Waikīkī Brewing Co. Adds Another Brewpub to Kaka‘ako
The craft brewery took over the old Fresh Café in August, offering authentic barbecue and expanding its beer lineup.
Waikīkī Brewing Co. opened its second location—in Kaka‘ako—in August, with a menu featuring in-house smoked meats and authentic barbecue.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox
Two years ago, Waikīkī Brewing Co. started brewing in a 1,000-square-foot space in the back of Cheeseburger Waikīkī, churning out eight different brews, from a tinted amber ale to a malty molasses porter, served in restaurants and on tap at the small brewpub.
Since then, other local craft breweries opened, namely in nearby Kaka‘ako, which, thanks to a slew of new high-rise condos and the opening of Salt at Kaka‘ako complex, was seeing a revitalization. Joining Honolulu Beerworks on Cooke Street, which opened in 2013, was Aloha Beer Co. and The Brewseum, all within walking distance of each other.
Then, earlier this month, Waikīkī Brewing Co. took over the 6,000-square-foot warehouse space vacated by Fresh Café on Queen Street, with a spacious production area and brewpub featuring in-house smoked meats and authentic barbecue. It’s the latest local brewery on the Kaka‘ako pub-crawl map.
“What was appealing [about the space] was the neighborhood, just how Kaka‘ako is right now,” says owner and head brewer Joe Lorenzen. “It’s sort of a hip, artsy kind of neighborhood that’s starting to flourish. But seeing where Kaka‘ako is heading in the next few years, with high-rises being built and the whole trend in the Ward area, it’s a great opportunity. And, over the years, it’s only going to grow.”
The new, substantially larger space has also allowed Lorenzen to expand production. Right now, the original Waikīkī location handles more than 1,500 barrels of beer a year; the new facility will be able to produce upward of 9,000 barrels a year, with room to brew more specialty and seasonal beers year-round.
The plan is to move the canning operation from Waikīkī to Kaka‘ako, too. Currently, the machine the brewery uses to can its Hana Hou Hefe can only handle 15 cans a minute. Lorenzen ordered another one that will do considerably more, and he plans to start canning two more beers soon.
“We opened this spot [in Kaka‘ako] because we couldn’t keep up with the demand,” Lorenzen says. “The last thing we wanted to do was decrease what we’re able to make … This takes the pressure off of Waikīkī, do more seasonal stuff and experiment—the things beer connoisseurs are after.”
The Kaka‘ako brewpub offers craft-beer cocktails, too, including this Hana Hou Shandy ($8), with muddled fresh orange and strawberries, simple syrup and freshly squeezed lemon juice topped with Hana Hou Hefe and a splash of lemon-lime soda.
Or, you can order a sampler of Waikīkī Brewing Co.’s beers.
Instead of free bread, the brewpub offers serve-yourself popcorn.
The new location offers an expanded brewpub, too, with two sections of outdoor seating and tables inside the open-air warehouse space. Lining the walls are flat-screen TVs and outside has an area where you can play cornhole (similar to Portuguese horseshoe) and eat on picnic tables.
The menu here is a departure from the Waikīkī brewpub, which offers chicken quesadillas and corn fritters. Here, the food seems more meat-centric, with an entire page devoted to smoked meats and barbecue sauces, all made in-house. There are starters including shrimp and grits ($8) and Island-style poke ($10), three salads and three pizzas.
“We knew that barbecue goes really well with beer,” Lorenzen says. “And we wanted to offer something different. There’s not a lot of good, authentic barbecue in Honolulu … We almost want the barbecue itself to be a draw, potentially as much as the beer.”
We started with the Hummus 2 Ways ($8) and mochiko cornbread ($5), easily the two most provocative appetizers on the menu. The hummus plate showcased two different kinds of spreads—one with macadamia nuts, chickpeas and basil; the other made from Chinese-style boiled peanuts—served with naan bread and crudité. Made with rice flour, the cornbread had a unique texture—chewy but not dense—and was served with whipped honey-butter.
The two different kinds of hummus, on a plate with house-made naan and veggies sticks.
A surprise hit of the night: the mochiko cornbread, which had a chewy texture we loved.
On the recommendation of the server, we sampled the smoked brisket pizza ($14), with kiawe-smoked brisket—the brewpub’s specialty—house-made San Marzano-style tomato sauce and a blend of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.
We also ordered Da-Q Wings ($10), a small plate of chicken wings brined in Coca-Cola, then rubbed with a special blend of seasonings and slow-smoked in-house. We liked the pairing of the crispy skin and the tender, smoky meat.
The star of the night, though, was the pulled pork sandwich ($13), one of five sandwiches offered by the brewpub. The pork was injected with Aloha Spirit Blonde Ale, smoked, then shredded and topped with won bok slaw on a toasted hoagie bun baked at This Is It! Bakery in Kaka‘ako. You can choose one of four barbecue sauces to go along with any of the sandwiches, each made with one of the brewery’s beers. We chose the Sweet Mango Bourbon sauce, made with mango and brown sugar and finished with a bite of bourbon and red pepper.
Each sandwich comes with your choice of a side, too. You can pick from edamame succotash with corn and bell peppers, braised beef and Chinese black beans, loaded baked potato salad tossed with bacon and cheddar cheese, a won bok slaw with an apple-cider dressing, mac salad, a basic green salad or white rice.
The starter plate of chicken wings, brined in Coca-Cola.
The pulled pork sandwich, with slaw and edamame succotash.
And if beer isn’t your thing—hey, not everyone goes to a brewpub for the suds!—there are craft cocktails, shots and wines by the glass.
Lorenzen says the brewpub will be offering a few new brews in the next couple of months. So stay tuned.
“We really love this spot,” Lorenzen says. “It’s becoming a brewery destination.”
Join us for an evening of fantastic food, creative cocktails and exhilarating entertainment as we celebrate Hawai‘i’s very best restaurants at the 2018 Hale ‘Aina Awards: Destination Delicious on Sept. 17 at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Take a culinary trip around the world in one evening while you dine on artfully crafted dishes from Hawai‘i’s best chefs. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.