Beer entrepreneurs seek to reawaken brewing industry [The Honolulu Star-Advertiser :: ]
(Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 02--Kakaako warehouse? Cheers!
A Waikiki burger restaurant? Prost!
A Kihei industrial park? Bottoms up!
Beer is expected to soon flow from the three venues as part of a major expansion in Hawaii's brewing industry that also includes more tentative plans by a World War II museum operator, two cousins from Pittsburgh, a well-established local beer producer and a former brewpub looking for resurrection.
Realizing even several of these ventures will contribute to arguably record growth for local production of craft ales and lagers in the state.
"The industry (in Hawaii) has had its ups and downs," said Tim Golden, author of the Beer in Hawaii blog. "It seems like things are going up again."
First on tap among new local breweries is Honolulu Beerworks, a brewpub led by Geoff Seideman in an old Kakaako warehouse at 328 Cooke St. expected to open later this month with up to a dozen beers served in a bar area fronting a production area.
Another brewpub in the works is Cheeseburger Waikiki, which is going through the permitting and licensing process to add brewing equipment to one of its restaurants and aims to start making and serving its own brand of beers in June or July.
And in Kihei, Maui Brewing Co. is building a new brewery projected to open in June and replace a smaller facility in Lahaina. A brewpub would be added to the new brewery next year under the plan, giving the Maui company a second brewpub on the Valley Isle.
These three establishments could be joined by at least four other breweries in more tentative stages of planning, which would add to a trend that has seen three Hawaii breweries open in the last three years.
Hawaii has a long history of large-scale beer production with brands including Royal and Primo. However, development of brewpubs and smaller-scale craft brewing here has lagged behind a boom that has spread across the country over the last couple of decades or so, in part because of high production costs and slowly shifting local consumer tastes.
Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant at Aloha Tower Marketplace was the first brewpub an establishment that brews and serves its beer in a bar or restaurant setting to open in Hawaii in 1994.
A couple of other relatively long-established local breweries are Kona Brewing Co. on Hawaii island and Maui Brewing.
More recent additions have been Big Island Brewhaus in 2011, Kauai Island Brewery and Grill in 2012 and Kauai Beer Co. last year.
Golden said local tastes have expanded to embrace more flavorful and adventurous beers, which in turn has expanded the opportunity to satisfy demand. Yet the high cost for real estate and to import supplies for beer production has kept many from entering or succeeding in the business.
"I think the beer culture is growing rapidly here but brewing as a business is still in its infancy," he said. "There is a lot of room to grow. There's room for competition."
Craft beer production in Honolulu, or Oahu, pales in comparison with many cities with far smaller populations.
There are 12 brewpubs in Albuquerque, N.M., while Colorado Springs, Colo., has 10, Beer Advocate reports. These two cities also have populations roughly half the size of Oahu.
As a state, Hawaii ranked 30th for craft breweries per capita with nine, according to a 2012 report by the Brewers Association.
While it's true that shipping and real estate costs have stymied the industry in Hawaii, it has also been beset by quality issues.
Local breweries that have failed since the craft beer industry took off include early entrant Alii Brewing Co. in Iwilei and two short-lived recent efforts: Pacific Breach Brewing in Pearl City and Hawaiian Islands Brewing Co. at Ward Centre.
Hawaii Nui Brewing, a Hilo-based company that acquired the well-established Keoki and Mehana beer brands, filed for bankruptcy in April and emerged from Chapter 11 several months later under new ownership that anticipates resuming local beer production next month.
Aloha Beer Co., which started as a brewpub within Sam Choy's Breakfast Lunch & Crab restaurant in Iwilei, ceased local production after the brewpub shut down in June, though producing bottled Aloha beer has continued on the mainland.
Andy Baker, a former Hawaii Nui principal now working for Aloha, said Aloha has an offer in to lease a property in Honolulu to brew draft versions of its beer for local distribution. Atasting room would be part of the brewery, though a separate brewpub location is also being sought.
"There is a tremendous amount of consumer demand," he said. "They want bigger, fuller, quality beers, and they want variety. But local production is very expensive to do."
Seideman, who is a former Aloha assistant brewer, said wholesale distributors and local bars catering to craft beers are clamoring for local brews and helped drive him to open Beerworks.
"There's definitely a demand for locally made beer," he said, noting that Kauai has more brewpubs than Oahu.
Robert Kaskie, executive vice president of Cheeseburger Restaurants Inc., said his company sent a general manager to learn how to brew beer, and plans to produce about 2,500 kegs a year at its restaurant at 1945 Kalakaua Ave. Up to eight varieties of beer produced would be distributed to five other isle Cheeseburger restaurants, including one slated to open in July on Maui.
In Kihei, Maui Brewing is building a brewery at Maui Research and Technology Park to enhance production that reached roughly 20,000 barrels of beer, or 40,000 kegs, last year.
Rival Kona Brewing Co., which brews draft beer on Hawaii island that is served at its restaurants in Kona and Hawaii Kai, is seeking to open a brewery and brewpub/restaurant on Oahu.
A site at the Kamehameha Schools retail project SALT in Kakaako is a possibility, according to people familiar with the effort, though Kona Brewing declined to comment on site prospects.
"We're looking," said Mattson Davis, Kona Brewing's managing director. "It's an exciting time for Hawaiian craft beer companies."
Another tentative venture is being pursued by Pittsburgh natives Darren Garvey and Eric Jackson, who aim to open a brewery named Stewbum & Stonewall on Oahu. Garvey and Jackson, who are cousins, raised $52,000 through Kickstarter in August to help finance their plan.
Garvey said finding real estate has been a challenge. "That's our biggest hurdle," he said.
Glen Tomlinson is another budding brewer. He has operated a museum in Kakaako dedicated to World War II for 23 years and finished adding a 50-seat dining area decorated as a beer hall last month after being inspired by the home-brewing efforts of his children in college.
Tomlinson said he obtained a brewpub license and plans to add a small brewing system so he can make and offer Home of the Brave beer to customers he brings in as part of daily tours.
"It's a brewseum," he said.
Tomlinson, whose museum has craft beers on tap now including some from Maui Brewing and Kona Brewing, hopes to start pouring his own brews within six months.
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