Wednesday, January 30, 2013

FoodTrek: Maui Part Deux - Pizza and Beer, With Aloha

What's a pair greater than pizza and beer? Yeah, that's right -- NOTHING. They were together long before peanut butter and chocolate, and way-way before those Twilight kids hooked up for some vampiric bump n' grind. And so it should be no surprise that in the lush paradise of Maui, Pizza and Beer: A Love Story, continues on...

Oh what a feeling... drinking beer on the ceiling... - Photo by Wasabi Prime
In the second installment of Mauianigans (Maui + Shenanigans - duh), we managed to fit a trip to a local brewery in Lahaina and a from-scratch pizza place in Kihei. Not in the same day, mind you, but these separate excursions were too good not to put together as tasty suggestions for your next visit to the island of Maui. I credit Mr. Wasabi for organizing a tasting tour of the Maui Brewing Company. Brock was talking to his beer pals and someone said, "So of course you'll be visiting the brewery, right?" To which the obvious answer was, "Of course!" with hasty Googling afterwards, to figure out where the place was, and whether or not the brewery was open to the public for tours. The answer to that is no -- they don't do regular tours, but if you can get at least ten of your thirstiest friends together and schedule a time with them, they'll do a personal tour of the brew facilities with a tasting session afterwards for $10, including a wooden token good for a full pint at their brewpub, which is offsite from the brewery, at the Kahana Gateway Center. 

Look for the big, shiny brewing equipment and follow the arrows! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Maui Brewing Company's brewery and tasting room is located off Brock's favorite highway to say - Honoapiilani Highway, which goes right through Lahaina, but it's a little tricky to find. It's a working brewery, so it's in an industrial area hidden behind a few other street-facing buildings. The best visual signpost to signal you're within spitting distance is the Sugar Cane Train station, which has a pretty distinctive vintage train engine sitting out on a lawn. The brewery itself is about a row of buildings back, and you'll see that they've used some of their brewing equipment tagged for signage to let you know where to enter. The tasting room is a cool, laid-back place to grab a beer. No food, since they have the brewpub for that, but it's a great hands-on experience to see how the beer is made. Maui  Brewing Company has been making the good sudsy stuff since 2005, and it's the biggest breweries on the islands in. They have several signature beers: Bikini Blonde, Big Swell IPA, Mana Wheat and CoCoNut PorTeR, which you've likely seen and tasted on the Mainland, thanks to the fact they use cans instead of bottles. Beer in cans is like wine in boxes -- there's a stigma that makes you think "bad" or "cheap," but Maui Brewing Company is working towards adjusting people's drinking mindframes and realizing it all comes down to blessed science and good economic sense. The cans are less expensive than bottling, and they maintain the beer's quality better than glass, which can still allow light to affect the beer. Given the traveling these mighty sixers have to do, going as far as the East Coast, a secure and lightweight beer-shuttle is a necessity. The cans also ensure more beer can be shipped, so that's a good thing as well.

Where Maui beer is BORN - Photos by  Wasabi Prime
Maui Brewing Company is all about showing local love -- even the cans are locally produced. I learned on the tour that the ridges near the top of the can is like a branding from the can manufacturer, which in this case is on Oahu. If you see a can with the little ridges towards the top, that can was made in Hawaii, which would explain why I remember all those POG and guava juice cans having that unique feature. Ah, sweet, sweet knowledge! But back to the local ingredients, they integrate as much of the islands' flavors into the beers as possible, like the coconut for the porter, or for one of their special seasonal brews, the Aloha B'ak'tun, a spicy, smoky brew made with local chocolate. Their most popular beers are the lighter ones like the Bikini Blonde, Big Swell IPA and Mana Wheat, which you can find at most bars who serve Maui Brewing Company's tasty suds. They have a light, delicate flavor -- sunkissed, I dare say, and perfect after a hot day on the beach. And plenty ono with some pauhana pupus, like boiled peanuts and edamame. Our Pacific Northwest palates were more intrigued with their heavier, more complex CoCoNut PorTeR and that seasonal chocolate-spiced B'ak'tun, which I'm totally going to track down at our favorite Redmond beer shop, Malt and Vine.

Drankin' with friends and plenty aloha at Maui Brewing Co's tasting room - Photos by Wasabi Prime
It's good news to hear that Maui Brewing Company's doing so well that they're moving to larger facilities this year -- time to level up! No specific date announced, but it won't cause any slowdown in the production of their precious beer, and the brewpub will be open during the transition. I have to give a brewery operating in Maui a lot of credit -- it's a hot place, they're making a product that's extremely sensitive to temperature and moisture, maintaining equipment that is constantly exposed to some amount of salt spray that's nearly everywhere in the islands. They make a commitment towards sustainability, both in energy efficiency on their part with the beer canning, solar power usage, biodiesel made from their brewpub kitchen and used for their vehicles, as well as making sure their brewery waste is reused as much as possible -- they donate the spent grain to local farms for feed and compost. You know you're drinking to the Circle of Life when you're cracking into one of their beers. They make a quality product through a process with a conscience -- even if you're not a beer drinker, you have to appreciate that.

