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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Pālolo Valley Brewing Co.
Pālolo Valley Brewing Co. founder Jeremyah Wubben cultures his own yeast from wild samples he harvests around the island.
PHOTOS: STEVE CZERNIAK
How much further can craft beer reasonably grow? Sam Caligione, owner and brewer of Delaware’s Dogfish Head, famously told Bon Appétit a “bloodbath” is coming for small craft brewers as competition gets increasingly fierce. That’s something Jeremyah Wubben, head brewer and owner of Pālolo Valley Brewing Co., is keeping in mind as he formulates recipes for the official launch of his brewery. “There’re only so many people who can make a Double IPA because there’s only so much shelf space,” he says.
Wubben’s approach is unorthodox, eschewing traditional styles for quirkier creations that involve locally harvested yeast and Island-grown materials including taro and sugar cane. Traditional beer styles, he says, originated from using site-specific local materials. Pilsner, for example, was brewed in Pilsen, Czech Republic, because the chemical makeup of the water allowed for light, crisp beers, while other beer-brewing regions became famous for dark beers that masked off-flavors.
Wubben says using wild yeast cultures will help him make a beer that’s unique to Hawai‘i.
“You can make any style of beer anywhere now,” the 30-year-old Colorado native says about improved brewing know-how and globally shipped ingredients. And, since it’s hard to compete with established craft beer heavyweights Stone, Dogfish Head, Rogue and Lagunitas, differentiating oneself, especially in the saturated Mainland market, has become essential. That’s where his original creations come in—Wubben, a former master’s candidate in physics at the University of Hawai‘i, wants to create beer styles unique to Hawai‘i that not only sell well here, but can compete on the Mainland.
Wubben will open his first commercial brewing facility in Waikīkī’s Lotus Hotel as part of Chalkboard, a new local-ingredient-focused restaurant opening this summer. The brewing equipment, which will replace the private dining room of the previous restaurant, will operate as a showcase taproom for small one-off batches. When he finds suitable warehouse space elsewhere, he will open a production facility to make bottled or canned beer.
Echoing the sentiments of many others in the beer community, Wubben says the market in Hawai‘i still has room to grow, and that growth benefits everyone. “I hear Kona Brewing Co. is opening a new production facility,” he says of the recently announced $15 million expansion slated to open in 2017. “That’s good. It will bring shipping costs down.”
We can drink to that!