10 brewers to sample at the Kona Brewers Festival
Created in 1996 to celebrate the founding of the Kona Brewing Company, the mission of the Kona Brewers Festival is to raise funds and awareness for nonprofit organizations which contribute to the well being of Hawaiʻi’s youth, environmental conservation and cultural traditions through the celebration of handcrafted brews and local cuisine in a sustainable community gathering on the island of Hawaiʻi.
Enjoy a premium Hawaii-influenced brew and a bite while overlooking the gorgeous Koko marina, which is the location of the ancient Kuapa fishpond.
When the Kona Brewers Festival tapped its first kegs 20 years ago, recycling services in Hawaiʻi were just a dream. But, from the get go, protecting the unique environment of Hawaiʻi became a distinct goal of the fledgling festival. Since 1996, the Kona Brewers Festival has raised awareness, visibility and more than $850,000 for nonprofits and community organizations that support the health and wellbeing of Hawaiʻi’s youth, as well as its precious environment and cultural traditions. The festival is a celebration of handcrafted beers and of Hawaiʻi cuisine, but at its core, it is more than that. The festival’s values reflect that of the brewery that founded the festival: community collaboration, sustainable legacy and responsible guidance.
“It was only my second week on the job when I attended the second annual Kona Brewers Festival; I knew I’d made the right choice to move to Kona and work in a community of like minded people that had their priorities straight,” says Mattson Davis, president and chief executive officer of the Kona Brewing Company. “At the festival, beer fans can enjoy exceptionally brewed beers with local fresh flavors while celebrating the environment with friends both old and new.”
Now in its 21st year, the community gathering is held at the Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. The lūʻau grounds overlook a backdrop of passing paddleboards and canoes at the historic Kamakahonu Bay in Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi. With 72 selections of delicious, handcrafted brews served alongside a wide variety of island-style cuisine from 36 Hawaiʻi chefs, it’s a must-attend event for craft beer aficionados.
Purchase tickets to the 2016 festival, happening March 12, here.
Each participating brewery will offer two selections of craft brews: sometimes a trusted favorite, sometimes a new experiment that’s ready for testing on the discerning tastebuds of brewers and connoisseurs. Paired with culinary offerings from some of the Big Island’s best-loved restaurants, ranging from fresh fish and smoked meats to deep fried avocados and tropical sweets, even beers you may have tried before can take on exciting, new dimensions.
Live music and entertainment by Hawaiʻi performers give the event it’s fun, electric vibe. Be sure to check out the annual Trash Fashion Show, a performance in which “trashionistas” strut “trashion” made from entirely reused rubbish and recycled materials.
Today, festival rubbish is transformed into compost for school gardens. With thousands of craft beer and gourmet food aficionados convening for the Kona festival, trash is an issue that must be considered, and Kona Brewers Festival organizers make a serious effort to lead by example, adhering to a continuous goal of zero waste.
“I am always inspired by the dozens of volunteers that help festival-goers contain as many discards as possible,” explains festival Sustainability Coordinator Krista Donaldson. “Zero waste centers display a jar of soil from the previous year’s discards. Knowing waste will become soil at local schools drives our volunteers to go all out; no discards left behind.”
Industry standards define zero waste as 85 percent waste diversion. Since 2008, volunteers and organizers have made every effort to reduce trash from the festival. In 2014, the festival exceeded its goal, diverting over 90 percent of festival waste from landfills. Additionally, volunteers salvaged 76 bags of food and food-service waste for compost, recycled three large truck loads of materials, and eliminated over 30,000 disposables by switching to reusable utensils.
The festival cultivates aloha among diverse groups through a celebration that benefits nonprofits, perpetuates a model of interconnectedness between humans and the environment, and is a source of inspiration for future generations on how to weave business together with conscientious stewardship. And what better way to stride boldly toward a better and brighter future than with a great beer in hand?
Below: Summit is proud to present a guide to the local brewers featured in this year's Kona Brewers Festival, along with each brewer's two 2016 selections.
Stewbum & Stonewall Brewing Co.
