2014 Hale Aina Awards: Best Beer Program

Real a Gastropub, with 29 taps and certified cicerones (aka beer sommeliers).

Photo: Rae Huo

The Hale Ainas have been recognizing Hawaii’s best wine lists and places to drink for years, but it was only in 2013 that we acknowledged the specific craft of cocktails. For 2014, we added the Best Beer Program, a category that wouldn’t have had such traction, or venerable nominees, even a few years ago. It’s a testament to Hawaii’s evolving bar scene, not only in terms of how many international ales we can get, but the quality of our locally brewed lagers.

The largest collection of craft beers in Hawaii belongs to Real a Gastropub (Gold; and Top Write-In Vote for Best Bar Food), the epitome of what a gastropub should be: a place where the beer comes first, and the food complements it perfectly. Real opened in 2012 with 24 beers on tap and 200 in bottles; it now has 29 rotating taps, two beer engines and more than 250 bottles, including Tiger Baby: Open Windows Open Hills, Big Foot, Muffin Top and Chocolate Sombrero. The menu has more than a dozen pages for just beer—it’s no wonder Real patrons faithfully return, for those hard-to-find beers as well as trying new favorites. Now if only it could get Berliner Kindl Weisse (Himbeere AND Waldmeister)!

Monkeypod Kitchen (Silver; Best New Restaurant, Gold) also features beers from around the world, but takes a few extra steps toward quality and sustainability, high priorities in the Islands. The Ko Olina restaurant avoids beers with rice and corn as additives, and vows to serve its 36 microbrews at 29 degrees exactly. It also keeps the number of bottled beers available to 11, three of them from Big Island Brewhaus, to minimize waste.

The collection of beers on tap makes Murphy’s Bar & Grill (Bronze; and Top Write-In Vote for Best Business Lunch) a solid go-to at lunch or after work. And while Pint & Jigger (Finalist; Best Cocktail, Silver) may be known for its cocktails, the young gastropub boasts an encouraging menu of “Lucky 21” beers on tap, “Brews That Don’t Suck …”, “Aluminum Suds!!”, “Beers???” and “Ridiculously Good Beers!!!” Bar 35 (Finalist) is still our favorite place for singles to mingle, thanks in part to its weekly beer tastings and 15(!) local brews.

Beer enthusiasts who can’t find what they want always have Yard House (Top Write-In Vote), which, as a national chain, helped boost the bar scene in Hawaii by bringing in kegs from the Mainland that we couldn’t get here before. The renaissance has only just begun.