Judging in ParadiseI arrived on the big island of Hawaii last night for what is shaping up to be an amazing experience already. The climate is warm and comfortable, the island is beautiful, the ocean is bright blue, and there is a homebrew competition as part of the 14th annual Kona Brewers Festival. So really, what more could I ask for.

The HouselsAs part of my trip, I was invited to attend the judging of the homebrew competition portion of the festivities today at the home of Fred and Barbara Hausel here in Kona. Fred and Barbara were extremely gracious hosts and their home is something out of a tourist magazine. The kind that makes you want to drop everything you do and move at a moments notice. The kind that you would not believe existed unless you saw it with your own eyes. Rest assured that I saw it with mine, and it does indeed exist. I spent most of my time with Fred as he showed me around the estate and introduced me to the folks who were actually working today as they judged the 249 homebrewed entries into the competition. More on Fred later so I can cover the real work that was going on today.

 

Beth Zangari (aka The Queen of Beer) was on hand to help judge, and it was great running into her. Here is Beth explaining how the judging has gone so far:

 

Fred explained to me that the competition received entries from 14 U.S. states including some from as far away as Connecticut (Go Huskies!). He said that they even received entries from Guam, which impressed me to no end. The competition itself has been happening as long as the Kona Festival itself, making it 14 years old this year.

Fred also explained the popularity of mead in this competition, which led them to adding a Mead Best of Show to the roster of awards, instead of just the overall Best of Show. Fred explained that many native and wild fruits that grow here on the island go very well in meads and let me try one of his own as an example. Fred gave me his Lehua Honey Lychee mead and it was wonderful. The Lychee fruit itself kind of looks like a red golf ball and, at least in the mead, tastes a bit like raspberry, but much more aromatic. The mead itself was huge in alcohol as it started at 1.125 and finished waaaaay down at 1.003 to give about a 17% punch...that hit just right if I don't say so myself.

Here is Fred's self-built all-grain homebrew setup:

 

But Fred does not just dabble in meads and homebrew. He also has a small coffee plantation right in his own backyard; four acres of it to be exact. Here is Fred telling us about his coffee:

 

Kiele O Kona Coffe PlantationIf you would like to buy Fred's homegrown and roasted coffee, you can find it online at www.kieleokona.com. I bought some from him myself and it smells absolutley amazing, but I have not tried it yet.

And that is about it for day one of Kona. I believe the results of the homebrew competition will be announced at the festival on Saturday, and you can also find them online at konabrewcontest.googlepages.com. I am personally rooting for Fred, but I'm biased....he was just so cool to me.

Thanks to Fred and Barbara and the Kona Coast Brew Boys, as well as the Orchid Isle Alers for hosting and organizing the judging and allowing me to drop in. I got to see first hand that there really is an enormous amount of work and organization that goes into these events, but at least this one takes place in paradise.  

Brewcaster J is the founder of The Brewing Network and host of The Sunday Session.