Who else travels hours away from home to try different craft breweries? Just me?
In all seriousness, I use visiting other places as a convenient excuse to drink beer at as many craft breweries as possible. This time around I visited beautiful Honolulu in Hawaii which has a fast-growing craft brew scene.
During our multi-hour beer trek across Honolulu, we ended up stopping by four local breweries. A few days later I checked out another. And I drank Kona Brewing beers pretty whenever I wanted beer, but I can do that on the mainland so I’ll exclude them from this review (no shade to Kona Brewing).
Here are the highlights.
Hana Koa Brewing
The first stop was Hana Koa Brewing, an established brewery that claims to have 30 dinosaur toys hidden across their taproom. Unfortunately, some were hidden in a loft that we couldn’t visit due to COVID restrictions, but I suppose some things are more important than looking for miniature dinosaur figurines.
Hana Koa Brewing is the perfect place to start (or stop) and beer excursion. Aside from their comprehensive food menu, Hana Koa featured about a dozen beers on tap. I started with the Rooftop, a nice pale ale that had a fuller flavor than its 5% ABV would indicate.
I also tried the Surf Pup, a grapefruit Gose, solely because of the name. It was good.
Hana Koa apparently does can releases too, so any Hazy IPA enthusiasts might want to check their upcoming releases before scheduling a visit.
Someone at Hana Koa recommended that we check out Lokahi Brewing, a new spot that opened just back in May. If you’ve visited a brand new brewery before, you might be thinking that everything on the menu:
- Tasted the same
- Tasted bad
I’m pleased to let you know that Lokahi was surprisingly good for a young new brewery. I don’t normally recommend flights, but this is a brewery where a flight might be the best option. With your flight, I suggest trying the Black IPA and Macadamia Nut Brown Ale.
Aloha Beer Co.
It was dark and a Sunday evening when we got to Aloha Beer, but I have a hunch that this place gets really popular during the day.
How can I tell, you ask? Because lots of people there had dogs.
Due in part to the fact that I had been drinking beer all afternoon, I had the Queen St. Pils, which was exactly how you expect a Pilsner to be. I did try a sip of the Hop Lei IPA and regretted getting the Pils, because the IPA was definitely the way to go between the two.
For non-beer lovers, Aloha Beer also had several cocktails on the menu, along with some different types of wine.
Maybe it was the jet lag. Maybe it was the 15,000 steps of beer hopping. Maybe it was the wrong beer.
Whatever it was, Waikiki Brewing did not do it for me.
The space was great (I went to the one right by Aloha Beer, with a similar size/vibe), and the people were nice. I even saw dogs at Waikiki Brewing. Unfortunately, the 808 Pale Ale tasted like malt in all the wrong ways. I love a malty beer, but this wasn’t it.
Maybe I should have been skeptical when I saw the Jalapeno Amber Ale. Just thinking about that made me shudder.
My friends tried Waikiki Brewing at other times and swore by their stuff. They called me a madman. A heretic. But if I can’t believe in myself, who will believe in me?
Don’t miss Maui Brewing. With its bitchin location in Waikiki, big menu, and range of beer options, this is the perfect place to shed your beer-aficionado persona you developed to impress your friends and — get this — enjoy beer.
Maui Brewing isn’t on the scale of Kona Brewing, but the gist is similar: big brewery, lots of beers. It reminded me of Lagunitas in a lot of ways, in that it was a great spot with solid beers that won’t knock your socks off but won’t disappoint.
Saying ‘Aloha’ To Hawaii
When it’s hot and humid out, you’re sitting on the beach, and you’re realizing that your body burns a lot easier than you remembered, drinking beer doesn’t really become an all-day thing, or even an everyday thing. Barely even a thing, to be honest, since there are so many great cocktail bars across Honolulu and Waikiki.
But let me leave you with some parting words: DO give the beer in Hawaii a try. The beer scene has transcended beyond the “tourists are here, they drink Sam Adams, right?” phase that so many cities feel trapped in.
Hawaii has pride in its beer, too. You’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that isn’t serving either Kona or Maui Brewing beers, if not both. When you’re in Hawaii you want to feel like you’re in Hawaii, and Heineken doesn’t do that. Next time you’re in Hawaii, be sure to drink the beer.
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