When is a
Hawaiian beer not a Hawaiian beer? When it’s not brewed in Hawaii, that’s
when. Such is the case with Kona Brewing Company’s Fire Rock pale Ale,
a “Hawaiian style” ale brewed not on that Pacific island paradise but here
in the continental United States (by Widmer in Oregon it seems).
Kona has been a very successful little brewery indeed in Hawaii, and in
addition to operating a brewpub they are far and away the most popular
microbrewery in their home state. Having been in business for over ten
years, Kona has become successful enough to offer their beers in selected
contiguous states (I bought a six-pack of Fire Rock in Florida).
Curiously enough, their beers are popular enough to have drawn the attention
of Anheuser-Busch, and the local AB distributor in Hawaii also distributes
Kona beers (AB also is a part owner of the aforementioned Widmer). AB has
been notorious at times for excluding competitors brands from their
At any rate, I did pick up some of the Fire Rock, and my bottles don’t
indicate that they’re not brewed in Hawaii. I don’t mind contract brewing at
all, but it really should be indicated on the bottle, lest someone think
they are getting real, brewed in Hawaii beer.
My beer was fresh, though, having been bottled on March 9th and bought by me
at a Publix supermarket on April 5th. Not even a month old, and the
freshness really shines through.
Poured gently into my glass, a bottle of Fire Rock Pale Ale is a
bright orange amber in color with a thick creamy head and a fruity-hoppy
nose. The body is firm with a good dose of chewy caramel malt that coats the
tongue and mouth with a luxurious texture. There's a bit of citrus and
candyish crystal character too.
Fire Rock is nicely layered, and a soft fruity character emerges on top of
the caramel before long. But it is quickly superseded in the finish by a
long, dry grassy hop finish that deposits a pleasant but gentle bitter hop
buzz on the tongue, lingering nicely after the sip.
I really like the balance between chewy malt and gentle grassy hop
character. It has the hop character of an English style ale but the malt
profile of an American pale. That makes it very drinkable and very
enjoyable, and a natural to pair with most dishes.
I like it a lot, no matter where it’s brewed.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For
reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.