When I enjoyed my first green coconut at the farmer’s market in Kauai, I had no idea it would be the last one for years. As a honeymooner, I took the gustatory good fortune for granted, just as I did the perfect weather and easygoing vibe of the islands. So when Kona Brewing invited me to join a group of journalists in Cocoa Beach earlier this month to partake of some liquid aloha, learn to stand-up paddle (SUP) and meet an honest-to-goodness Florida coconut farmer, I could hardly resist.
The event was to celebrate the East Coast release of Koko Brown Ale, Kona’s first new mainland beer offering in four years. The tasty amber brew incorporates dried, toasted coconut into the mash for a nutty flavor that, as we would all discover, pairs well with food. Koko Brown with coconut shrimp from Millikens Reef, a favorite for seafood in the area, was a delicious no-brainer.
The dried coconut meat used in cooking and to flavor the beer comes from mature, brown coconuts. While the sweetened version used to be the norm, unsweetened flakes are now easy to find. More scarce in local markets are young, green coconuts, which contain nearly a pint of coconut water, the kind that’s sold seemingly everywhere in adult-sized juice boxes. The most widely available brands, however, are pasteurized, as farmer Larry Siegel was quick to point out during his animated demonstration.
Larry sells coconuts of all ages on his website (turn your speakers up and enjoy the thumping club music while you browse), as well as a nifty metal augur that makes opening them a snap. However loads of customers, many of whom are of Southeast Asian or Latin American origin, visit his plantation near Ft. Lauderdale to stock up on the healthy fruits. The fresh water definitely hit the spot after our SUP lesson at SOBE Surf — this addictive water sport takes a lot of energy!
That exertion left me feeling very entitled to a post-SUP beer, as well as the beer floats that we sampled after that night’s dinner at SOBE’s lodge.
These used Pipeline Porter, a Kona beer that uses local coffee beans in the brewing process. Enjoying the float, my mind wandered to the simple Italian treat affogato, a scoop of gelato drowned in espresso. And while I haven’t tried it yet, I couldn’t help but think of a local twist: Koko Brown Ale with a scoop of coconut ice cream from Gaby’s Farm, which is made in Miami and available locally at Whole Foods Market. With or without the ice cream, though, it’s hard to beat a perfect pint.