When you think about brewing hot spots, what come to mind? Some obvious international destinations include Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Czech Republic. As for the U.S., craft breweries are everywhere, but we think of the West Coast--especially Portland and Seattle. There's always (for better or for worse) St. Louis and Milwaukee, too.
Believe it or not, the state actually has a few well-respected breweries, including Mehana, Waimea and Kona Brewing Co., the latter of which produces a very satisfying pale ale: Fire Rock.
Fortunately, it proved far more drinkable that another Kona beer, the carbonated coffee beverage known as Pipeline Porter. Granted, that beer has its enthusiasts. Hophead is not one of them.
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While the tastes of these two Kona offerings have little in common, they do share one trait: an odd disconnect between the nose and the actual taste.
After pouring a clear copper body capped with a quickly dissipating tan head, Fire Rock proved quite deceptive. It has an intensely sweet caramel aroma that suggests a very malty, syrupy taste. The malts are dominant in the flavor profile, yet it's not at all sweet--more of a dry ale with a slightly bitter, clean finish.
It isn't nearly as hoppy as most American pale ales, nor does it reach the greatness of Dale's Pale Ale. But for those who prefer lower doses of hops, it's a very palatable take on the style. In fact, Lady Hophead, who prefers malty Belgian-style ales and who can't stand IPAs or most American pale ales, was a big fan. It's a very balanced, well-rounded brand sure to please beer lovers at your next luau.
Where to score: Kona beers are distributed by Ben E. Keith and can be found at several Dallas-area stores and bars, including Trinity Hall, Parkit Market and Goody Goody liquor--though, oddly, not at Kona Grill.