Aloha in a Glass

Like marlin plucked out of the Pacific or papaya picked right from the tree, beer tastes better fresh.  Which would you prefer—a generic watered down assembly line lager or a recently handcrafted brew made right down the street?  Luckily, island locals are passionate about their beers so there are several excellent options when it comes to island-made libations. A cold pia (beer) with a Big Island twist is the perfect refreshment to get you into the Aloha Spirit. While on island, stop by the local breweries and take a sip of paradise.


The Golden Wheat

The Kona Brewing Company, headquartered in Kailua-Kona, is the largest brewery in Hawai'i. In 1995, the company was started by Cameron Healy and Spoon Khalsa, a father-son team who began with only two types of “Liquid Aloha.” Since then, Kona Brewing Co. has exploded onto the beer scene. They regularly brew a dozen or more different varieties of complex and full-bodied beers, all of which can be found at their Kona pub in Old Industrial. Under strict guidance, Kona Brewing Co. also produces its bottled labels in Portland, Oregon, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire through a partnership with Craft Brewers Alliance Inc., which allows for distribution to over 30 states and four different countries. But even through success and growth, the brewery remains dedicated to ohana (family) and continuously supports the local community. They participate in many fundraising campaigns like the Kona Brewers Festival, which has raised more than $350,000 for local environmental, educational and cultural organizations. What’s more, to insure that the islands receive only the freshest product, they dedicate their Kona brewing facility solely to Hawai‘i distribution.

Since their beginning, Kona Brewing Co.’s beers were only limited to bottles, draughts, and growlers. But look out for their newest addition—the company recently began producing Longboard Island Lager (their most popular beer) in cans. This is especially exciting for those who want to crack open the liquid delight while unwinding on the beach or poolside.     

Kona Brewing Co. rotates three seasonal beers in their “Aloha Series” and hitting the market this spring and summer is Wailua Wheat, a golden wheat ale that is infused with tropical passion fruit. Named after the majestic Wailua Falls in Maui, this brew is light, citrusy, and incredibly refreshing. The passion fruit is clearly evident both by taste and aroma, making for a truly unique and somewhat exotic, yet refreshing, treat. Pair this delicious sun-colored ale with lighter fare, such as grilled fish and shrimp, salads, or roasted chicken. You’ll discover all the reasons why Wailua Wheat won a Gold Medal at the 2011 U.S. Open Beer Championships.

If you’d like to try some liquid aloha or participate in a brewery tour, visit Kona Brewing Co. at 75-5629 Kuakini Hwy. Call (808) 334-BREW or visit for more information.


Mandarin Treat

Head north to Waimea and you will find Hawai‘i’s highest brewery above sea level (2,812') at a handcrafted beer lover’s paradise.  The Big Island Brewhaus is a cozy restaurant/brewpub born from the determination and imagination of owner Tom Kerns. 

Tom is a veteran award-winning brewmaster who began brewing at home before evolving the hobby into a full-fledged career. In 2005, he worked for Maui Brewing Co. where he found great success with his smooth and robust blends. In 2008, Tom and his wife Jayne purchased Tako Taco, a quaint Mexican restaurant in upcountry Waimea where he added a brewery and began churning out creative local suds by 2011. You won’t find these bold and diverse draughts anywhere else but here—Kerns is committed to keeping a small operation for environmental sustainability and to maximize the customer experience. This is evident as the Brewhaus is always bustling with devout fans and lively entertainment.

Most importantly, Big Island Brewhaus prides itself on inventiveness and evolution—they are always producing new creations and have generated 18 different brews to date, many with a fresh Big Island flare.

A new addition for this summer is Mandarin Gold. This strong golden ale is brewed with whole local mandarin oranges and local honey. It is full bodied and fruity with a rich character that will complement any of the brewpub’s spicy Mexican cuisine. Tom has surely continued his award-winning ways; he took home gold and silver medals at the 2011 U.S. Open Beer Championship. This gem of a microbrewery is certain to provide any and all visitors with a unique experience, and as their slogan says: “Live Beer, Live Food, and Live Music.”

Located in the heart of Waimea, Big Island Brewhaus is located at 64-1066 Mamalahoa Hwy. Call (808) 887-1717 or visit


Malty Paradise

For those located on the eastern side of the island, fear not!  Just outside of downtown Hilo you will find all of the brewed goodness your heart desires.  Hawai‘i Nui Brewing Company and Mehana Brewing Company joined forces in 2009, becoming the largest independent craft brewer in Hawai‘i and the only 100% local bottler. 

All of their beers are meant to complement the relaxed beauty and natural splendor of Hawai‘i.  After all, how you enjoy these “Beers of Paradise” is nearly as important as the beer itself. They currently produce ten different blends under the Hawai‘i Nui and Mehana labels. These savory creations can be found in select stores and restaurants throughout state or in the brewery’s tasting room in Hilo where the filling of growlers is highly encouraged.

Hawai‘i Nui just recently broke into seasonal beers with the festive Southern Cross Imperial Red Ale released last winter. However, most of their libations are brewed year-round including the 2010 U.S. Open Beer Championship Silver Medal winner, Hapa Brown Ale. Rich and malty, this blend has an intriguing hop character that is infused with bold roasted and chocolate malts and two-row caramel. Hapa Brown contains only pure Hawaiian water and its inviting taste mirrors the tranquility and hospitality of the Big Island. It’s the perfect pau hana (end of work) brew that complements hearty meat dishes, ideal for all the burger lovers out there.

Visit the brewery’s tasting room and gift shop at 275 Kawili St. in downtown Hilo. Call (808) 934-8211 or visit for more information.


There’s a popular German drinking song derived from Oktoberfest called “Es gibt kein Bier auf Hawai‘i,” simply translated, “There is no beer in Hawai‘i.” It’s one brew lover’s lament and refusal to honeymoon in Hawai‘i due to the island’s lack of beer. Clearly, the songwriter was vastly mistaken. On the Big Island, there are an incredible number of fresh and unique local brews to sip and enjoy; and these are only a few of the many breweries and flavor offerings that exist in the state. No matter your beer preference, you never have to go far to enjoy a high quality, handcrafted “cold one” in Hawai‘i.                                                 

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