Japan's Must-Read Magazine

Hawaiian beer tasting

It’s a hard life being a journalist. If you’re not going to a launch party to pick up “press kits” (free stuff) or on a “press trip” (free holiday) somewhere, you’re having to participate in beer tasting evenings. Horrible, isn’t it? Hawaii’s beer may not be particularly famous, but the State produces a surprising amount of unique, interesting tipples in its local microbreweries. We drank a selection of the Hawaiian beers that are available in various places in Japan, particularly at (duh) Hawaiian restaurants. The taste-drive took place at Ogo’s Ono-Loa Hawaiian in Akasaka, so it was just like being on the islands for real. Well, apart from the lack of golden beaches, sun, or girls in grass skirts. Or, er, everything else.

1st Beer – Mehana Brewing Company – Tsunami Lager
One Tsunami that’s welcome any day on all our beaches! This beer is apparently rather hard to get hold of in Japan, though you can find it in TGI Friday’s and some Hawaiian restaurants. Tsunami is one of five beers made by the small family business Mehana Brewing Company, based in Hilo, Hawaii. It’s a true micro-brew, and the only one available in Japan that’s completely brewed and bottled in Hawaii. It has a unique taste, very sweet and kind of caramelly (is that a word?). Dustin Shindo, who joined us for the tasting – and is, conveniently, President of Mehana – said that the Japanese export version has the same flavor as the original sold in Hawaii, but is brewed a bit lighter and with more fizz.

Kris: I like this, but it doesn’t feel like drinking beer.
Dustin: What do you mean it doesn’t feel like drinking
Kris: After I drink it I feel like I’ve drunk nothing at all. It’s very light.
Dana: It’s sweet. I really like this one. It’s very easy to drink.
Kitty: It’s a very different taste from any other beer I’ve ever drunk, and trust me I’ve drunk A LOT of beer in my life.
Verdict: Tropical. Light. Caramel. Yum. But a bit TOO easy to knock back, when you’re paying ¥800 or so for a bottle.

2nd Beer – Brasserie de Tahiti – Hinano
Not technically a Hawaiian beer – this one is brewed in Tahiti – but we decided to include it, since it had a woman in a grass skirt hula dancing on the label. The general verdict on this one was that it wasn’t very good. Well, obviously, it’s beer (and that’s always good), but compared to the others
this one simply wasn’t AS good. Everyone liked the picture on the bottle, though. (Long silence)

Dustin: Well, it’s better than Budweiser.
Kitty: The picture’s very nice, isn’t it?
Dana: There’s really not very much to say about this one. It’s beer, nothing special. Tastes like almost every other beer I’ve ever drunk.
Kris: What’s the next one?
Verdict: Unremarkable. Tastes like beer. Pretty picture.

3rd Beer – Kona Brewing Co. – Longboard Lager
Kona Brewing Co. is the largest brewery in the State, producing 15 or so different brands of beer. They export their particular style of alcoholic goodness
to both the mainland US and Japan. Kris thought this one was a bit light, not really a proper man’s drink. That, of course, would be a Pina Colada with a pineapple. And a straw.
Dustin: I probably shouldn’t say anything about these next two because I might be biased.

Kitty: What? You mean owning the company and stuff?
Dustin: Yeah, well, that.
Kitty: So if you own a beer company, do you have to drink beer for breakfast?
Dustin: No.
Kris: This is very hoppy. It’s better than the last one, though: I actually feel like I’m drinking beer now.
Dana: I’m not too keen on that hoppy aftertaste, personally. But that’s just a personal taste thing, I know some people like that.
Dustin: The hoppy flavor is one of my favorite things about it.
Kitty: Wait. I thought you weren’t going to say anything?
Verdict: Hoppy. Smooth. Crisp. A matter of taste.

4th Beer – Kona Brewing Co. – Fire Rock Pale Ale
The second in the Kona family is the heaviest
of the batch – for those who like their drinks with a bit of substance. The copper color of this one reminded certain members of the team of Newcastle Brown Ale, though other members hotly contested this.
Kris: We need something to cleanse the pallet. All these beers are kind of merging into one.

Dana: What shall we get? How about some chili edamame?
Kris: (Coughing) Now I can’t taste ANYTHING.
Kitty: That’s a shame, because it’s actually not bad at all.
Dustin: This one is very full bodied, for people who like that sort of thing.
Kris: You know, I can’t remember what any of the beers tasted like. Could we have some more?
Dustin: Nice try.
Verdict: Coppery. Aromatic. Full-bodied. Time to get a taxi.

All beer is good. Of these four, Tsunami was everyone’s favorite, although we think it’s best if we have another beer-tasting session to make absolutely sure. We’d like to have included Mehana’s other brews, but unfortunately you have to go to Hawaii to try them. Aloha!

Thanks to Dustin Shindo, of Mehana Brewing Company, who took time from his busy real job at Hoku Scientific coordinating fuel cell technology projects between Japan and Hawaii. Also, thanks to Minoru Karasawa of Yuwa Trade Corporation and Mattson Davis of Kona Brewing Co.