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Friday, March 8, 2013

Kona Brewing's Pipeline Porter

  • Style: Porter
  • ABV: 5.3%
  • Season: Fall/Winter
  • Ease to locate: They now distribute in at least 36 states and in 9 countries.  Here's a link to their beer finder. Mahalo.
  • Color: Dark brown with ruby hints along edges
  • Head: Two & a half finger tan foam
  • Aroma: A bit of coco and coffee on the nose.  I didn't get the Kona coffee experience I was looking for though
  • Mouthfeel: Light and a bit watery, but with a lot of effervescence
  • Finish: Medium
  • Food friendly: Sure.  Since it's a lighter porter, it'll go well with most winter foods and even some lighter summery dishes.  I think it'd be excellent with any sort of barbecue.  Cheese selection should stick with buttery varieties, such as Swiss or Gouda.

 It is a universal truth that anyone who has ever been to Hawaii on vacation, has spent a good portion of his or her time post trip plotting a way to go back one day.    There's an almost instant connection between two people, possibly as different as they can be without one of them actually being a space alien, who have both spent time on one of the islands.  You don't get that sort of bond from traveling to,say, New Hampshire or Miami.  I think that if the United Nations was serious about the whole Pakistan/Israel thing, they would just insist that both sides take two weeks on a beach in Maui and then get back to us with their solution.  My best guess is that the solution would revolve around matching turtle tattoos and a mutual timeshare in Lahaina.

                        How I first learned of the magical place known as Hawaii.  I also first learned about not playing ball in the house in much the same way.

My personal Hawaiian hangup is that I covet Kona coffee.  I literally horde it, squirreling bags away behind all the other bags of coffee in my pantry.  Sometimes I worry that this might give my boring old bags of Arabica beans some sort of caffeine inferiority complex.  But then I inhale that rich and slightly smoky roasted goodness and I no longer care.  So imagine my excitement when I realized that Kona Brewing made a porter using genuine Kona coffee.  Kona Brewing was founded in 1995 and it's main brewery is located on the Big Island.  Of course, they also have satellite breweries in Portland, OR, Woodinville, WA and Portsmouth, NH.   This makes sense once you realize just how far Hawaii actually is located from the mainland of the United States (the Big Island is 2551 miles from Los Angeles just in case you didn't know.  The distance between New York and LA is 2785 miles for comparison.  So yes, a long freaking fraking way.)    I have to admit that I did wonder what a paradise with an average temperature of 80 degrees on most days, would want with a porter (their Koko Brown ale? Brewed with coconut?  Hell to the yea.)  But after trying the Pipeline Porter, I realized that just like most things in Hawaii, Hawaiians have their own way of  doing things.

Aloha, my pretty

My Pipeline Porter poured a dark drown cola color with glowy bits of red around the edges of the glass.  A generous, springy 2 & 1/2 finger light tan head formed.  It slowly settled to a half finger foam that covered the surface for most of the beer.  It wasn't the creamy sort of head that affects the mouthfeel, however.  The head was dry and extremely carbonated.     While it looked impressive, I don't think it added anything positive to the enjoyment of the beer at all.  It did provide a nice bit of lacing on the glass, so I'll give it points for appearance. The nose on the head was light, with bits of chocolate, coffee and roasted malts.  There was a sweet smoke element to it as well, and I think that is what sold me on the beer.  The smoke scent took the porter from just a run of the mill porter to something that caught my interest.  The taste was a bit less sweet than the nose.  The taste was very roasted coffee forward, followed quickly by the  bitter sweet chocolate flavor that you expect from a porter.  Now, I'm going to nitpick just a bit (I know, how unusual for it to take me so long...)  Anyway, I was looking for the richness and roasted goodness of Kona coffee and was disappointed to find just a normal generic sort of coffee element in the beer.  I was promised Kona beans and yes, I was ticked off when I couldn't find them.  The coffee flavor that was there was certainly fine and didn't detract from the beer.  It just wasn't special.  The caramel sweetness from the aroma was less present, but there was a fruity sweetness in the middle note of the sip.  I think that the fruit leaned more towards a tropical element (pineapple possiblely) than citrus, but whatever it was, I really enjoyed it's presence.  The mouthfeel was light and rather effervescent, which I liked in this sort of warm weather friendly porter.  A mild hop note finally emerged on the tail end of the medium finish. 

A porter that you can enjoy on the beach?

Just don't get sand in it. 
As far as porters go, Kona Brewing's Pipeline Porter is a pretty light and easily drinkable beer.  If I felt like a porter on a coolish July evening, this would be a great option.  I'd pair it with barbeque or any substantial grilled foods.  I can easily see myself having a pint with this recipe for polynesian flank steak. for dinner.  If you want to pair Pipeline with something a little riskier, I think that the coffee flavor and hint of smokiness would be excellent with some brown sugar glazed grilled salmon.   And if you are the kind of main-lander who likes to live dangerously, cook yourself up a batch of Spam in tinfoil.  Then close your eyes.  Imagine that your folding chair isn't sitting on a concrete slab of sidewalk, but resting gently on a bed of coarse, grainy sand which squishes pleasantly between your bare toes. That overpowering stale city smell, heavy with a mix of smog and SUV exhaust is really a light tropical breeze, slightly salty with kisses from the sea.  Because if you can't send your sorry broke self to Hawaii for the night, at least now you can bring a little of Hawaii to you.  Even if the coffee isn't the same.