The legend of Stewbum & Stonewall began in the early 1970s when two fine gentlemen, Joseph T. Garvey (a.k.a. Stewbum, a.k.a. Joe Mama) and Thomas R. Jackson (a.k.a. Stonewall, a.k.a. Homer) met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. An instant friendship was formed based on camaraderie, football, general monkey business and, of course, beer. Lots and lots of beer. Decades later, in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, the beer-loving legacy of Stewbum and Stonewall lives on in the form of a brewery, founded by Darren J. Garvey (son of Stewbum) and Eric T. Jackson (son of Stonewall) as a tribute to the friendship and lives of their fathers. The lads craft six different brews out of a Kāneʻohe warehouse brewery and plan on opening a brewpub in Honolulu to serve theirs and other local brewers’ beers.
Serving this year:
Makana Island Wheat (Belgian Style Witbier) // ABV: 4.8% // IBUs: 17 // Makana is a Hawaiian word meaning gift or reward; brewed with East Kent Goldings hops, the proceeds from this wheat ale will be directly donated to local charities such as the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation.
Swear Jar IPA // ABV: 6.9% // IBUs: 71 // This solid India pale ale is brewed with Chinook, Cascade and Citra hops.
46-174 Kahuhipa St. Unit E, Kāneʻohe, Hawaiʻi 96744 // stewbumandstonewall.com
Big Island Brewhaus
These hard-working brewers have been consistently winning awards with the beers they produce at their 10 barrel brewhouse, including a recent third place for their Golden Sabbath Belgian-style ale at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival (where more than 5,500 beers were judged in 91 categories). Producing a wide variety of beers, the goal at Brewhaus is to pair them with a diverse and distinct, local craft cuisine. In keeping with their quest to create and serve locally sourced, fresh, handcrafted food that is as creative and delicious as the beers they brew, the folks at Brewhaus work closely with local farmers and fishermen, as well as with local cheese, bread and ice-cream makers (and beekeepers), whose quality products are incorporated throughout Brewhaus’ menu.
Brewhaus began bottling in April 2013, and the brewery’s three flagship, multi-medal winning beers—Overboard IPA, Golden Sabbath and White Mountain Porter—are available in share-worthy 22 ounce bottles across Hawaiʻi in liquor and grocery stores, restaurants and at resorts.
Serving this year:
Red Giant // ABV: 6.5% // IBUs: 40 // This hoppy red ale is brewed with a rich blend of light and dark caramel malts and a full dose of American hops; it finishes with dry hop and toffee flavors.
The Halfling IPA // ABV: 3.8% // IBUs: 40 // This session IPA is refreshing and crisp, but brewed with full-flavored Maris Otter and Munich malt to add body and balance.
64-1066 Māmalahoa Hwy., Kamuela, Hawaiʻi 96743 // Mon.–Sat., 11am–8:30pm, Sun., noon–8pm // (808) 887-1717, bigislandbrewhaus.com
Waikiki Brewing Company
Waikīkī’s first ever brewery creates premium quality, fresh, handmade craft beer in a seven barrel brewhouse on Kalākaua Avenue. When Cheeseburger Restaurants GM, Joe Lorenzen, saw untapped potential in the unused banqueut room at his restaurant, he decided to turn a hobby into a business. After having completed coursework with the American Brewers Guild, Lorenzen began producing a wide range of beers. In addition to a core lineup of eight beers, ranging from a light crisp blonde to a robust porter, Waikiki Brewing Company also indulge the brewers’ creativity with seasonal and limited-release beers. All of the beer is brewed on site, in full view of the brewpub bar, which makes for a fun experience. And feel free to ask the bartender about how the beers are made; the staff is very knowledgeable.
Serving this year:
Jalapeño Mouth // ABV: 5.3% // IBUs: 30 // The Jalapeño Mouth is a hugely flavorful chili pepper beer with an amber ale base. It has a wonderful green chili aroma from the 30 lbs of fresh jalapeños we incorporate into the brew, and has just enough pepper heat on the finish to draw you in for another glass.
Hana Hou Hefe // ABV: 5.8% // IBUs: 15 // The Hana Hou Hefe is an unfiltered American Hefeweizen brewed with wheat, barley, hops, yeast and just a touch of strawberry puree and sweet orange peel. Its crisp flavors are a refreshing treat on a hot day at the beach, or after a long day of work.
