Greetings Beer & Travel Lovers!
In our last blog post we shared a few Oktoberfest Survival Tips. This month we travel in the opposite direction to the island of Maui to catch up with Garrett Marrero, founder and CEO of the Maui Brewing Company, the largest independent craft brewery in Hawaii.
Paradise in the Pacific:
Maui is one of eight main islands that make up our 50th state. In addition to being home to an active volcano (Haleakalā) and fantastic beaches, Maui is also home to a world-class brewery – Maui Brewing Company. Maui Brewing Company is an innovative, independent, and environmentally conscious brewery that produces a slew of well-crafted beers guaranteed to keep any beer lover happy during his or her time on the island.
If that weren’t enough, the brewery is lead by the most accommodating and genuine CEO I’ve ever met. It quickly became apparent that Garrett is a firm believer in treating people and the environment right, and his approach explains at least a bit of how Maui Brewing Company has enjoyed the success it has. If you have the chance to visit the brewery, I’m confident you’ll pick up on this aloha spirit in everyone you meet.
Garrett Marrero, Founder and CEO of Maui Brewing Company
Maui Brewing Company:
Most people who visit Hawaii fall in love at first site, and Garrett was no exception. Garrett first visited Maui in 2001 on a break from his financial services job in San Francisco and immediately contracted a case of “Maui Fever”. Over the next few years Garrett made it back several times and eventually decided he needed to make Maui his home and to open a brewery on the island.
Just one of the things Garrett fell in love with on Maui
Interestingly, brewing wasn’t Garrett’s passion – he’d only brewed twice before starting the brewery – but he liked good beer and he liked the idea of creating a local brewery that operated in harmony with the environment and with other local businesses. So in 2004, at the age of 26, he quit his day-job and moved to Maui to set up shop.
Soon after, with the help of their families and a few private loans, Garrett and his then girlfriend Melanie Oxley took over a small brewpub in Kahana (just north of Lahaina Town) which had a full line of brewing equipment along with a brew master who was ready to join them. And on Friday, January 28, 2005 Maui Brewing Company officially opened its doors!
Garrett working the canning line in the early days
In that first year, Maui Brewing Company produced around 300 barrels and Garrett and Melanie were both actively involved in all aspects of the company. For perspective, 300 barrels is equivalent to about 74,000 U.S. pints.
Fast-forward to 2017 and you’ll find them in Kihei on the southern part of the island in a gleaming 42,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility. With 12 fermentation tanks working around the clock (and 6 more on order) they expect to produce more than 50,000 barrels this year, so it appears that Garrett’s vision has manifested itself in a spectacular way!
Maui Brewing Company's state-of-the-art operations in Kihei
Maui Brewing Company’s best selling beer is Bikini Blonde (ABV 5.2%, IBU 18) followed by Big Swell IPA (ABV 6.8%, IBU 82), both of which you’ll find in stores and bars on the island as well as in their taprooms in Kahana and Kihei.
And if you visit the brewery, you’ll find as many as 24 beers on tap with names such as:
The brewery's year-round line-up
Garrett clearly enjoys his life at the helm of Maui Brewing Company and, unlike some other craft breweries, he has no intention of selling his company to one of the global mega-brewery companies like AB InBev or Heineken. He likened the concept to selling your soul to the devil and stated, “When you trade your independence for a check, and your ownership for a job, things are going to change. That’s OK but it’s just not a choice for us.”
I asked Garrett about his favorite beers by framing the discussion around being stranded in different locations for a few days and having to pick one beer to bring with him.
On a South Pacific Island - Garrett would choose Bikini Blonde (5.1% ABV, 18 IBU) or Pau Hana Pilsner (5.5% ABV, 25 IBU) because they’re both relatively light and would provide much needed hydration in the heat.
In Siberia - He would choose one of two limited releases – Imperial Coconut Porter brewed with toasted coconut chips (9.4% ABV, 30 IBU) or Black Pearl Imperial Coconut Porter which is also brewed with toasted coconut chips but then aged in local rum barrels (12% ABV, 30 IBU). Either one would make a great “liquor jacket” in any cold climate.
Maui Brewing Company Imperial Coconut Porter
For more information on Maui Brewing Company limited releases and specialty beers, please visit: http://mauibrewingco.com/limited-release-sales-sheets/
What’s Brewing Today?:
Garrett indicated they’re having fun with their limited release program and toward that end they’re building a 2,000 square foot barrel aging room. If that weren’t enough, they’re also:
The Hawaii Craft Beer Scene:
So you might ask... are there any other Hawaiian craft breweries worth checking out when you’re over there? The answer is yes! Although Maui Brewing Company is by far the largest independent brewery in Hawaii, you can find other great breweries on each of the major islands, such as:
Maui: Kohola Brewery. Located in Lahaina, Kohola welcomes you in an industrial style taproom with 10 taps pouring their year-round and limited release beers. Kohola is conveniently located for anyone staying on the northwest part of the island near Lahaina.
