For all of the comments and jokes I post about Guinness on Facebook, I never was much of a beer drinker. When I turned 18 (back when the drinking age was still 18), my best friend bought me a six pack of Heineken. On my 21st birthday, I gave the last four bottles away. Didn’t care for it at. Over the years I tried a number of different beers, mostly of the mass-produced variety, and didn’t care for any of them either. I recall a conversation I had with a bartender in Ireland during our 2002 trip there. He asked what kind of beer people in Hawai‘i drank. I explained that most of the people I knew drank Bud Light. He replied, “No, I asked what kind of *beer* do they drink.” Touché.
During that same trip to Ireland I developed a taste for the Guinness, though it does taste quite different there than anywhere else. Perhaps it was simply the influence of the place. When I returned I found it difficult to enjoy Guinness on tap where it is served. May obviously don’t know hot to pour the perfect pint. Others seemed to do it right, but it still wasn’t the same. Since then I’ve been a bit more adventurous about trying new beers, both at home and while we travel, and try to support micro-brewers where we can. Some of have been great, and others, well, blech! Here are my current faves, in no particular order. Don’t ask me about the citrus-y taste or how it finishes. I’m no beer-tasting expert, just know what I like.
Guinness Extra Stout
While I don’t care at all for the Guinness Draught in a bottle or can, with that funky widget they put in to to aerate the beer, Guinness Extra Stout definitely whets the whistle. Dark and heavy deliciousness. It also has the advantage of being available just about everywhere.
Kona Brewing Fire Rock Pale Ale
My partner in musical crime, Kenneth Makuakāne, brought a six pack of this local wonder to my house on night a few years ago and I was hooked. Has a nice bite but still smooth. It’s also found throughout the state, in stores and on tap in many places.
Sam Adams Boston Lager
I tried Sam years ago and didn’t like it at all. I know it couldn’t have change that much between now and then, so it must be that my taste buds are getting more sophisticated. Like Guinness, widely available and a solid fallback or for a change of pace.
Hawai‘i Nui Brewing Southern Cross
I said I wasn’t going to put things in a particular order, but I have to admit that Southern Cross is my current fave. One of the more flavorful beers I’ve ever encountered, not too light, not too heavy. In the past it’s only been availably seasonally (October through March), but they are now bottling it and it is supposed to be available year round now. I have a growler and tend to fill it up at their tasting room on Kāwili St. in Hilo, but the bottles will do in a pinch.
I’m still not a big beer drinker. A six pack will last me a few weeks, and a filled growler a bit less. Then go weeks or months without. But when I do, I appreciate the wisdom of that Irish bartender a decade ago about Bud Light. To paraphrase Crocodile Dundeee, “that ain’t a beer. These are beers.”