Craft beer fans generally make it a point to "drink local," but the newest beer on Chicago shelves hails all the way from Hawaii's big island.
Kona Brewing, the largest brewery in Hawaii, has expanded its distribution to Illinois and will hit shelves and taps in January and February.
Kona's flagship beer, the light and malty Longboard Island lager, will be available year-round along with Big Wave golden ale and Fire Rock pale ale. The brewery also will distribute the seasonal creations in its Aloha Series, beginning with spring's Koko brown ale.
Chicagoans can find bottles of the "liquid aloha," as Kona calls it, in Binny's stores beginning in early 2013. The company also is nailing down contracts with bars to serve it on draft.
Some may be wary of the freshness of a beer that hails from the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but all of Kona's bottled beers and its mainland draft beers are brewed in facilities in Portland, Oregon and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Each bottle also is stamped with a "best by" date.
Kona is part of the Craft Brewers Alliance, an independent company that also operates Redhook and Widmer Brothers breweries. Based on 2011 sales volume, the Craft Brewers Alliance was the ninth-largest brewery in America.
With a growing number of Chicago-brewed beers available on city shelves and draft lines, Kona will have some homegrown competition for drinkers' wallets and taste buds. If there's liquid sunshine in those bottles, though, it will definitely be a welcome winter choice.
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