Beer Bar Report: Honolulu Beerworks

Beer sampler (left) from Honolulu Beerworks; pretzel, Beermade Mac & Cheese, and Italian Hoagie.

We have a bit of a love/hate relationship with microbrews. The homegrown, backyard, craft-draft aspect? Love. We’re so down with the whole DIY, anti-Anheuser thing that hits us right in our hipster hearts. The sometimes extreme flavors and ABVs (alcohol by volume) of small batch brewing? Not so much.

At Honolulu Beerworks, this city’s newest craft brewery and brew pub, there’s more love than anything else for the 10-plus brews on tap at the barrel-filled warehouse space and beer garden in Kakaako. And the beer as a featured ingredient in many of the dishes on the pub menu is a really good reason to keep us coming back.

We especially like the Pia Mahiai Saison, a wheat beer that gets its citrus notes from a serious infusion of lemongrass. It pairs well with just about everything on the pub menu, but we suggest using it to wash down the Italian Hoagie, a massive meat-and-cheese-packed sandwich that was made for beer drinking.

The Kakaako Kolsch tastes good in a glass, but it tastes great in a cheese sauce. The first time we tried the sauce it was broken and grainy, but the kitchen seems to have worked through a few of its opening jitters and now it’s consistently silky smooth. The signature sauce does double duty as the dipping sauce for the soft pretzel sticks and as the cheese in the Beermade Mac & Cheese, which is this beer garden’s answer to Bavarian kaesespaetzle, and it’s a perfect doppelganger. What better way to drink beer than with a big ol’ portion of pasta swimming in cheesy beer sauce?

We wish we hadn’t liked the El Guapo Blonde Ale as much as we did because word from our (super friendly, attentive and competent) server is that there is a finite amount of the handsome brew and when it’s gone, it’s gone. And with it goes the beer-braised pork tacos, which is sad news indeed. The beer, with its cumin undertones and smooth, cool finish is the best drink for the tacos and also the best braising liquid because the pork was spoon-tender and full of Mexican-by-way-of-SoCal flavor.

Some of the ales—pale, IPA and otherwise—didn’t hit all the right notes for us, and we like our stouts creamy and smooth, but there’s plenty here to keep our glasses full and our bellies (the beer kind and the food-loving kind) happy.

Honolulu Beerworks
Pints from $6.75, tasting flights from $2, pub menu $6 to $10.50
328 Cooke St., 589-2337