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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Craft Beer Economics
Head brewer Chris Cook behind the scenes at Lanikai Brewing Co. Get a peek at the setup in the tasting room, which is open on weekends.
PHOTO: STEVE CZERNIAK
Bottling beer is a significant undertaking in Hawai‘i: Bottles and caps must be shipped in from the Mainland at almost the same cost as shipping full bottles out, which can quickly eat up profit margins. Kona Brewing Co. and Aloha Beer both allegedly outsourced production to Mainland facilities in part for that reason. But Haumschild says he feels the climate is finally right on O‘ahu for such an enterprise. The growth of the local food movement means that savvy residents and visitors alike are looking to drink something that is made on island. And all the new breweries popping up (Hoku’s, in the old Sam Choy’s space, is already open, as is Taps and Apps. Stewbum and Stonewall, Kailua Brewing Co. and others are in various stages of production) have forged a strong support network for both advice and sharing costs of containers to bring shipping expenses down. “I’m on the phone with other brewers almost every day,” says Haumschild about the camaraderie in the market.
Many of the local brewers credit a trio of beer-focused restaurants—Pint and Jigger, Real a Gastropub and Brew’d—with helping to raise awareness of craft beer and convert local drinkers to edgier styles. Pint and Jigger co-owner Dave Newman says when he and his business partners were looking to open a bar, they honed in on the craft beer angle because there was room in the market in Hawai‘i. “There was Yard House and Murphy’s—that was basically it,” he says of the local bar options for craft beer. Newman has a background in spirits and cocktails, but he quickly found much to like in craft beer. “You can pay $5 for a Heineken, but for $2 more you can have the best beer in the world,” he says about the modest price points. “There aren’t a lot of things like that.”
So what took craft beer so long to gather steam in Hawai‘i? Newman points to demand for the limited inventory of craft beer on the Mainland: There wasn’t enough to go around until recently, so distributors focused on key Mainland markets first before attempting to get beer to Hawai‘i, a more pricey proposition with shipping. Now, with a critical mass of beer being made on the Mainland and a growing market in Hawai‘i, more adventurous selections, like sours and beers made with wild yeast, are being routed to the Islands.