Kona Brewing Co. comes to Columbus

From the February 7, 2013 edition

You may have noticed a bit of Hawaiian spirit at your favorite beer store recently, as Kona Brewing Co. has begun distributing to the Midwest. Adding Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio, the Hawaiian-based brewery is now available in 34 mainland states.

As part of an introductory campaign, Kona Brewing Co. President Mattson Davis and representatives from the brewery traveled through the Midwestern states that would be selling Kona brews in an Aloha-ed out beer bus — think mini-Madden Bus, but with more leis and beer — and made a stop in Columbus.

“This is a new adventure for us and we’re really excited about bringing the Hawaiian lifestyle to the Midwest with our beer,” said Davis.

Despite the geographical differences, Davis feels there are a number of similarities between the two cultures, most importantly a love for beer.

“[Ohio] has a great market for craft beer drinkers, and Kona will fit in well,” said Davis.

To make stateside distribution easier, Kona partnered with Craft Brewers Alliance Inc. and began making beer at breweries in Portland and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This greatly reduced the cost of shipping from Hawaii, but Davis made sure to acknowledge that having a smaller “footprint” was just as important. The brewery in Hawaii is vehemently committed to sustainable and environmentally-friendly methods, and Davis felt continuing those practices was imperative when expanding into the mainland.

Kona Brewing Co. introduced four beers — Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, Fire Rock Pale Ale and Koko Brown Ale. It’s funny, after sampling each, I found they all had a distinct tropical aesthetic that made me want to drink them at the beach. (Although, maybe I just want to drink on the beach considering our current climate.)

Maybe it’s the sessionable nature of each beer. Only the Fire Rock and the Koko Brown has an ABV higher than 5 percent, and it’s just barely over. The Longboard Lager is very much like the mass-produced American lagers, but the others have bigger flavors. The Big Wave Golden Ale is perfect for someone who wants a little hop flavor. The Fire Rock Pale Ale has a larger hop profile, but it’s more crisp than strong. The Koko Brown is my favorite thanks to the use of roasted coconut with nutty and roasted toffee flavors.

Davis says it’s by design that Kona’s beers are easily drinkable and that even his favorite, the pale ale, is meant for having more than one.

“Who wants to have just one beer,” Davis asked.