Kona Brewing Co., I have to admit, has some pretty solid beers. I picked up their summer 12 pack to satiate that kind of “just whenever” kind of beer need a brew-loving household has. It had four each of their Lonboard Lager, Koko Brown Ale, and Fire Rock Pale Ale. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting too much out of any, especially the Pale Ale. With poi, pineapples, and papaya, Hawaii has never really struck me as a place to enjoy the bitterness of things. Despite this, and with certainly permitting weather to enjoy a summer brew, I picked it up.
For the botanists among us, the specific hop varieties in this brew are Galena, Cascade, and Mt. Hood. In addition to this bitter-floral melange, there are a blend of roasted malts giving a very distinct copper color. Quite a few Kona beers, and Hawaiian beers overall, include some kind of special tropical ingredient to remind you that “hey, this beer is from Hawaii.” Their Wailua Wheat has tropical passion fruit, the Koko brown ale has Coconut, Pipeline Porter has Kona coffee, but the Fire Rock has none of these fanciful ingredients. Not even any macadamia or Spam. Now, there’s two trains of thought I came to with this: either they are being purists about this and want to make a good Pale Ale stand on it’s own, or they just wanted a pale ale on the roster to kind of fill space in a 12 pack. Can’t say I know too much about Kona as a company, but just looking it up, they don’t seem the type. They may do a bit of remote brewing with a craft beer network, but they’ve got the whole solar power, sustainability, and giving back thing that has become a hallmark of good semi-large craft breweries.
This ale pours a very nice amber/copper color with just a finger’s width of head. It’s not super clear, but you can certainly see just a bit of carbonation going, slow and steady. The aroma certainly gives a hint of pine and citrus hops, with a good backing of those sweet caramel malts. I could already tell this wasn’t going to be one of those super light -bodied pale ales, nor was it going to be a let down in the hops category. The first taste was more of the piney hops, but definitely more of a floral breath to them. In fact, the floral along with the citrus gave a bit of a pineapple taste to it. Very enjoyable, and fitting with the Hawaiian style. There is also quite a bit of a brown sugar sweetness from the malt, and even more in the mouth feel. It had a definite sticky viscosity that added to the malty sweet taste.
A very solid pale ale overall, very easy to drink. It may not satisfy those looking for lip puckering bitterness, but it will satisfy lovers of just well balanced, full bodied, hop-forward ales. A great pairing, just like their website suggests, with a very wide variety of foods. I’ve had it with a chili, a salmon, and a creamy dessert, all of them were properly complimented by Fire Rock. A great candidate for what I was looking for, a drinkable “just whenever” beer.