Honolulu Welcomes a New Wave of Craft Brewers
Building off the success of Neighbor Island breweries and local beer-focused restaurants, a new generation is brewing plans to turn O‘ahu into a beer destination.
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(Left)Honolulu Beerworks founder Geoff Seideman used reclaimed wood to build the centerpiece bar at the brewery’s Kaka‘ako warehouse. (Right) Honolulu Beerworks’ selection ranges from light cream ales to dark, malty stouts.
PHOTOS: Odeelo Dayondon
Honolulu Beerworks, a brewpub located in an airy Kaka‘ako warehouse, could be considered the trailblazer for this new wave of craft breweries. Founded by husband-and-wife duo Geoff and Charmayne Seideman, both Philadelphia transplants, the brewery recently celebrated its one-year anniversary—a milestone for any type of small business, but an especially important one for a new entry in a fledgling industry.
Seideman, 40, a graduate of Kapi‘olani Community College’s culinary arts program, had worked in high-end Island kitchens, including La Mer at the Halekūlani. But after his wife, a buyer for Town & Country, gave him a home-brewing kit, he refocused his ambitions. An apprenticeship at Aloha Beer (the brewery that opened briefly in the old Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch & Crab location) helped teach him how to brew on a large scale and afforded him time to scout for a location for a brewery of his own.
With the industrial-chic aesthetic adopted by many Mainland breweries in mind, Seideman, an experienced carpenter, took over the lease for the utilitarian warehouse and built out the space himself using as much recycled and reclaimed material as possible. The front of the bar is deliberately spare, with communal picnic table seating on the floor and stools that wrap around the centerpiece bar. Seideman says the clean lines, made from mostly wood and steel, allow patrons to project what they want on the space. When it opened, he wondered if he was just going to attract the beer-obsessed crowd, but he says that, on a typical night, “You have the hipsters, the beer geeks, the blue-collar guys ... normally you wouldn’t see all these different people together, but it works.”
Today, Seideman offers a rotating cast of more than nine beers on tap, ranging from entry level (Kewalo Cream Ale, Point Panic Pale Ale) to bold (American Barley Wine, Maunalua Bay Double IPA). The small batches he brews are a boon, allowing him, along with head brewer Dave Campbell, to swap things up, trying out new hops or local ingredients. A saison-style beer he created for his landlord, Kamehameha Schools—one of those experiments—made with local citrus and Big Island honey, has become a top seller.
One year in and Seideman is looking to expand. The current brewing equipment can barely make enough to supply the bar, much less sell extra amounts to other restaurants and bars, a line of expansion that he would like to pursue. His success so far challenges the idea that breweries couldn’t be financially solvent in the Islands and still splurge on top-quality ingredients. For his annual fresh hop IPA (made with newly harvested, rather than dried, hops), the hops and shipping cost between $1,200 and $1,500. “That’s ridiculously expensive, but it’s something that not a lot people do here. I want to let other people experience that. And, as long as we’re comfortable and we can keep the doors open and pay our employees, I’m happy.”
328 Cooke St., 589-BEER, honolulubeerworks.com