Hawaiian Beer

Interview: Certified Cicerone Grant Curlow

Grant Curlow Certified Cicerone Hawaii

Grant Curlow is the former Key Account Beer Specialist at Southern Wine & Spirits of Honolulu.  Yes, former…unfortunately for the beer community in Hawaii, Grant is moving to Seattle.  In a very short time here in Hawaii, Grant has helped grow the craft beer community with his immense beer knowledge, passion and frequent beer tasting events.  While at Southern, Grant managed a large portfolio of fantastic beers and helped bring in many once hard to find and special beers.  Through his efforts, Grant helped introduce many people to the complexity and diverse range of craft beer.  I’ve been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of many special tastes from his vast cellar collection.  As a true beer lover, Grant enjoys collecting and sharing beers.  Be sure to check out the video below of his amazing beer cellar back home in Indiana.

So where are you originally from?

Indianapolis, Indiana

Do you remember the first craft beer that got you hooked?

Upland Wheat Ale from Bloomington, IN.

You are a BCJP judge.  What is that and what ranking are you?

BJCP stands for Beer Judge Certification Program. We are more or less the people who judge beer at homebrew and professional beer competitions. I’m a Recognized rank.

You’re also a Certified Cicerone.  What is that?

I guess the easiest way to describe the Cicerone program is to compare it to the Sommelier program, just for beer, of course. The program covers everything from beer styles, history on beer, food pairings, draft systems, off-flavors, and much more.

Are you encouraging others to take the Cicerone course?

Yes! For anyone who is remotely interested, I can’t recommend the program enough.

How have you seen Hawaii’s beer culture and community grow and evolve since you moved here?

I’ve only been in Hawaii for just over a year, but it’s clear to see how much the beer scene has changed and evolved. Places like REAL – A Gastropub, Pint & Jigger, Monkeypod, Lucky Belly, Alan Wong’s, Sansei, etc. have done a fantastic job promoting craft beer. And then there are places like Tamura’s and Whole Foods who have invested in their beer program and have had instant success.

What style of beer do you see new craft beer drinkers tend to like most?

I guess new craft beer drinkers like the obvious IPA’s, unfiltered wheat ales, and anything seasonal. Then comes the bold Imperial Stouts, Double IPA’s, and anything sour. Not too often do you see a new craft drinker get too excited over a Dortmunder Export or a Munich Helles.

You’re also big into wine?  Do you find similarities with wine and beer appreciation?

Yes, but more in theory than anything else.

Are you planning on becoming a Sommelier?

Yes. I took the Level I exam last fall and hope to take the Level II exam sometime in the next year.  I have had the fortunate opportunity to taste with Chuck Furuya who is an amazing teacher to say the least.  Hawaii is truly grateful for his wine knowledge, passion and patience to teach newcomers.

What are some of the most exciting beers on the market in Hawaii right now?

  • Fifty Fifty Eclipse Stout (Old Fitzgerald) – An incredibly balanced barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout. Only 30 cases made it to Hawaii.
  • Maui/Lost Abbey Lemongrass Saison – In the past year, Maui Brewing Co. has worked together with Ron Jeffries, Sam Calagione, and Tomme Arthur. Need I say more?
  • De Dolle Still Nacht – One of my all-time favorite Belgian beers and a true classic one to age as well.
  • Big Island Brewhaus – Thom Kerns’ beers are truly outstanding and now we’re lucky enough to be receiving a limited amount on Oahu.
  • BFM Bon Chien 2006, 2007, & 2011 – If you’re a fan of sour ales, these are a must try! It’s incredible to taste these side by side and get an understanding of how these beers have aged.

Are there any breweries that you’d love to get distributed here in Hawaii?

  • The Lost Abbey
  • Russian River
  • Three Floyd’s
  • Hill Farmstead
  • Allagash
  • Bell’s

Of course, I’m dreaming with a list like that…

What beer do you like to drink after a long day of work?

I’ll always have on hand:

  • Orval
  • Maui Brewing Co. seasonal
  • Trappist Rochefort 8 & 10

If you had one last beer in life, what would it be?

Drie Fonteinen J&J Blauw


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