1. Lanikai Brewing Company in Kailua
2. Honolulu BeerWorks in (you guessed it) Honolulu
3. Stewbum & Stonewall Brewing Co. in Kaneohe
4. Waikiki Brewing Company in Honolulu
1. Kauai Island Brewing in Port Allen
2. Kauai Beer Company in Lihue
Hawaii (the big island):
1. Hawai’i Nui Brewing in Hilo
2. Big Island Brewhaus in Waimea
The Maui Brewing Company tap room in Kihei
Garrett – Up Close & Personal:
To finish up our time together, I asked Garrett a few personal questions to help our readers get a feel for him as a person versus the businessman.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about living on Maui?
A: “Maui is a great place... your soul can rest here. As soon as I land after being away and I step outside and see the palm trees, it’s like “ahhh, OK I’m home again. I felt that way on my first trip here, this is where I need to be, my soul wants to be here.”
“I live right up the hill here, it has such a beautiful view and it’s quiet in the country. I got to spend time in the water this weekend with some friends and it’s great to just sit on the beach with a six-pack of beer, or go paddle boarding, or whatever.”
Q: Where were you born/raised?
A: “I was born and raised in San Diego, went to UC Davis and graduated with a degree in finance. I got my first job in San Francisco in investment consulting and was the youngest licensed consultant in the firm. But being fresh out college it was hard to sit across from someone older than me and tell that person how to manage their money, so I mostly sold the expertise of the firm and did very little investing.”
Q: What do most people not know about you?
A: “Most people don’t know that I love to cook. I don’t do it as much as I used to but it was definitely an influence on building the restaurant here (in Kihei). Food is such a part of my life. One of the reasons I started the brewery was to identify and learn about a culture thru food and beverage. I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain (popular chef, author and TV personality) and I agree with his philosophy that when you travel to other places, the best way to learn about a culture is to experience what they eat and drink. I think that’s absolutely true. I also love adrenaline but that’s probably not a secret.”
Side Note: Until their restaurant opens, Maui Brewing Company relies on food trucks to meet the demand for food. When I visited them, I tried the Liliko’i pizza which I ate in the tap room. It was delicious and true to Garrett’s philosophy on food and culture, it had Hawaiian style pork and passion fruit toppings, both local staples.
Q: What’s your favorite thing in life besides your family and MBC?
A: “Travel, definitely. I have lists upon lists of where to eat and where to drink in different cities. It’s like Chicago, it’s not just go see the bean in the park, it’s where to eat and where to drink. So my wife does all the planning on where we’re going to go, and I say OK we’re going to hit this winery, this brewery, and this restaurant. I think that’s my favorite part, just seeing how the rest of the world does it. You come back with recharged batteries and hopefully some new ideas. You get reminded that you’re part of something much bigger than just the small world you live in.”
Side Note: Two days after this interview, Garrett and his wife left for a month in Africa.
Q: Hobbies or passions outside of beer and MBC?
A: “I enjoy scuba diving, paddle boarding, or anything related to the water. I also shoot. I love to shoot targets, but I don’t hunt. Although I have thought about learning to hunt deer and pigs because there are so many of them here and they’re causing problems for local agriculture. So they’re hurting farmers, and we're big supporters of local agriculture. Plus the meat is fantastic.”
Q: What are you most proud of in your life?
A: “Outside of personal accomplishments, it’s the team we’ve built here at Maui Brewing Company. Ten years ago my wife and I were doing everything. Today there are 400 people that make Maui Brewing Company work. Many of them have adopted the same passion that me and my wife have, and many are proud to work here.”
Q: Do you believe in Mana and if so, how have you been impacted by it since being on Maui?
A: "I do believe in Mana which basically means courage, spirituality, soulfulness, etc. If we didn’t have the Mana, Maui Brewing Company wouldn’t be what it is today. The reason we started the brewery was to give Hawaii, specifically Maui, a beer of its own and to celebrate the idea of Hawaiian craft beer instead of just profiteering from the name Hawaii."
"How do we give back and pay respects to the county of Maui and to the people by doing them proud, and making beers of the highest quality, and winning awards all over the world and remaining true to our principals of local production and supporting the environment. So Mana has to be in everything we do. Our original motto was “handcrafted ales and lagers brewed with Aloha”. The Aloha Spirit is alive in everything we do. I’ve never been very religious, but I’ve always been very spiritual, more so in the last 10 or 15 years... as I’ve gotten older maybe?”
Livin' the life on Maui!
Original Gravity Tours
If you’re able to join one of our Munich & Bamberg Tours next summer, you may not be sipping beer and watching beautiful sunsets on the shores of Maui... but you will be able to 1) tour the oldest brewery in the world, 2) visit an award-winning Bavarian craft brewery, 3) sample beers from a 1,000 year old monastery brewery on the banks of the Danube, and much more! We just added our 2018 tour dates on our site so please visit our Munich & Bamberg Tour page for details.
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Until next time, and as always, thank you and Aloha!
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 and Proost!