The big move to Oregon was a hard choice. To leave “paradise” for a place like Eugene, OR was and still is a mystery to most people I meet, and to be honest it grabs my wonderment from time to time. But I made a firm decision to live out my days immersed in a more craft beer oriented culture so that one day The Upright Drunk Craft Brewpub can exist without the prehistoric restrictions of the islands. Of course, within the months that I leave a brewery opens up in Honolulu that I had been waiting for without knowing I was in Beer Lab HI.
The whole idea surrounding this place is the most beautiful thing about brewing beer to me, which is pushing the envelope of experimentation to create something new in a world filled to the brim with so much ordinary. It takes like minded individuals who share the same passion to make this work, and for hops sake, it works. A great brewery is a simple, no nonsense, focused on one thing and one thing only kind of place that feels close to home and the heart. Beer Lab has that. Beer Lab doesn’t try to make that happen, it’s just how it is because there is not a face without a smile in this place and not a palate that is not made better from what is gleefully presented to you. To review each beer would be fruitless considering the “one off” nature of experimentation so I will give you a basic rundown of my favorites, which considering my very Upright nature upon leaving the Beer Lab could have been all of which they had to pour that night, but I will show restraint, maybe…
There is always a beer that comes along that is defined by its drinkability. The ease to which one can throw a few back without destroying the palate is something that is almost always welcome and sought after. I am always on the search for beers that push the boundaries of flavor, that put your taste buds on such a journey that they cannot look back. But that is not all this palate craves. Sometimes, nothing sounds better than to sit back with a beer that is welcomed by another, and another, and so on until the day is done. The Spelt Ail had me at hello and I would have been happy to have had it at goodnight. This is the definition of an “all day” beer. Made with citra hops and of course a brett strain that is a defining characteristic of the brewery its smooth and refreshing, perfect for outdoor cooking or football Sundays, as long as it takes all day to do, Spelt Ail is a nice option for accompaniment. 7.75/10 on the UrD scale.
Then we had the Majiyabai. Don’t ask me how to say it or what it means. For all I know its beer geek for “great double IPA with bitterness on the exhale with a surprisingly smooth swallow for such a high ABV”… or something. Thats 9.42% ABV that breathes like an IPA half its size which I can tell you from my extensive research is not a common occurrence. Honestly, that is the expectation I had coming into this house of hops, to experience something different, unique, maybe even a little weird. 7.75/10 on the UrD scale. Then the flip of the coin is the Foggy Ollie 2.0. An IPA that by all means is not too much in any direction, but right where you need it to be. It takes your craving for everything IPA and makes it its bitch. Are you expecting there to be a significant hop presence? There it is. How about that crisp aroma of hops and malts? Yep, present. But what of the color, that mouthfeel, the… Shut up. Its all there wrapped up as an all inclusive representation of the IPA. They sell crowlers at the brewery, so guess what beer I took home with me? Foggy Ollie 2.0 gets an 8/10 on the UrD scale.
The last one I want to tell you about is the Wicket’s Wheat Wine. Thats right, I said wheat wine, made by the Endorian Ewok Wicket. The first inhale singes the sensory nerves with its 10.5% ABV and barrel-like characteristics while imparting a sweetness you would expect from spirit soaked wood. The palate is decidedly a slow sipping experience of extreme sweetness and alcohol pungency beautifully balanced to allow all aspects to shine. The mouthfeel is noticeably heavier but not too syrupy like some barleywines or IIPA’s can be which makes for some all too easy drinking and questionable decision making. I savored every last drop of this beer and was genuinely sad when it was done. Well done my friends, well done. 8.75/10 on the UrD scale.
There are of course many other brews here, many of which you may never see again, as is the nature of experimentation. But thats part of the beauty of Beer Lab that is different from everywhere else. The craft beer climate in Hawaii is changing. The expanding legion of craft drinkers are growing tired of waiting for the great beers the rest of the country gets to enjoy to make their way to the islands, so they are doing it themselves. With the growing cost to do anything in Hawaii it makes it even more amazing that something new and this damn good finally exists and for what I hope is and will be doing very well for the foreseeable future. Beer Lab HI needs to exist, for others to see, taste, to be encouraged to create, to be individuals in the industry of so much repetition. Beer Lab needs to exist, as any other great brewery must, to fill me with smiles, inspiration, hope… and of course beer.