Hawaii, the 50th and most recent state to join the USA is renowned for its volcanoes, good weather, flambuoyant shirts and Magnum PI. What many folk in Northern Ireland may not know, however, is the existence of a Hawaiian-inspired restaurant in Belfast’s Victoria Square. Kua ‘Aina serves an abundance of quality burgers, fish, chicken and salads while also being the only eatery in Ireland to pour Kona Brewing beers. I was invited to their first birthday bash just before Christmas where I indulged in some of the imported bevvies, so … E ke ka hoʻomaka. (Let’s get wired in)
First off and easing me in gently to the tropical vibe was 4.6% ABV Longboard Island Lager. Poured a crisp golden colour with aromas of grass and lemon (not lemongrass) – I’m generally not a fan of lagers but I really enjoyed this one. Was it because ‘first beer of the day’ syndrome kicked in or was it really because of that crisp lemony edge running through it? Who knows, either way, delicious. Summer days (in December)…
Moving on to the 5.8% ABV Fire Rock Pale Ale. Looked more copper and tasted maltier than I expected for a pale, there’s a soft and sweet honey and peachiness gently floating around and it went very well with a medium-rare Ahi tuna and avocado burger!
Kua ‘Aina also serves one draught beer (I know the picture has two pumps but only one’s in operation), Big Wave Golden Ale. At 4.4% ABV this is more sessionable than Fire Rock but everything about this was… just average. Some very light traces of Citra hops in there, however Big Wave needed a bit of a firecracker up its wotsit to give it some life. Sessionable? Yes. Inoffensive? Yes. Lacking a wow factor? Yes.
Hophead that I unashamedly am, I was more pleased that a small firecracker, of sorts, had been inserted into the wotsit of the 6% ABV Castaway IPA. A more pronounced fruitiness coming off this one but just stopping short of being something REALLY good.
Finally, enter Koko Brown a 5.5% ABV brown ale that’s brewed with the addition of toasted coconut. I’m a big coconut fan and really enjoyed the first few sips but the more I had, the more it started to lose me. The sickly sweetness increased exponentially after half a bottle and dominated any of that tasty coconut flavour that had now packed its bags and gone surfing, shame.
So despite not being a lager enthusiast, the Longboard Island lager was probably my favourite of the five with Castaway IPA runner up. Sometimes Marks & Spencer stock Kona beer, but failing that get yourself along to Kua ‘Aina for some seriously tasty grub and grab a beer while you’re there. Thanks to Massive PR and all the very hospitable and friendly Kua ‘Aina staff.
Huli Pau! Hau’oli Makahiki Hou. (go look it up)