1945 Kalākaua Ave., Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96815 // Mon., Wed.–Thurs., 11am–11pm, Tues., Fri.–Sat., 11am–midnight // (808) 946-6590, waikikibrewing.com
Mehana Brewing Company
During the 1920s, the facility that currently houses Mehana Brewing Company was the home of Hilo Soda Works, a local company that made soda pop. During the 1990s, a grandson of the soda works owners decided to try brewing beer, and Mehana was born. The brand became a success and merged with another brand, Hawaiʻi Nui, to expand its presence in the market.
In 2009 the original owners of Mehana decided to retire, and Hawaiʻi Nui took over the brewery. But, out of respect for the family, Hawaiʻi Nui’s owners kept the Mehana name on the original beer recipes they had inherited from Mehana. The new recipes created by the new owners bear the Hawaiʻi Nui brand name instead. There are currently five craft beers under the Mehana brand: Mauna Kea Pale Ale, Volcano Red Ale, Hawaiian Crow Porter, Humpback Island Lager and Tsunami IPA. The facility features a tasting room for patrons to sample these beers.
Serving this year:
Tsunami IPA // ABV: 7.2% // IBUs: 75 // An all malt American style India Pale Ale (IPA) made with more than 15 lbs of Pacific Jade hops, delivering an herbal infusion of fresh citrus and crushed black pepper. Pairs well with spicy foods like Thai or Indian curries.
Humpback Island Lager // ABV: 4.2% // IBUs: 22 // An Island Style Lager with a subtle Northwest-style hoppiness; light to medium-bodied with a slight, biscuity maltiness and a tight billowy head. Pairs well with light foods like sushi, chicken and salads.
275 East Kawili St., Hilo, Hawaiʻi 96720 // Mon.–Tues., Thurs., noon–5pm, Wed., Fri., noon–6pm, Sat., noon–4pm // (808) 934-8211, mehanabrewing.com
Hawaiʻi Nui Brewing
Hawaiʻi Nui Brewing company creates small batches of all-natural ales and lagers created using the finest barley malt, wheat, hops and yeast.
Serving this year:
Southern Cross Double Style Belgian Red Ale // ABV: 8.3% // IBUs: 58 // Southern Cross is a Belgian-style red ale. Expect big caramel maltiness and light toffee notes, accented with a subtle citrus character (think jackfruit) that comes from the Belgian yeast strain used to ferment this beer. Pairs well with heartier dishes such as pork, duck, or game.
Kauaʻi Golden Ale // ABV: 4.9% // IBUs: 20 // Gently balanced with a delicate citrus aroma, this light-bodied craft beer comes with a classic hop aroma and a dry finish. Try it with sushi, sashimi and poke, or with a salad.
275 East Kawili St., Hilo, Hawaiʻi 96720 // Mon.–Tues., Thurs., noon–5pm, Wed., Fri., noon–6pm, Sat., noon–4pm // (808) 934-8211, hawaiinuibrewing.com
Located in the heart of Kakaʻako, this brewpub features 14 beers on tap, several of which rotate in and out with new recipes owner and brewer Geoffrey Seideman is experimenting with. The pub itself is designed with its artsy neighborhood location in mind. The large warehouse offers a rustic yet hip feel that suits the up-and-coming Kakaʻako community. The recycled wooden walls, benches, and cabinets provide the perfect ambiance to let loose and drink a few local brews.
Serving this year:
HI-PA (Hop Island India Pale Ale) // ABV: 7.3% // IBUs: 80 // A bold, dank and resiny IPA loaded with a melody of hop aromas and flavors. CTZ provides a solid bitter base along with strong pine, while Amarillo and Citra layer in bright and vibrant notes of tangerine, grapefruit and pineapple. Mosaic rounds everything out with a hint of fresh berries. This brilliant, golden ale packs a punch, yet finishes crisp inviting another sip.
Pia Mahiʻai Honey Citrus Saison // ABV: 5.9% // IBUs: 24 // Beerworks’ flagship saison, Pia Mahiʻai (Farmers Beer) is a tribute to the farmers of Hawaiʻi, and a local take on the classic Belgian farmhouse ale style. Brewed with locally grown oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, lemongrass and Big Island honey, Pia Mahiʻai explodes with fresh, pungent citrus and spice aromas that follow through in the taste. Beerworks uses a house saison yeast to create complex flavors of allspice, clove and a slight peppery finish. This unfiltered ale is brewed with up to 30 percent wheat, which helps provide a gentle smoothness and a wonderful cloudy appearance.
