Technically coconut fruit is a drupe, not a nut. So brown ales with coconut are really fruit beers and not nut browns, but that's just semantics and botany really.
Coconut is a flavor that many people will tell you they don't like, although if pressed a lot of them will cite the texture. This is understandable, as a lot of times their initial exposure to the flavor is similar to mine; When I picked the unlucky chocolate out of a box of Russell Stover Candies. This wicked game of chocolate Russian roulette is not working with the highest quality ingredients to start with, and if you go in thinking you're going to get a smooth milky chocolate it's only going to make the surprise more jarring. Trying a Mounds or Almond Joy at Halloween is less surprising, but it's still only the grainy and chewy form of the stuff. My mother would have one or two, but there were always a handful of the blue-wrapped candies destined for the trash in the remains of my Halloween bag when we found it months later.
I rarely gave it another thought. I'd made up my mind that I didn't like coconut, and that was that. I passed over things with coconut in or on them, immediately assured it was something I didn't like.
All that would change on October 16th, 2010. I'm a big believer of the old adage, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." When I'm in new places, I open my mind to the differences and try the local cuisine. It was an innocent enough night in Kona on the isle of Hawaii and me and my new wife were sitting at the bar at the Kona Brewing Company waiting for a table. I flipped open the menu to the one-off section where they had a couple of experimental beers, which is usually my favorite section of any beer menu. I read about one, a brown ale with toasted coconut called Coco Loco Toasted Coconut Brown Ale, and was intrigued before I finished reading the name. My mind was open to new flavors and Hawaiians do not shy away from coconut, unless it's via a warning not to sit under a palm tree.
So I ordered it, and it was wonderful. It wasn't a hint of coconut. It wasn't a rich malty beverage with a lingering aftertaste. It was a full-on, in-your-face explosion of coconut. And it was delicious. The nutty sweetness of the coconut was the predominant taste and the beer enveloped it from there creating a rather tasty beverage.
When I returned to New Jersey I knew there was Kona beers around, but I also knew there was no chance they would have this specialty beer since it wasn't even in bottles in Hawaii. As most people do when they return from the Hawaiian Islands I wallowed in nostalgia for a couple of weeks and missed my coconut beer and my Mauna Loa macadamia nut chocolate chip cookies. After that I got down to work researching homebrew recipes for a clone. I found some other homebrew threads talking about toasted coconut, and after a while I formulated a recipe and brewed my nostalgic brew.
To date it's probably the best beer I've created. I’m clearly biased, but I’ve had independent confirmation of this by friends who have had most of my other creations including an odd, but not bad, root beer beer. I even rebranded it as a Mets-themed beer called Oliver Perez is Coco-Nutz. I just bottled another batch of it this past weekend.
Then the miraculous happened: Everyone else loved Kona’s beer as much as I did and they decided to both bottle it and add it to their Aloha Series, the one that gets distributed to the mainland along with Pipeland Porter, Wailua Wheat, Fire Rock Pale Ale and Longboard Lager.
Kona Brewing Company’s Koko Brown is deliciousness in a glass. It tastes like lounging on an island beach during a Luau entwined with stand-up paddleboarding on the blue waters. The aroma evokes a relaxing vacation bottled with the rich aroma of tropical paradise. Drinking this coconut delight brings images of gently flowing palm trees in a warm breeze and beautiful pink sunsets over giant ocean waves.
Koko Brown has a 3.68 rating with 2.26 BAR and 0.2 wOBAR. It’s a well-crafted malty beverage with a smooth coconut taste and a caramelly sweetness and just enough hop bitterness to keep it balanced. If you can't find it, brew it.
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