Surf Cincinnati resurrected by Kona’s liquid aloha
Sorry to crush your 80’s/90’s nostalgic hopes. Surf Cincinnati isn’t coming back. But… waves are coming into town.
If you haven’t heard, Hawaii’s Kona Brewing Company is set to begin distributing in Ohio after the first of the year. That means landlocked Midwesterners can get a taste of the Pacific on a regular basis. The nearly 20 year old island brewery is a part of the Craft Brew Alliance that controls craft brands Widmer Brothers, Redhook, and Kona, of course.
True to the friendly island culture stereotype, they forwarded me a care package with their Big Wave Golden Ale, Longnoard Island Lager, and Koko Brown. Oh and they kicked in a cool logo pint glass. Mahalo!
Big Wave Golden Ale
The wave poured a familiar pilsner-yellow with a moderate fluffy white head. Nothing too exciting here. However, I was pleasantly surprised to catch a floral hop aroma! My impression of this beer immediately shifted in a positive direction.
The first sip followed the aroma with a nice floral hop flavor upfront with a mild bready malt profile with negligible bitterness. This is a very easy drinking beer with a thin, thirst quenching body. It would be perfect on a hot beach or after cutting the grass on a July afternoon.
This was very good and very approachable. The 20 IBU and 4.4% ABV will make this a delightful session beer. It reminded me a little bit of Bells Oberon and it has the makings of another excellent gateway craft beer. With the power of the AB distribution network, I can see this making some solid strides in our market. I’m a definite fan of this one and look forward to picking it up again when the weather warms.
Longboard Island Lager
Okay so this beer probably doesn’t get a fair shake because of its style, but there’s really not much excitement generated by a pale lager. We have been awash in it for years and years.
That being said, this isn’t a bad representation. It has a very pale yellow color with some mild malt, biscuit flavor. Some fruity flavors sneak in but there is a decent amount of corn too. I’m not paying craft prices for macro flavor. Nothing to see here, move along.
The final offering brought real island flavor with their coconut-added brown ale. I had some on vacation this past summer and don’t recall being very impressed. But I entered into this with an open mind.
It poured a nice, clear dark brown only allowing a little bit of light through. It had a moderate viscosity that produced just a little bit of an off-white head. The aroma provides toasted coconut, vanilla, and dark sugar notes.
The first sip provided a solid upfront coconut flavor followed by some vanilla undertones and then a lingering coconut. There is a little bit of body but it could probably use some more to work with the assertive flavors.
My second exposure was better than my memory of the first. I wouldn’t drink this all the time but it’s a nice side trip from my usual hop dominated adventures. It’s certainly worth a try.
In summary, I think Kona coming to market will be a good thing as it will probably get decent shelf space at big grocery stores. This exposure should help open the craft gateway to more Bud/Miller/Coors drinkers. The beer nerds will pass over it since it is a pretty standard offering but it will be a new option at the next family gathering at your brother-in-law’s house.
Bonus: learn Hawaiian from the bottle caps…