Enough beer-talk -- let's EAT. And drink more beer. - Photos by Wasabi Prime
We took our precious beer token to Maui Brewing Company's brewpub, which is maybe a fifteen minute drive from the brewery, give or take pauhana traffic. Really cool place. I loved the repurposed beer keg decor, from the entrance to their industrial light fixtures, complete with plugged bungs. Bung. Heh-heh. From a beer-drinking standpoint, the brewpub, along with food, serves more of Maui Brewing Company's beers -- small-batch, seasonal beers and specials like their Ginger Saison, which I very much enjoyed. Their food menu reflects the same locavore mentality behind their beers -- Maui onion soup, salads made with local hydroponic greens, and of course a lot of their dishes are made with their beer, like their chili or beef stew. I went for their beef stew made with their porter and locally-raised beef. I have to say, of all the beer-infused stews I've had, this one really retained that smoky-bitter porter taste in a nicely flavor-forward way. You weren't going to get drunk off beef stew, but there was no doubt they used that CoCoNut PorTeR in the gravy. And served with a scoop of rice, of course!

Beer-battered brie? Why the heck not? - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Brock ordered their Pub Plate, which was Hawaii pub-style: kalua pork, one scoop rice, one scoop potato-mac salad, and a side of their house barbecue sauce made from their porter. I snuck a bite -- it was ono plenty. We also had their beer battered brie served with caramelized pineapple sauce, which is just a fancy way of saying FRIED CHEEEEEEESE. Aside from the fact it was molten hot, as if Pele herself had flipped the bird at this cheese, it was delicious, almost like a slightly deconstructed fondue, with the creamy pineapple sauce, gooey brie and pieces of bread. One of our brewpub crew ordered the nachos, which the simple name doesn't do it justice. It should be called King Kamehameha Nachos because these were downright royal. A volcano-sized pile of kalua pork, black beans, fresh salsa and jalapenos... and maybe a few tortilla chips thrown in there for good measure. The thing was gloriously ridiculous, and even when the pile was mostly gone, no one wanted the plate to leave the table, continuing to pick at it and keeping the servers from taking it away. Damn, that's some good nacho.

There was beer... now there's pizza at Fabiani's - Photo by Wasabi Prime
And so the beer was had... what about the pizza? I'll admit, I had my heart set on a sushi night. Gorge myself like a fat seal on whatever fish we could get our hands on at one of the sushi spots in Kihei that other travelmates had recommended. I was ready to be harpooned for sushi. But as most days and nights spent with a group of friends on a giant company vacation, you settle in with an early evening cocktail and ideas get thrown about over where to go for dinner. Fabiani's Pizza and Bakery was a name that came up as a place to check out, so sayonara, sushi -- it's Italiano, Aloha-style!

Fabiani's is in Kihei, a little off the beaten path in a small strip mall off Lipoa Street. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, handmade baked goods -- a total gem. It's clearly a popular neighborhood spot, as it was busy on a weeknight and that's always a good sign. The owner, Lorenzo Fabiani, is from Italy, so it's not one of those places that just tacks on an Italian-sounding name on the sign. It's all legit, yo. The chef is from Chicago, but don't think the pizzas are thick, doughy pies -- their crust is crispy, cracker-thin Roman-style, but sturdy enough to carry weighty toppings like The Mauian, which is kalua pork, Maui sweet onions, pineapple and a sweet barbecue sauce to balance the smokiness of the pork. We also tried the Maui Meaty, which is just that -- Supermeat! Italian sausage, pepperoni and ham - chomp. A more delicate and elegant offering is the namesake Lorenzo, topped with fresh mozzarella, proscuitto and a finish of fresh arugula drizzled with truffle oil, which made for a wonderful earthy, bitter green flavor combination. This was not an unhappy table. We also nom-nommed some artichoke dip and I was tempted by their house salad, which was made up of fresh greens from Kula, tossed with a vinaigrette made with lilikoi and vanilla, but my eyes fixated on their Aloha-talian mashup, Tako Carpaccio. Thinly sliced raw octopus drizzled in olive oil, sprinkled with fresh tomatoes and pine nuts. Unusual combination, but the fresh octopus with olive oil was heavenly; the briny earthiness of that cephalopod paired nicely with the richness of the oil. It wasn't sushi, but it definitely curbed my yen for seafood that night.

Aloha-talian -- I totally just made that up - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Italian food is the last thing I'd normally go for while in Hawaii, mostly because the majority of places are likely national chains -- not that I won't say never to deep-dish Pizza Hut guilty pleasuring. A pizza isn't something I'm going all the way to Hawaii to have -- HOWEVER, I would definitely go back to Fabiani's. It's got the local-transplant vibe of a neighborhood restaurant that took one culture's home cooking and adapted it beautifully to the islands, which is exactly how all the "Local" Hawaii foods came to be, from Spam Musubi (US military and Hormel) to kalua pork (pigs ain't local, yo!), even the sweet Hawaii-style bread and spicy sausage (god bless the Portuguese). My regret, as always, is that there wasn't enough time to go back and try their pastries and have more of their tasty food, but that's what finding a food gem is all about, looking forward to returning again.

There's still more Maui love to come -- I've got adventure on the high seas where all I could think of was that insufferably cheesy line from Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home, where Scotty says, "Thar be WHALES, Captain!" With that totally awesome preface, I'm sure you CAN'T WAIT!!!! Mahalo.


  1. Replies
    1. EVERYTHING is better in Maui. Even terrible traffic -- just turn towards the ocean and watch whales when you're trapped in gridlock!

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