Now in its second year, the Honolulu Brewers Festival, organized and hosted by REAL a gastropub and nonprofit The Victoria Foundation, offered over 120 curated craft brews by local and international brewers, including some industry rock stars. Sierra Nevada, Ballast Point, 2Ciders, Chimay, Coronado, Clown Shoes, Kaneohe’s Stewbum and Stonewall, Rogue Ale (many of their top brass were in attendance) and Widmer Brothers were just a few of the brands attendees had the chance to sample. On the food side, 20 vendors, including Square Barrels, Mnkeypod, REAL a gastropub, Murphy’s and Roy’s, served up savory bites.
Each year, I do my best to track down the most buzzed-about brews, as well as discover personal favorites.
Without further ado, here are my top 5 brews from this year:
1. Café De Brrrbon ’16 by Widmer Brothers (Portland, OR)
After approximately six different people came up and raved about this beer to me, I had to try it. At 12% alcohol, infused with Stumptown coffee and aged in bourbon barrels, this tasty sipper is nearly a port, but right away, I could see what people were talking about. Incredibly smooth, sweet caramel notes balance perfectly with the coffee and vanilla. A clear winner!
2. Watermelon Dorado by Ballast Point (San Diego. CA)
This was so good I went back twice for a refill. I’m not an IPA fan, but this was so refreshing and fruity – and yes, it really does taste like watermelon – that it had me addicted from the first sip.
3. The Smoking Cannon Smoked Imperial Stout by Stewbum & Stonewall (Kaneohe, HI)
I am DEFINITELY a fan of smoked ales, and this local offering was a surprisingly good recommendation from a friend. Subtle and complex, it’s a dark, heavy stout, but not cloying or too sweet like others tended to be. The smokiness could be increased, but as is, it was a great savory beer to pair with Pint & Jigger’s famous bacon plate.
4. Kiwanda Cream Ale by Pelican Brewery (Pacific City, OR)
This one was surprising. It pours so light it’s almost white, and with a lot of froth, but on first sip, you find out why it’s called a cream ale. There is a remarkable body and creaminess and a refreshing light sweetness that ends semi-dry.
5. OutCider by 2Towns Ciderhouse (Corvallis, OR)
Is this stuff really alcoholic? A perfect, refreshing way to end the day, I preferred this over 2Towns’ other offering, the BrightCider, for its raw, unfiltered creaminess and the sweetness that tasted like, well, some of the best apple cider.
And there you have it! What do you think? What were your favorites?
Some more photos: