An Ode to Lahaina’s Beer Scene

Maui lost two breweries. Now a third is organizing 650 others around the world in a massive fundraiser for survivors.


Maui Brewing Co Kokua Beer Pc Maui Brewing Co

Image: Courtesy of @mauibrewingco


Once the capitol of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, Lahaina has a rich and storied history. My memories of it are of a sleepy yet vibrant town by the water, with amazing views of Moloka‘i and Lana‘i—so close you feel you could swim to them. A mix of restaurants and bars catering to visitors in a community where generations of families from all over the Pacific and beyond made their home and passed on traditions to their children. It is hard to fathom how quickly the most precious things can disappear.


As a beer writer, I want to pay my respects to the Lahaina I came to know, to its role in Hawai‘i’s beer scene and the support and unity the tragedy has forged among breweries. Lahaina lost two: Koholā Brewery and Waikīkī Brewing Co.’s Lahaina brewery and restaurant. The destruction also indirectly closed a third, Beachhouse Beer Co. in Honolulu Chinatown, which announced Aug. 22 that the loss of its three partner businesses in Lahaina was too much to overcome.


“Koholā Brewery’s spot was our original production brewery,” says Garrett W. Marrero, CEO and co-founder of Maui Brewing Co. and the new Craft ‘Ohana. “The owner called and asked me to check out the building. I flew my drone, only to see the building I had put so much work into … was melted away. My heart goes out to the whole Koholā family.” (All are safe, according to Koholā’s Instagram.)


Kohola Brewery After Fire Pc Kohola Brewery

Photo: Courtesy of @koholabrewery


Despite the pain and heartbreak, there are positive things happening. They make me think back to Fred Rogers, a source of childhood comfort in confusing times. As Mr. Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping.’”


SEE ALSO: What Other Areas of Hawai‘i Are at High Risk for Wildfires?


Marrero is one of them. Maui Brewing Co. is organizing a collaborative beer fundraiser that will send 100% of proceeds to three local charities: T S Legacy of Aloha Foundation, Makai Foundation and Maui Brewing Co. Fire Fund. Marrero invited breweries around the world to make Kōkua beer—a session IPA because that style is big in flavor and low in calories—and so far, he says, more than 650 have signed up.


The last time the company made Kōkua beer was in 2017, when it donated proceeds from that Golden Ale to flood victims on Kaua‘i. Maui Brewing will release this new one as a draft and in limited cans within a few weeks; other breweries are being asked to do draft only. The goal is to help people on Maui rebuild homes, replace lost vehicles and pay insurance deductibles.


“We’re not alone in this. Many have answered the call to action to help. People that live locally have survived the fire and immediately started helping,” Marrero says. “I personally want to say thank you to my team. … My team at MBC is giving me that autonomy to volunteer without worrying about the business.”


Maui Brewing’s two restaurants in West Maui are undamaged but closed for now. Its locations in Kihei, Maui, and on O‘ahu are open and accepting relief donations.


SEE ALSO: These Maui Restaurants Are Asking for Help for Their Workers


Around Hawai‘i, more reaction flowed in from the beer community.


“Maui was the last stop on my trip, visiting every brewery in the Islands for my book,” says Paul Kan, author of Hawai‘i Beer: A History of Brewing in Paradise. “The taproom at Koholā was especially welcoming. Not only did they have a beer named Talk Story Pale Ale, but I—no kidding—drank one while talking story to some visitors at the bar about my research.”


Cindy Goldstein, who volunteers with Hawai‘i breweries, says it’s “heartbreaking to see the devastating impact of the Maui fires on Lahaina and the communities of Maui. Hawai‘i’s craft breweries are contributing as they do best, uniting to create special brews both collectively and independently to extend a helping hand to those facing the impacts of the fires.”


Ola Brew Co. in Kailua-Kona will donate 25% of profits from its new Pineapple Hard Juice toward Maui fire victims’ mental health and wellness support indefinitely. Honolulu Beerworks, Lanikai Brewing Co., Kauai Beer Co. and Hilo Brewing Co. organized collection drives for relief supplies.


Keep an eye out for the release of Kōkua beer at your local brewery or brewpub—and when it comes out, buy a lot. If you choose to support Maui’s recovery by visiting the island, please respect that West Maui remains closed to visitors. The community needs to grieve and heal. So when you visit the rest of this beautiful island, do so respectfully.


@koholabrewery, @waikikibrewco, @mauibrewingco