Craft Brewery Crawling in Hawaii
Aloha Beer & Travel Lovers!
In our last article - An American Woman at Braukraft - we caught up with Kirsten Rhein at the Braukraft Brauerei just outside of Munich. This month we head west about 7,500 miles to the Hawaiian island of Oahu to visit several of the craft breweries on the island.
Craft Brewing in Hawaii
In general, the craft-beer scene in Hawaii is a few years behind the mainland, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t several breweries worth checking out on each of the major islands. Last month we visited the island of Oahu and had the good fortune to stop in at the following local breweries:
My only regret is that we didn’t make it to Beer Lab Hawaii. As they say on their website, “The brewery was built on the idea of continual change, experimentation and small batch brews to provide beer lovers a unique experience with each visit.” This has my attention and they should be high on anyone’s list to check out.
Waikiki Brewing Company
Our first stop was at the Kaka’ako location of the Waikiki Brewing Company (their original location is in Waikiki, about 2 miles away). Kaka’ako is an industrial section of Honolulu that seems to be regentrifying, at least when it comes to beer as all three of the craft breweries we visited in Honolulu are located here.
Waikiki Brewing Company Kaka’ako location
Waikiki Brewing Co. has a very friendly and down to earth vibe, and it was one of my two favorites out of the five breweries we visited on Oahu. As depicted below, we tried several of their beers, all of which were excellent, but especially notable was the Black Strap Molasses Porter (ABV 6.48%, IBU 37). It’s no surprise because this beer earned a silver medal (out of a total of 7,923 entries) in the Robust Beer category at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival.
Sampler boards at Waikiki Brewing Co.
Everyone at Waikiki Brewing Co. seemed to go out of his or her way to make sure we were well taken care of. At one point, Adam Golish, manager of the Kaka’ako location, came by our table and after a friendly conversation offered to give us a tour of the brewery. It was on the ceiling of the brewery that we discovered how divine intervention seems to inspire their brewing activities!
Divine intervention above fermentation tanks at Waikiki Brewing Co.
Our next stop was just around the corner at Honolulu Beerworks, also located in the Kaka’ako district. These guys definitely offer some interesting beers, including two limited releases that were on tap when we visited – Pussy Grabs Back (Extra Pale Ale, ABV 6%, IBU 15) and Terminus Saturn (Barrel Aged Cassini (Stout), ABV 8.5%, IBU 35). The rest of the line-up offered enough variety to satisfy most beer lovers’ interests.
Honolulu Beerworks Taproom
That said, the vibe here was only so-so. I think it’s because the taproom was a bit over-commercialized with more merchandise on display than beer, and the people working that day didn’t seem too excited to be there. However, because of their beer quality and selection I’ll definitely give them a second shot if I find myself back in Honolulu... perhaps I just caught them on an off day?
Terminus Saturn and Maggie's Rose Tatoo Irish Red Ale
Aloha Beer Company
Aloha Beer Company was the smallest of the three breweries we visited in the Kaka’ako area and it offered a cool, urban kind of vibe. Everyone there was friendly and helpful and it definitely had the most unique feel versus any of the breweries we visited.
Taproom at Aloha Beer Company
They offer a broad line-up of beer styles that should satisfy most beer lovers’ interests. But the two that stood out for me were the Jefe-Weizen (Bavarian-style Hefeweizen brewed with blue agave syrup and lime, ABV 5.7%, IBU 12) and the Portlock Porter (ABV 6.2%, IBU 28). The other thing that makes Aloha Beer Co. unique is that they also have a full bar. This gave it a different feel from any craft brewery I’ve ever visited.
Brewery at Aloha Beer Company
Aloha Beer Company was the favorite stop for several people in our group and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in Honolulu and looking to try some interesting beers. They also offer food that looked pretty tasty from an “in-house” food truck.
The front lanai at Aloha Beer Company
EAST SIDE OF THE ISLAND
Lanikai Brewing Company
On our second day of “crawling”, we headed over to the east side of Oahu and our first stop was in Kailua at the Lanikai Brewing Company. My first impression was that their specialty seems to be brewing sour and fruity beers. Of the 12 taps flowing that day, half of them were pouring sours or fruit-inspired beverages – four sours, one saison, plus one cider. So if you’re a fruit beer fan, you’ll probably really enjoy visiting this taproom.
Lanikai Brewing Company Taproom
On the positive side, for non-fruit beer fans like myself, the Lanikai Pillbox Porter (ABV 6.5%, IBU 45) and the Lanikai Momona Imperial Stout (ABV 10.8%, IBU 70) were both well balanced and quite enjoyable. These guys are definitely talented brewers; you just need to appreciate their sour tendencies if you plan to visit.
First round at Lanikai Brewing Co.
Inu Island Ales
Also located on the east side of the island in Kaneohe, Inu Island Ales was the smallest of all breweries we visited on Oahu and the other of my two favorites. In case you’re wondering, Inu is pronounced ‘Ē-nu’ and is Hawaiian for drink... so translated, their name would be “Drink Island Ales”. Pretty cool, huh?
Open for business at Inu Island Ales
Keaka is one of the founders of Inu, and when you visit, you’ll most likely find him behind the counter pouring beer and engaging with customers. In addition to Keaka, there’s a good chance you’ll run into Kyle, their master brewer. Regardless of who’s working that day, you’ll feel like you’re hanging out in a friend’s garage, as both Keaka and Kyle are happy to talk beer with you to your heart’s content!
Keaka and Kyle started assembling brewing equipment in late October 2017 and they officially opened the doors in January of this year. It’s hard to tell that the brewery is so new because they’re already producing some exceptional beers. Prior to joining Inu Island Ales, Kyle was brewing at Mraz Brewing Company just outside of Sacramento, California. His time there was obviously well spent because he’s brewing some very interesting beers at Inu.
Taproom at Inu Island Ales - Keaka pouring beer, and Kyle testing the finished product :-)
My two favorites were the Inu Island Punch (Island Sour w/peaches and apricots, ABV 4.2%, IBU 0) and the Inu Island Stout (Imperial Stout w/coconut), ABV 13.5%, IBU 51). I typically don’t like fruit/sour beers so it’s saying a lot that the Inu Island Punch was one of my favorites, but the flavors came together nicely and it was quite enjoyable. And the Inu Island Stout, in my humble opinion, is medal worthy should they ever decide to enter it into a beer competition.
"Steal Glass Catch Cracks"
If you’re ever on Oahu, I encourage you to take a drive over to Kaneohe to visit Inu Island Ales. But don’t even think about stealing the glasses unless you want to “catch cracks”. Ask Keaka or Kyle what that means and I think you’ll agree!
Original Gravity Tours
We hope this article gives you a reason to visit our 50th state? We also hope it makes you consider joining us for one of our Munich & Bamberg Brewery Tours. If so, we may not be sipping beers in paradise, but we will tour the world's oldest breweries, experience the finest beer gardens and halls, walk the Bamberg breweries trail, explore the 1,000 year-old cities of Munich & Bamberg, ferry the Danube River, and more!
Until next time, Mahalo and Prost!
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Greetings! I'm a passionate beer and international travel lover. Other than craft beer, I mostly go for German & Belgian beers and if you share the same interests, you may enjoy my blog. Prost!