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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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Cans vs Bottles: Which is Better

Start-up brewers have more decisions to make than just the beer recipes—packaging is important too. But there’s more to choosing cans or bottles than just aesthetics. 


Maui Brewing Co. was among the first breweries in the U.S. to package beer in cans. Founder Garrett Marrero said that he chose cans over bottles primarily because “of the quality of the product above all else.” Cans do a better job of protecting beer from oxygen and light, which can degrade the beer. Additionally, says Marrero, cans are also the better environmental choice, as they are manufactured in the Islands, reducing the carbon footprint of shipping from the Mainland, and are more easily recyclable. And, when it comes to shipping out inventory, cans are more space efficient, so Maui Brewing Co. can fit almost 40 percent more beer in a container.


But the choice between bottles and cans isn’t so clear-cut for a start-up brewer. Steve Haumschild of Lanikai Brewing says that he chose to start off by packaging his beer in oversize 22-ounce glass bottles because they offer greater flexibility. “You have to buy a ridiculous amount,” says Haumschild, of the initial order for cans. “Where am I going to put three semi containers of cans?” In addition, if he wants to bottle different styles of beer, with bottles, he can swap out the label rather than make a new order for printed cans. “[The choice] is a lot more complex than it appears,” he says.


Cheer to these beers

Pia Mahi‘ai HONEY CITRUS Saison from Honolulu Beerworks

Owner Geoff Seideman and head brewer Dave Campbell created this beer as a special one-off for Kamehameha Schools, the brewery’s landlord, and now it’s a top seller.  Made with local citrus and Big Island honey, this saison-style ale is hazy with a fluffy head, refreshing but still complex, with a yeasty, fruity profile.

Other beers to try: Surf Session Single Hop IPA, Animal Farmhouse Ale.


808 Double IPA from Lanikai Brewing Co.

“We wanted to create bolder flavors,” says Lanikai Brewing partner Steve Haumschild about the recipes he developed. Fans of the brash IPA style made popular by the craft brewing movement will find much to like here: This Double IPA dials up the flavor meter on all fronts, with big, bitter hop flavor supported by a strong, malty backbone. The aroma carries a faint floral note thanks to the inclusion of local pīkake.

Other beer to try: Pillbox Porter.


Jalapeño Mouth from Waikīkī Brewing Co.

Owner and brewer Joe Lorenzen initially made this ale as a part of his plan to have rotating specialty beers on tap, but patrons liked it so much it’s now on the regular menu. Chili beers can be a tricky proposition—too much heat can overwhelm the other flavors. Waikīkī strikes a nice balance with this entry—green, grassy pepper notes float on the aroma, and the amber ale base has just a hint of spiciness.

Other beer to try: English Brown Ale.


Imperial Taro Ale from Pālolo Valley Brewing Co.

If you didn’t know this beer was made with taro root, you probably wouldn’t guess. Owner and head brewer Jeremyah Wubben displays technical wizardry with this beer made with local taro and a yeast strain he developed from cultures he collected in Nu‘uanu. It’s rich, complex and earthy tasting with an appealing bitterness.

Other beer to try: Taro Ale.


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Honolulu Magazine April 2020
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