Accolades and Ales

March 14, Sunday, 2021

Earlier on in February I’d made a chocolate purchase I wanted to save for a rainy day. This turned out to be the perfect plan, for little did I know, it wouldn’t be long before we had many days of torrential downpours here in Mountain View.

During one of the East Hawaii Cacao Association meetings earlier this year, I’d heard mention of a local Chocolate maker, Honokaʻa Chocolate Co., winning a silver award for their goat milk chocolate bar, in the 2020 Chocolate Alliance Awards. (Since then this bar has also won a bronze ranking in the International Chocolate Awards, Americas contest.)

The name of the company had rung a bell, and while looking for the company online, like a flash it came to me. 2019. The Hilo Cacao and Chocolate Festival. My son was only a few months old, but with help from his father who assured me our son would be fine while he strolled him around nearby, I ventured into the hotel where the festival was being held. I was the epitome of a new parent. Excited to indulge in a baby-free passion again, but nervous to be separated from my often ravenous infant for too long.

As such, I flitted about the booths, not daring to linger too long. I was a little late to the celebration, but there was still plenty to see and taste. After my jaunt through through the booths, I rushed back to my son, a bit unnecessarily, and my memory of the festival became one, big, happy blur, with the exception of one or two chocolate makers who’d made a big impression, but whose names I’d since forgotten.

Asia Olsen, 2019, Hilo Cacao and Chocolate Festival
The only photo I’d managed to snap that day.

“This was it” I’d said aloud while looking at Honokaʻa Chocolate Co.’s website. I remembered that green box design. They’d been in a booth at the back of the chocolate tasting room. I was disappointed I’d missed the opportunity to taste their extra dark chocolate samples, but I needn’t have been, because I was blown away by the quality and sophistication of their 70% bar. I could’ve kicked myself at the time, because I’d already spent most of my cash on hand.

I couldn’t recall the taste, just my reaction to it. Now I had two good reasons the explore this chocolate maker’s bars. Capitalizing on Honokaʻa Chocolate Co.’s Valentine’s Day sale, I’d ordered a three pack of their bars made with local cacao. But, given that I’d already secured a festive chocolate feast for Valentine’s Day, it sat in wait on my shelf for another week or two, until a particularly stressful day presented the perfect opportunity for a delicious distraction.

My goodness, was it worth the wait! It certainly deserved a tasting all to its own. I wanted to know more about the maker and their process, so I reached out to the company in search of an interview and a tour.

Mike Pollard quickly responded to my inquiry and offered me a free spot on one of their upcoming tours/chocolate tastings with the option of an interview afterwards. I was over the moon with excitement.

And when the day of the tour finally arrived this past Friday, the dangerous rains abated, as if to clear the way for my adventure.

I’m eager to detail my thoughts about it, and I will shortly, but for now I will simply say it was a wonderful experience that I would recommend both to newly curious chocolate and cacao fans, and to those who have quite a bit experience in the field, be it literal or metaphorical.

After my time at the farm concluded, I took advantage of my close proximity to the cool, misty town of Waimea to make a stop at Big Island Brewhaus. I’d confirmed with Mike Pollard that he’d semi-recently supplied them some local cacao parchment for their Red Sea of Cacao Imperial Red Ale. Given the indefinite future of a beer featuring local cacao, I knew I needed to see if the specialty beer was still available.

I was in luck. A friendly and helpful waitress, who addressed me as “love” seemingly every chance she could, helped me place my take out order for two 22 ounce bottles and a falafel sandwich with goat cheese, which I ordered in honor of Honokaʻa Chocolate Co.’s award winning goat milk chocolate bar. I had just enough time to admire their stained glass window before I finished in line outside and waited for my order in the safety and warmth of my car.

I was much too tired to try the beer on my return home, but with great excitement I cracked it open on Saturday. Which is part of the reason I’m writing this post a day later. It turns out I’m a far greater lightweight than I suspected, now that I’m not frequenting bars and social gatherings with some regularity. Even pacing myself with the bottle, I was quite inebriated for some time.

Intoxication aside, I think it’s my new favorite beer. I really hope they continue to make it. I actually remembered buying this ale from a local grocery store before they adjusted their recipe to include local cacao sourcing, and found myself wishing the chocolate notes were a little more prominent in the brew. I was a little concerned I might feel the same this time around, but from the second the liquid hit my tongue, that cacao subtly sang in a slightly salty, syrup-like elixir that immediately satisfied and made my mouth water. I’m so glad I bought two, I just wish they came in slightly smaller bottles given their strength (8.7% ALC/VOL).

Here’s where you can find Honokaʻa Chocolate Co.’s website: https://honokaachocolateco.com/

Here’s where you can find Big Island Brewhaus’s website:

https://bigislandbrewhaus.com/

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