It’s hard to separate taste from experience. A really good meal in a dirty, ramshackle restaurant just doesn’t taste as good. Likewise, a mediocre dish in a spectacular dining room can be elevated a couple of notches by the decor. An army of interior designers earn their living based on this strange fact.
As such, it’s hard to review products from a tropical paradise. Plenty of marketers have convinced the world that a Kona coffee blend (containing 10 per cent Kona coffee and 90 per cent God knows what else) is a spectacular thing to be savoured and cherished, regardless of logic and honest sampling. I’m all too aware of the sway a sense of place can have over the sense of taste.
And yet, one of my favourite beers in the whole wide world hails from Hawaii. Fire Rock Pale Ale, from the Kona Brewing Company, is a beer that stacks up just as well in its natural tropical habitat (a beach-facing lanai in Honolulu) as it does in the exact opposite sort of place (a drafty Canadian apartment, with blowing snow turning into drifts outside).
Part of the Fire Rock secret is that it doesn’t taste like a run-of-the-mill tropical beer. Instead of purely thirst quenching, it’s flavourful and bitter, with a generous hop profile balanced out with a gorgeous light caramel sweetness. In my mind, it’s more Pacific Northwest than Hawaii, but I love it all the same.
RATINGS AND DETAILS
Cost: $6.99 for six 355 ml bottles at a QFC in Seattle.
Value for cash money: Oh, my American friends. Your beer prices continue to amaze me. A beer of similar quality would easily cost $12 per six-pack in Alberta.
Availability: U.S.A. I’ve never been able to find it in Alberta.
Beerish power: 6 % a.b.v.
Nutrition?: It’s beer. Deal with it.
Pair it with: Something with smoky sweetness. Try it with a grilled teriyaki chicken sandwich topped with a slice of pineapple.
The verdict: A personal fave that I wish I could find in Canada. If you spot any north of the border, please leave a comment.