Pineapples. Kona coffee. Fresh fish. Your list of island flavors is just waiting to be devoured. What else is on it? If one of your answers isn’t “beer,” then you may be missing out. Plenty of hops-hungry travelers indeed come to the islands to sample some of our tastiest brews, and if you want to take part as well, here are some of the best local breweries and beers to check out while you’re here!
Kona Brewing Company
Kona Brewing Company is arguably the most famous—and most widely-sold—local Hawaii beer. For good reason, too! Not only are their products consistent and delicious, but they’re a great presence in the community as well. They’re totally committed to reducing their carbon footprint; they even collect the evaporated water back into whiskey barrels, and then it’s used for landscape irrigation. They also offer support and donations to many local and national charities, and sponsor sporting events around the islands. Okay, that’s all amazing, but how’s the beer? Try it for yourself—and you will be happy you did! Find their flagship beers all over Hawaii: look for (among others) Longboard Lager, Castaway IPA, and, my personal fave, Wailua Wheat. It’s a crisp, wheat beer that’s subtly infused with passionfruit flavors, and it’s perfect to sip on a sunny Maui afternoon. Bonus points for their packaging: it’s colorful, artfully done, and has a sort of retro-Hawaii feel about it. The best part? Under each bottle cap is a different Hawaiian word or phrase—we love an educational beer!
Mehana Brewing Company
Another Big-Island brewery, Mehana has been making delicious local beer since the nineties. Even though they were purchased by Hawaii Nui Brewing Company, they keep their original name on their original beers. They started in the former Hilo Soda Works facility, and keep a local spirit in the naming of their beers. Look for Mauna Kea Pale Ale, Tsunami IPA, and Hawaiian Crow Porter, which takes the cake for my favorite local dark beer. It’s smooth, dark, and malty, and goes great with a nicely grilled steak. Look for Mehana’s silver cans with their signature cartoony labeling, and enjoy!
Maui Brewing Company
This home-grown brewery is becoming quite the Maui institution, with the opening of their second state-of-the-art brewery in Kihei. They have a location in Lahaina, as well, and both breweries feature tours and tasting rooms. Want more than a taste? Hit up their Brew Pub in Kahana, and spend the afternoon sampling their huge selection of local, unique beers. Its wood furnishings, crazy-high ceiling, and chalkboard menu give it a modern, friendly feel. It has one out-of-this-world feature that I totally love, though: an “ice rail” on the bar! That’s right—when you’re between sips, sit your beer on the frosty rail running the length of the bar, and you won’t have to worry about the last sip being warm. Nice! While their Brew Pub features a rotating selection of exclusive drafts, you can find their canned beer all over the islands as well. Be sure to try their Bikini Blonde Lager, CoCoNut Porter, and, my hands-down favorite beer of all time, Big Swell IPA. “Hoppy” doesn’t begin to describe the crisp, slightly fruity, and super sharp flavor bursting from the un-missable royal blue can. If you’re an IPA connoisseur, put this on your beer bucket list!
More breweries are in the works on several different islands, so watch out for even more bubbly island goodness in stores and bars across Hawaii. Not a beer drinker? Keep an eye out for a future blog post featuring local spirits—another perfect way to toast to a celebration, a vacation, or just pau hana on Aloha Friday!