328 Cooke St., Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96813 // Mon.–Thurs., 11am–10pm, Fri.–Sat., 11am–midnight // (808) 589-2337, honolulubeerworks.com
Kona Brewing Company
Kona Brewing Company was started by father and son team Cameron Healy and Spoon Khalsa. The pair had a dream to create fresh, local island brews made with spirit, passion and quality. Their love of Hawaiʻi, and a desire to protect the pristine environment here, brought them to the Big Island to fulfill their vision. The company introduced Pacific Golden Ale (now called Big Wave Golden Ale) and Fire Rock Pale Ale to Hawaiʻi in bottles and kegs on February 14, 1995. Longboard Island Lager was added three years later.
Approximately 10 other styles of beer are brewed on a regular basis and served at Kona Brewing Company’s pubs with a select few being served at some finer restaurants and markets. These beers range in color from very blonde to black; in flavor from tangy to hoppy to roasty, and everything in between. Today the three flagship beers are widely distributed throughout Hawaiʻi, making Kona the top selling craft beer in the islands. Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, Fire Rock Pale Ale, and Castaway IPA are distributed throughout all 50 states and in 26 other countries. The Aloha Series, made up of Koko Brown, Lemongrass Luau and Pipeline Porter, is distributed throughout the United States as well.
Serving this year:
Kona Lemongrass Luau // ABV: 5.8% // Lemongrass Luau is a crisp, refreshing blonde ale brewed with wheat malt, a variety of hops, Maui turbinado sugar and fresh Big Island ginger and lemongrass. The hops lend layers of earthy complexity that complement the subtle sweetness from the turbinado sugar. It’s further balanced by spicy, gingersnap flavors and aromas from the fresh local ginger added throughout the brewing process.
Festival Session IPA // A limited special release Kona Brewers Festival session (lower alcohol by volume) India Pale Ale.
74-5612 Pawai Pl., Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi 96740 // Sun.–Thurs., 11am–9pm, Fri.–Sat., 11am–10pm // (808) 334-2739, konabrewingco.com
Lanikai Brewing Company
Located in the world famous windward Oʻahu beach town of Kailua, Hawaiʻi, Lanikai Brewing Company (LBC) is situated adjacent to the beautiful Hāmākua Marsh wildlife sanctuary. Built as a production brewery featuring a tasting room open on the weekend for bottle sales, growler fills and logo merchandise, LBC focuses on creating island-inspired beers showcasing exotic and rare ingredients from the Pacific.
LBC has two production-scaled beers (the Moku Imperial IPA and the Pillbox Porter) that are offered in 22 ounce bottles in bars, restaurants and supermarkets throughout Oʻahu, the Big Island, Maui and Kauaʻi. The company releases a "Brewers Series" beer every 3–4 weeks featuring rare local Hawaiian ingredients, including the Forever Summer Ale (a spontaneously fermented berliner weisse soured with local passion fruit, oranges and guava), the Kailua Beach Cruiser (wet-hopped pale ale with lemongrass and mandarin oranges) the Route 70 Saison and the Poha Loa (a Belgian blonde ale brewed with Hawaiian poha berries).
Serving this year:
Route 70 Saison // ABV: 7% // IBUs: 28 // Hibiscus flowers bring tartness to this ale, balanced by a faint clove and peppery yeast profile with a touch sweetness that comes from the local Hawaiian honey used in this recipe; a crisp and dry beer with a tart finish and a foamy, slightly pink head.
Pillbox Porter // ABV: 6.5% // IBUs: 45 // Using Tahitian and Hawaiian vanillas provides a subtle spice and herbal aroma that is balanced by the smooth caramel, toffee and chocolate finish. The body is thinned out to make it more approachable in the tropical Hawaiian climate. An exceptional dessert beer featuring all the malty sweetness of a well-made, robust porter.
