awaited precip that weekend, the Parks Department did lift the burn ban that had been in effect all summer so we could have a camp-fire and barbecue with charcoal rather than propane. And I did develop a healthy punch list of opportunities for the dealer to address (perhaps unreasonably healthy by some measures!) and did learn a bunch about the rig!
A description of Potlatch State Park and its amenities and recreational opportunities can be found on our “Opportunity” page. At the time of our Inaugural Journey, I wasn’t loggin’ and bloggin’, so a very rough reconstruction of the travel log can be found on the Travel Log page.

May you never stop learning and may your journeys always lead to new and exciting destinations!

LDC