Honolulu Beerworks

I happened to be in Honolulu, Hawaii on business recently. I know what you’re thinking and I appreciate your sympathy. Anyway, I naturally wanted to check out the beer scene before doing anything else. Oddly, there is not a huge local craft beer scene in Honolulu. It may not be a huge surprise since ingredients would mostly have to be imported from the mainland, but it just seems that craft beer may not be as much of a craze in Hawaii as it is elsewhere on the mainland. The big brewery is Kona Brewing Company. The main brewery is on the big island of Hawaii, but they have a few brewpubs around the islands. I happened to visit the one at the marina at Hawaii Kai on Oahu. Other than Kona, there are a few small breweries around the islands – Mehana Brewing Company, Kauai Brewing Company and Maui Brewing Company. None of those is on Oahu. It also seems there are a few that existed briefly on Oahu and went out of business, e.g., Aloha Brewing Company. There is also the Brewseum, which is a beer hall connected to the Home of the Brave Museum. Home of the Brave is also a beer that is served at the Brewseum and at the military clubs on Oahu. I would place that in a category of its own. Anyway, the only brew on site bar/nanobrewery is Honolulu Beerworks in a hip area called Kaka’ako. Kaka’ako also features lots of industrial buildings with large murals on the sides and up and coming restaurants (as well as actual industrial and automotive related businesses). The Beerworks is located in a building with a roll up garage door and looks like it might have been a body shop or something before it was a brewery. Anyway, it is nicely decorated in a sort of industrial/woody rustic theme with local artwork on the walls. There is an outdoor seating area on the side with a few picnic tables. They do serve some food, but it’s not an extensive menu. The highlight is Bavarian pretzels with mustard, but they can also be ordered with a fondue cheese dip, which I highly recommend. At the time I visited they had 10 beers on draft. There is Pia Mahi’Ai Saison, Kaka’ako Kolsch, Animal Farmhouse Ale, Sheltered Bay IPA, Rye Not Pale Ale, Cooke St. ESB, Surf Session IPA, Point Panic Pale Ale, South Shore Stout and Makakilo Brown. The saison is made with lemongrass and it really jumps out at you. It has a nice fruity yeast aroma and flavor and there is also a hint of what I say is green grapes. It very nice and refreshing. I would have that one again. The Kolsch almost seemed like they poured the wrong thing. It was a little dark and had a slightly bitter flavor to it. If this really was the Kolsch, I didn’t care much for it. The Animal Farmhouse Ale tasted a little bit like the saison in the sense that it had a slightly fruity flavor to it, but it doesn’t have the lemongras and so it doesn’t have that little citrus bite to it. It was very mild and would make a good lawnmower beer. The Sheltered Bay IPA was a decent IPA with a piney hop bite to it, but not outstanding. The Rye Not Pale Ale was very good. It had the sort of woody spice you might expect from the rye and it was an otherwise mild ale with only a little earthy hop to it, but it had a finish that reminded me of tart cherry. I really liked this one and would definitely have it again. The Cooke St. ESB was a light and mild bitter with a little smoke in the finish, but nothing special to me. The Surf Session IPA, on the other hand, really stood out, especially for a session IPA. This one was light and refreshing with a light citrus hop and what I would say was a mild flavor of coconut in the finish. The waitress swore they do not actually use coconut in making it, so it is likely from the hops. The Panic Point Pale Ale was a mild pale without much hop to it. I would say it was a little bland for my taste, but could be a good entry level beer for someone making the switch from macro-beer. The South Shore Stout was another outstanding one. This one had a strong roasty aroma and strong espresso coffee flavor to it, but was not too heavy. There was no actual coffee used to make it, but it really did taste like it. I really liked this one as well and would definitely have it again. It went nicely with the Bavarian pretzels. Lastly was the Makakilo Brown. This one, as with a lot of browns had a mild malty flavor to it, but for my taste was quite bland. Overall, I would highly recommend this brewery. I liked their beers over Kona’s, though the Kona Brewpub is nicely situated on a marina with a nice view. I would give the brewery four out of five proper pints.