175-C Hāmākua Dr., Kailua, Hawaiʻi 96734 // Fri., 5–9pm, Sat.–Sun., noon–5pm // lanikaibrewing.com
Maui Brewing Company
Maui Brewing Company is Hawaiʻi’s largest, independently owned brewery and the only Hawaiʻi brewery with mainland distribution that is 100 percent produced in the Hawaiian Islands. Garrett and Melanie Marrero opened the brewery in 2005 after falling in love with the islands. The then-Fish and Game Brewing Company in Kahana, Maui, would become the new brewery’s first location. In 2007, to try and keep up with demand, the brewery expanded into a production space in Lahaina. But the new spot on the west side of the Valley Isle was also quickly outgrown by the burgeoning business, and the brewery once again relocated to its current facility in Kīhei, which features a tasting room with happy hour from 3–6 p.m. every day (the company also has a brewpub in the Kahana Gateway Center in Lahaina). The new brewery allows Maui Brewing Company to brew up to 60,000 barrels of beer a year.
With the motto, “Handcrafted Ales & Lagers Brewed with Aloha,” the Maui Brewing Company team members consider themselves stewards of the community and of the ‘āina, and curators of the craft beer way of life. Even the cans this brewery’s beer is sold in are made in Hawai‘i on the island of O‘ahu, and the brewers use local ingredients in their beer recipes, such as the Maui-grown pineapple that finds its way into the brewery’s Mana Wheat American pale ale.
Maui Brewing Company beer is available in 15 states and Washington D.C., with a core line up of the Bikini Blonde Lager, the Big Swell IPA, Mana Wheat and the Coconut Porter. The brewery also releases limited release beers including, but not limited to, the Pueo Pale Ale, LahainaTown Brown Ale, Pau Hana Pilsner, Black Rock Lager, Imperial Coconut Porter and the Double Overhead Double IPA.
Serving this year:
Hop Kine India Pale Lager // ABV: 5.1% // IBUs: 65 // A twist on the incredibly popular India Pale Ale category this beer has a similar malt character and aggressive hop profile, but is fermented with a clean finishing lager yeast. The cooler, slower fermentation produces far less esters than a warm ale fermentation resulting in a cleaner, crisp flavor and mouthfeel. Brewed with pilsner and caramel malts, pacific northwest hops and traditional lager yeast, the crisp, clean, yet slightly malty base accentuates the forward hop aroma and bitterness.
Maui Hefeweizen // ABV: 4.7% // IBUs: 15 // Maui Hefeweizen is a traditional bavarian style wheat beer, brewed to showcase the true beauty of the style. Utilizing 60% malted wheat and pure yeast culture from the Hefebank (Yeast bank in Hallertau, Germany), with very little hop bitterness, the delicate and effervescent body allows the yeast character to shine. The higher than average carbonation level and lower alcohol make Maui Hefeweizen ideal for an afternoon with friends.
605 Līpoa Pkwy., Kīhei, Hawai‘i 96753 // open daily, 11am–10pm // (808) 213-3002, mauibrewingco.com
Nani Moon Meadery
Nani Moon Meadery is Hawai‘i's only commercial producer of mead—honey wine—handcrafted exclusively from locally sourced honey, fruit and spices. Redesigning mead for today's eco-foodie, Nani Moon Meads are versatile and food friendly. Each variety is unique, with a full range from dry to semi-sweet, and from fruit-forward to spiced.
Nani Moon is committed to purity and quality, and is the only brewing facility in Hawai‘i that sources 100 percent of its fermentables locally. The meadery’s products have no added sulfites or other chemical additives, and are both GMO and gluten free. Produced, bottled and sold on site at Nani Moon Meadery & Tasting Room in Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i, the Nani Moon collection is also available throughout Hawaii at select retailers, and direct shipping is available.
Serving this year:
Winter Sun // ABV: 12% // Extremely versatile, Winter Sun is crafted from Kaua‘i wildflower honey, starfruit and lilikoi (passionfruit). Pair with heavier island and Asian cuisine such as teriyaki and pulled pork or serve chilled on the beach.
Deviant Beehavior // ABV: 13% // Crafted from Kaua‘i wildflower honey and Hawaiian chili pepper, this sweet and spicy mead should be enjoyed along with island style poke, a thick (grass fed) steak, or rich dark chocolate.
4-939 D Kūhiō Hwy., Kapa‘a, Hawai‘i 96746 // Tues.–Sat., noon–5pm // (808) 651-2453, nanimoonmead.com