When beer and coconut collide

MICHAEL DONALDSON'S PINT OF VIEW
Last updated 05:00 26/05/2013

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So, beer with coconut in it. Discuss.

As one commenter on a blog wrote recently, if you want coconut-flavoured beer, put a bottle of Tui and a Bounty Bar into a food processor and whiz them up. Yeah right.

I'm not sure which genius first came up with the idea of putting coconut in beer but, without doubt, the leader of this style is the Maui Brewing Company in Hawaii. Their CoCoNut Porter is the most referenced version the internet can find and they've certainly been brewing it a while, so I'm going to give them the credit for at least making it trendy.

What's more they sell it in a can. Yes, a can! Very un-crafty . . . but the debate about cans versus bottles is for another day.

Adding toasted coconut to the already chocolately coffee base malts found in porters and stouts just makes sense - the nuttiness and dessert-like qualities of coconut perfectly complements what's already at play in the beer. After all it's a combo that has worked well in biscuits and chocolates for years.

Here are three pretty cool Kiwi beers that use coconut to great effect.

1) Geek Coconut Porter

Geek, as in beer geek, is the baby of Andrew Cherry, who burst on to the beer scene as the Society of BeerAdvocate's national home-brew champion in 2009.

Coconut Porter is his first commercial beer and it's brewed under contract in Invercargill using toasted coconut. While the label is a little stark, the beer inside is opulent. Its sublime dessert-like qualities simply caress your palate. It doesn't deliver a big head or heavy carbonation and has an almost oily character, possibly from the coconut, which gives it a winey mouth-feel. Underneath is a stewed fruit character that breezes in and out and adds a slightly sour finish to take the edge off quite a sweet drop.

2) Three Boys Coconut Milk Stout

Three Boys in Christchurch delivered one of my highlights of Beervana last year but, rather than toasted coconut, they use coconut milk, so really this should be described as a coconut-milk stout rather than a coconut milk-stout, if you follow.

After its Beervana appearance last year, I see it's now popping up on tap at various bars around the country just in time for winter. If you see it, don't pass up the chance to sample a sweet, creamy stout which has just a dusting of charcoal ash and an extremely drinkable 4.2 per cent alcohol.

3) Epic Coffee and Fig Imperial Stout

While this doesn't have the word coconut on the label, this deep, rich and incredibly drinkable stout uses toasted coconut as a gentle underlay for an eight-strong array of malt, coffee beans and caramelised figs. This beer had its genesis in the first Beervana media-brewer collaboration competition in 2011 but has since been refined to tone down the charry element of the original.

There's still a lot of coffee on the nose and up front but behind that bean hit, it's complex and gorgeous and deep with 8 per cent alcohol.

michael.donaldson@star-times.co.nz

Twitter: @mjwd

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