First Look: Hana Koa Brewing Co.: Kaka‘ako’s Newest Brewery and Largest Taproom
Find 15 different beers on tap at this new local spot.
Photos: Alexander Gates
In recent years Kaka‘ako has hosted a craft beer renaissance in Hawai‘i, with the neighborhood’s formerly unused warehouses the perfect home for a product that requires ample space to make. Boasting the largest taproom space, the newest is Hana Koa Brewing Co., housed in a former Coca-Cola factory and owned by Josh and Chrissie Kopp. Josh, a Kamehameha Schools graduate from Kāhala, met his wife at a brewery taproom while both were working in the industry in California. They named one of Hana Koa’s first releases Roof Top Pale Ale, after the beer they would share on their roof deck.
Josh, the brewmaster, maintains 15 unique beers on 45 total taps, releasing new beers every Friday. The styles are diverse, with clean pilsners, juicy hazy IPAs, fruity saisons, tart sours, roasty stouts and malty pale ales. If this is your first visit, try a flight: four to six 5-ounce pours for a couple bucks each will help you discover something new. During happy hour (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.), try the three most popular brews for $5 a flight.
Hana Koa Brewing has two core beers, the Breaktime Blonde and Roof Top Pale Ale, with rotating and limited releases. A test of a good brewery is to try a pilsner or blonde: these beers are clean, crisp and clear, leaving little space for error. So far, Hana Koa has produced delicious German style beers including Field Trip Pilsner, an unfiltered lager with lemony zest, and Breaktime Blonde, a light refreshing beer with an aroma of fresh-cut flowers. Alcohol on these is low to medium, leaving space to rehydrate after a day in the sun. While still clean and easy to drink, the Roof Top and Shift Steez pale ales are heavier drinks, with malty and piney flavors.
The Haze Craze reflects a popular movement in craft beer to make IPAs (India Pale Ales) as juicy and cloudy as possible, while showcasing the tropical and fruity flavors of the hops with a creamy mouthfeel. Kick Out the Gems Hazy IPA is a 6.9% ABV, or alcohol by volume (this measurement will tell you how much alcohol is in the drink), strong beer filled with special hops from Idaho and New Zealand that lend a citrusy profile. Bronan the Barbarian Imperial Hazy IPA is Hana Koa Brewing’s strongest yet at 8.8% ABV, a dankly resinous beast with notes of grapefruit and other tropical flavors. For those looking for something fruity yet easier to approach, try the Kettle Run Series of sour beer—the first tart entry is made with guava juice.
The food is eclectic, with small plates such as fried pickled onion rings ($8), eggplant and tomato bruschetta ($10), and fries with homemade barbecue sauce ($6). Some of my favorites were a savory and salty smoked marlin spread on toast ($11.50) and the panko fried tofu ($10) with a cold ginger sesame dressing for dipping. Heartier items run from Asian to American, including tonkotsu ramen ($14) and Korean short ribs ($16), plus smoked brisket ($14), burgers ($13) and a fresh tomato and caper pasta ($12.50). Hana Koa is a family-friendly establishment, so for the kids, there are chicken tenders, grilled cheese and house-made mac ’n’ cheese (all $8). For dessert: chocolate haupia parfait, lime cheesecake (either $8.50) or a beer float ($1.50 plus the cost of the beer). For the float, choose your favorite beer and ice cream flavor: I recommend the espresso stout with vanilla—the roasted coffee flavors and milk taste like a boozy latte.
Along the front windows is a cozy lounge area with oversized leather chairs and half barrel tables, perfect for more intimate conversations, while the main restaurant area offers tables to accommodate any size party. The second floor has a loft bar and additional seating at peak times; it is also available for private group events.
Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. everyday except Tuesday, 962 Kawaiaha‘o St., hanakoabrewing.com