New craft beer bars open in Honolulu: Aloha Beer, Real a Gastropub, Pint and Jigger
Ale-loha!: We welcome two new gastropubs and a brew pub to Honolulu.
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Too bad. His friend orders him a sampler of 4.5 ounce pours and picks a Deschutes Chainbrewer White IPA, Maui Blonde Bikini Lager, Maui’s Sobrehumano and Rogue Shakespeare Stout.
This is Real: half the people in here are beer geeks, who could probably tell you about all the breweries represented on Real’s 24 taps. For the other half, Real wants to show you what you’ve been missing.
About the name: it’s a bit reactionary. Troy Terorotua, Real’s owner, says it’s a “real” gastropub as opposed to the “fake” ones around town. Except now he admits, “I may have misused ‘gastropub.’” He thinks maybe he should have named Real a “craft beer bar with kick-ass food” instead.
Gastropubs came about in England in the ’90s when a new generation wanted better food in its pubs. They jumped the pond in the aughts; New York’s first, The Spotted Pig, is like a British import, quirky animal name and all, while in Los Angeles, Father’s Office is a craft-beer bar that ushered in an era of upscale food in casual settings. In Britain, gastropubs gourmet-ified the low end, whereas in Los Angeles, they represented the casualization of fine dining. Both cases were reactions to the status quo.
The pairing of gastropubs and craft beer makes sense, then: craft beer itself was a response to the same old, same old—Bud, Miller and Coors.
On yet another level, Real is Terorotua’s reaction to all his previous work experience. He was Sam Choy’s corporate chef for seven years, the beer specialist at Whole Foods for three. Through Whole Foods, he brought in beers Hawaii had not previously seen, devoting 70 percent of the beer display to small-batch beers that accounted for only 20 percent of sales. During his time, he cultivated relationships with breweries such as Rogue: His face is on its No Ka Oi beer.
With Real, Terorotua wanted to break free of the corporate structure. “We’re a couple of crazy guys who opened up a beer bar … trying not to take ourselves too seriously,” he says.
Real is small, like a dive bar, fitting 75 or so. It’s nicer than a dive, but it certainly isn’t Side Street Inn on Da Strip. Suds are painted where the wall meets the ceiling; looking up, especially after you’ve been drinking a few, visually approximates what it would be like to fall into a glass of beer.
The menu provides twists on comfort food, served in small portions: mac and cheese with Chex mix crumbled on top, chicken and waffles, duck confit corndogs, duck confit poutine, like an upgraded loco moco with fries instead of rice and duck replacing the hamburger patty. Candied garlic bacon could serve as dessert, but don’t overlook the “Irish car bomb,” a slightly boozy sundae with crunchy chocolate bits, Guinness gelato and Jameson’s caramel. Every week, Real reduces two gallons of Guinness down to a quart and hands it over to Il Gelato to churn into gelato for the Irish car bomb and the Guinness float (Guinness gelato in Guinness). The men I’ve brought on this visit grumble about ruining beer this way, but, in the end, I have to fight them just to get my spoon in.
The 24 beers on tap are written on a chalkboard hooked up to a pulley system, so the bartenders can pull it down and write new beers, which they do, frequently. When one keg is finished, Real taps a new keg of a different beer. What you have on Monday may not be there on Thursday. It’s partly to keep Real new and exciting, partly to keep Terorotua himself interested. Real also carries 200 bottles of beer. Budweiser and Heineken are not among them.
On one visit, I’m with Doug Lamerson, a beer superfan, a one-man clearinghouse for all things beer-related in Hawaii. His daily Beer Aggregator email is received by other enthusiasts, as well as those in the industry, but he is not actually in the beer business. He comes to Real at least once a week to stay in the know. He is leaving the next morning for the Oregon’s Brewers Festival, one of the oldest and biggest craft-brew festivals, drawing 80,000 people.
“I should do the loyal thing and order something from my friend,” he says, as we approach the beer chalkboard. He gets Hawaii Nui’s Kauai Golden Ale. I am less decisive, and go through a few tastes before settling. Among the samples: a Coronado Islander IPA. Lamerson likens its resin-y quality to marijuana, which he tells me is in the same family as hops. No wonder beer is so popular.