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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Newman was previously Nobu’s bar manager, which means on any given night, there will be some sort of theatrics behind the bar—him swirling a carafe filled with smoke or pounding ice wrapped in cloth to crush it. Most people coming to Pint and Jigger are lured by the cocktails and the food. A gastropub is not complete without a burger—Pint and Jigger satisfies with a hefty, char-grilled beef patty topped with beer cheese. It’s my go-to here—that and the addictive paprika dusted potato chips—though other more novel-sounding items may beckon: beer-braised bratwurst, bacon-wrapped strawberries, double-cut bacon, and Scotch egg, an egg encased in pork and deep-fried. The kitchen’s motto seems to be: Everything’s better with pork. Even the chocolate stout cake, more like a dense bread pudding, comes with bits of bacon.
Unlike Real, you will find Bud and Heineken here, under the menu headline “Beers???” after the sections “Ridiculously Good Beers” and “Beers That Don’t Suck.” Yes, the menu is judging you. But Newman finds the crowd growing more receptive to craft beers, interested in trying one of 21 on tap. “Out here, it’s been the same stuff for so long … we get people that want to try something new, who are willing to experiment,” he says. “Hawaii is ready for it.”
It’s part of the reason he thinks two gastropubs opened within a month of each other, and why they’re both packed every night. “But it’s a collaboration instead of competition,” he says. When kegs come in, they split them among the establishments instead of one taking all.
But the bars want to get beyond taking what they’re given.
Beer and liquor distribution is different from food. Brewery to bar? Doesn’t happen like farm to table. You can’t go straight to the source; you have to go through a distributor. When a bar carries Aloha Beer, it doesn’t pick up a keg at the brewery, it goes through Paradise Beverages.
Paradise Beverages is the largest craft-beer distributor in Hawaii. Some heralded craft brews from the Mainland, such as Stone and Fat Tire, we have yet to see here because either the distributor or the brewers can’t or won’t enter into a contract. Yard House helped changed the game: its presence as a large, national chain meant it could demand certain beers previously untapped in Hawaii bars. Leftover kegs made their way down to smaller establishments like Murphy’s Bar and Grill, Humpy’s Big Island Alehouse in Kona, The Feral Pig on Kauai, and now Real and Pint and Jigger.
They don’t want leftovers anymore, especially now that their purchasing power has increased with the two new gastropubs. “We, as an informal hui, try to apply a little pressure to the distributors,” says Jonathan Schwalbenitz, bartender of 21 years at Murphy’s. (He originally planned on joining the Pint and Jigger team, but decided to stay at Murphy’s.) “Before, the distributors had all the say. Now, we can ask for more and expect it to be delivered.”