Although brewing with coconut goes back many years, 2013 was the year that really got the ball rolling. That's the year of the fabled 2013 Goose Island Proprietor's Bourbon County Brand Stout, an imperial stout so loaded with coconut that you could actually see small, white flakes in it.
It also was the year that Colorado's New Belgium went culinary with its Lips of Faith series, releasing its delicious, one-off Coconut Curry Hefeweizen, a beer brewed with coconut, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, coriander, fenugreek seed, ginger and kaffir lime leaves. That beer was reminiscent of Indra Kunindra from California's Ballast Point, an export stout brewed with coconut, Madras curry, cumin, cayenne and kaffir lime leaves that's fortunately still in production.
Another 2013 event: Miami Brewing Co. in Homestead started canning its Big Rod Coconut Ale, a blond ale bursting with alternating flavors of fresh citrus and sweet coconut that gave me the idea for this column.
It's good timing, too, as Kona Brewing from Hawaii has brought its Koko Brown back to the mainland in limited-release format after a couple years of Hawaii-only availability. This is a rich brown ale treated with toasted coconut, and it will be available from January through March, or until supplies run out. If you see it — or Kona's Pipeline Porter, a Kona coffee-flavored porter that's back for a limited time as well — you should drink it and stock up.
A newer release that's making waves is Oskar Blues Death by Coconut from Colorado. It's an Irish-style porter aged on dried coconut and cocoa. This one's also a limited release (brewed once a year in small batches), but it's not tough to find in four-packs around town.
While you're picking up your Death by Coconut, you should also grab the Toasted Coconut Porter from Orlando's Orange Blossom Brewing. This beer used to be contract-brewed in South Carolina at the Thomas Creek Brewery, but as of last year, it's a bona fide local brew, produced at Lakeland's Brew Hub. It's a year-round release, so it should keep your coconut levels up when the rest of the coconut-tinged seasonals disappear.
Speaking of local brews, Ybor's Cigar City Cider & Mead is currently pouring Mr. Hat cider, which is exotically flavored with coconut and papaya before being dry-hopped with Cashmere hops.
You may have missed these next two, but they're worth mentioning. Last year, New York's Sixpoint Brewery brewed up a draft-only beer designed specifically for the Florida market: City to the Keys. It was a blond ale flavored with Florida key lime juice and toasted coconut. You'll have better luck finding Cycle Brewing's Nooner 10, an imperial stout aged in Bourbon barrels with coconut that was released in August. This beer is the closest thing to Proprietor's '13 that you're likely to find, and there are people in the bay area who still have unopened bottles.
Some coconut brews require a little travel. I recently spotted Coco Loco, a coconut and cacao nib-flavored porter from North Carolina's NoDa Brewing, on draft at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport (check A Taste of Carolina taproom in the B concourse). You'll find four-packs of CoCoNut Porter from Hawaii's Maui Brewing all over the West Coast. And South Carolina's Westbrook Brewing has been going coco-nuts (sorry) lately, with a coconut-aged version of its popular Mexican Cake imperial stout, as well as a Lemon Coconut Weisse Weisse Baby Berliner Weisse.
If you're lucky, you might have a chance to try Hawaiian Speedway Stout from California's Alesmith Brewing Co. It's an imperial stout treated with coconut, cacao nibs and Ka'u coffee. As with most of the small-batch Speedway variants, it's going to be a doozy to actually get your hands on.
If you'd rather stay in Florida, it's only a four-hour drive to Miami's J Wakefield Brewing, where you can find El Jefe, a hefeweizen brewed with toasted coconut. The up-front coconut flavors are a perfect match for the banana-clove notes produced by the beer's German yeast strain.
Whatever your approach, you should have no trouble finding flavorful, coconut-laden brews out there in the wild. Of all the brewing trends that I think will gain traction in 2016, I predict coconut beer to be one of the most successful, and certainly the most delicious.