Garrett Marrero on Coconut Hiwa Porter
Garrett Marrero on Coconut Hiwa Porter
Garrett Marrero, founder of Hawaii’s Maui Brewing Co. answers our ten questions about their flagship beer, “Coconut Hiwa Porter.”
1. What is your flagship beer and when did you begin brewing it?
Coconut Hiwa Porter, originally called CoCoNut PorTeR. We first brewed it in 2005 and it won a gold in the Herb & Spice category at the 2006 World Beer Cup.
2. Who wrote the recipe and how did that come about? What was the inspiration for it?
Our original brewmaster and good friend, Tom Kerns wrote the Coconut Porter recipe. The use of coconut was inspired by several trips to Hana, Maui, and getting roadside candy in Nahiku. There was a lady there that made toasted coconut with various sugars, some with cacao. It was always a treat, so we wanted to recreate that in a beer.
3. Did you go through several tests or were you happy with it right away?
It was originally a Stout, but after a few iterations we landed on Porter as it better suited the subtle hint of coconut.
4. Has it changed at all over the years, or is it still the same as when you first brewed?
Despite winning a medal we felt it could be better. We experimented with using the coconut in different parts of the brew and still to this day it evolves as processes and technology changes. Because of the success of the original beer, we kind of became known as the “guys that make the coconut porter,” and after temporarily thinking, “Hey we make other beer, too,” we decided to embrace it and expanded to an imperial version, rum or bourbon barrel aged versions, and more recent variants including Coco Bean, Dolce, Flat White, Haupia Malasada, and more. Oh, we also still hand-toast the coconut in the brewery weekly!
5. Did you think it was going to be your most popular beer or did that take you by surprise?
Definitely a surprise, especially in Hawaii, largely because of the weather. It’s still iconic for us and I always love when people tell me, “I haven’t had it in a while and just ordered one. Damn, that’s a great beer.” It’s one of those beers you can always count on.
6. When did you realize it was your flagship beer?
World Beer Cup 2006. We had just won a medal and at the after party they let brewers taste all the leftover beers from the competition. I found a bottle by chance (back in those days we didn’t have cans and had to hand bottle entries) and cracked it for Tom, not telling him what it was. He liked it and after I told him it was ours, he said something to the effect of, “We can make it better.” I always loved that about him: quality over everything. I think I said, “Let’s do that! …but first enjoy winning your first gold medal, man.”
7. What do you like best about it and what is most unique about your flagship compared to other similar beers (assuming there are any similar ones)?
Coconut Hiwa Porter is near and dear to my heart for what it meant, not just for Maui Brewing Co., but in creating a segment in beer and inspiring so many others to brew their interpretation. What it did for craft beer in Hawaii was huge. We put Hawaii on the craft beer map with that one.
8. How much of your early success do you attribute to your flagship beer?
All of it. In the beginning we only had three cans, so flagships were everything when you went beyond the brewpub. I firmly believe in having flagship beers. Coconut Hiwa Porter is just one, but in the early days Bikini Blonde Lager and Big Swell IPA were huge. They took off like wildfire since they were the first REAL, local Hawaiian beer available in Hawaii.
9. What is your favorite story involving your flagship beer?
Hawaiian restaurants and bars didn’t really know what to do with a Porter! Plus, in the beginning we didn’t have draft, but that’s a whole other story for another time perhaps.
10. What else would you want people to know about your flagship beer?
If it has been a minute, revisit your old favorites – not just from us but from all the OG brewers. Business is hard to build on hyper-rotation and you may be surprised at how much you love a great beer you may have forgotten about. It’ll bring back to memories once it hits your lips, for sure.
Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.