web analytics

Primo Beer Returns to the Islands


This is the coaster that’s served with the new Primo Beer

It’s back! Yes, Primo Beer is back on the market, complete with that familiar Hawaiian Warrior logo, although with an all-new recipe.

Primo Beer has a long history in Hawaii, dating back to 1898 when Honolulu Brewing and Malting Co. started it. Then going through several owners throughout the century through sales acquistions, including Schlitz and Stroh’s Brewing Company, who finally capped off production in 1997.

In 1999 Pabst Brewing Company acquired Stroh’s, who owned the Primo label. Now fast-forward to 2007-’08, we have the return of this household Hawaii brand.

What’s interesting is that Pabst has sub-contracted Keoki Brewing Company in Lihue, Kauai to produce Primo’s draft and bottled products for the islands. Which is nice, as it gives them the right to say “Made in Hawaii”. Always a good thing!

Well speaking of Warriors, I got to sample a draft pint of the newly-formulated Primo beer over at The Shack Hawaii Kai this past New Year’s day while watching the UH Warriors Sugar Bowl smackdown.

So how is it? Well it’s labeled as a “premium lager”, so I was already expecting quite some character to it. On the first sip, it hit me as being a little dry and bitter, but it smoothed out after becoming acclimated to my palate. It reminded me of a lighter version of Kona Brewing Company’s Longboard Lager, if that’s any help to you. Certainly nothing like, say, Heineken. I’d say this new Primo is more for the enthusiast, but not so sure if the masses will accept it. Having that slight bitterness, the wahines especially may shy away from it. You know how they like their sweet stuff. At least the ones that I know.

Primo claims it’s made with raw Hawaii’an Cane Sugar (where can you get THAT nowadays?), but I didn’t taste anything “sweet” about it. Or this could be part of the fermentation process, and not intended as a flavor element in the finished brew. Also, being from the tap, the draft version may not reveal all those little nuances that the bottled version might. I’d like to try the bottled version to see if this is so.

The draft certainly packed more alcohol punch than most domestics, as I was “feeling” it even on the that first pint, which I started with for the game (we had a designated driver, of course!).

You’ll have to try it for yourself and compare it side-by-side with one of your favorite beers.

Perhaps with that familiar brand name and logo, smart, aggressive advertising, and acclimation by the people to the new brew’s taste, the new Primo Beer will find success.

Okole Maluna!


Underside of the coaster that’s served with the new Primo Beer

Related Links:
Primo is Back – Honolulu Advertiser
ThatsPrimo.com – Official Primo Beer website

Post Edit – 6/21/08: I did a follow-up taste test of the new Primo Beer, including the bottled version here:
Re: Primo Beer Returns to the Islands

Post Edit – 2/09: Sited parked in front of a hotel in Waikiki this past weekend, Da’ Primo Beer promotional VW Van!…

47 thoughts on “Primo Beer Returns to the Islands

  • January 10, 2008 at 6:44 am
    Permalink

    I had heard they were coming back, will have to try it next time I’m home!

    Reply
  • January 10, 2008 at 8:50 am
    Permalink

    Don’t they still grow a small amount of sugarcane over on Maui just outside the airport? I swear I saw fields of cane when I was there 3 years ago but maybe it was just my haole eyes playing tricks on me.

    Reply
  • January 11, 2008 at 1:13 am
    Permalink

    I too had heard that Primo was coming back but I haven’t yet noticed it for sale. I’ll definitely start asking for it when I’m out.

    Reply
  • January 11, 2008 at 2:52 am
    Permalink

    Indeed they still do grow sugarcane on Maui for Maui Brand Natural Cane Sugars. Incidentally, Kauai also still grows sugarcane, but will eventually be processed primarily for ethanol in the future.

    Back to the Primo, at least the guys wearing those Primo Aloha shirts won’t look silly anymore lol

    Reply
  • January 11, 2008 at 6:45 am
    Permalink

    Nice post.. good about Primo coming back. But they need to change their label to read Hawaiian, not Hawai’ian. Bad bad typo. Pau from da grammah police now. Heh heh.

    Reply
  • January 12, 2008 at 8:11 pm
    Permalink

    All I remember about Primo Beer in the 70’s were that my grandmother used the cans to make crotchet yarn hats and handbags. Remember those?

    Yeah, they certainly need to remove that okina out of “Hawai’ian”. I love that logo though. So classic. Like going back in time.

    Reply
  • January 17, 2008 at 7:24 pm
    Permalink

    You do a fantastic job with this site. I love the photography and reviews are excellent. I can’t wait to try Primo and I do like a dry pilsner style beer so I hope it is successful.

    One small thing I would like to mention. There is no “s” in the Hawaiian alphabet. So your reference to “wahines” caught my eye as I was once scoled by a Hawaiian friend for using the plural of the word, which is in fact not correct. The plural of wahine is wahine. Same for keiki. Thought you would like to know.

    Keep up the great work!

    Reply
  • January 17, 2008 at 7:49 pm
    Permalink

    Oops on that. I actually knew that. I have a bunch of typos and grammatical errors all over this blog, as I either rush my writing and/or don’t proof carefully. My bad for that.

    Same for musubi. You don’t say “musubis” for the plural of the word. It’s “two musubi”. Not “two musubis”. I believe bento also doesn’t have an “s” when plural. It’s “two bento”.

    I’m sure the Primo people have already gotten (some heated) word about that okina in their spelling of “Hawai’ian”.

    Mahalo for stopping’ by!

    Reply
  • March 3, 2008 at 2:38 am
    Permalink

    Where can I buy Primo in northern california?

    Reply
  • March 20, 2008 at 7:45 am
    Permalink

    I had a glass at wahoo(s) fish tacos.. it was pretty good.
    Good luck to Primo.

    Reply
  • April 5, 2008 at 10:59 pm
    Permalink

    I just bought a 6-pack of Primo bottles from a nearby gas station for $8.79 (that’s with tax and bottle fees). It didn’t have any bitter taste to me. A nice, clean lager and I felt the buzz. I didn’t check around online but it’s got to be at least 5.0% ABV. I’m normally a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale drinker, but Primo’s a good in-betweener. VERY good beer in my opinion! Best of luck to the new Primo!

    Reply
  • April 10, 2008 at 11:50 am
    Permalink

    I just went through my first 6-Pack of Primo bottles. Being a native mainlander, I am always keen on trying things “Hawaiian”. I was immediately intrigued by the “made with pure island cane” advertisement on the bottle, but was more impressed with the claim that “proceeds help to preserve the environment and culture of the islands”, so I definitely became interested in the product as I always like to contribute to my local area when possible. Unsure of what to expect, I didn’t detect anything that made me think, “wow, this tastes like sugarcane”, but instead I tasted a great, traditional lager. It was a smooth, traditional style lager that would be appreciated at any BBQ or sporting event. I would be curious to know how much proceeds actually go to supporting the local Hawaiian culture. But this beer definitley is one that I would easily keep a 6-Pack readily availible in my refrigerator.

    Reply
  • April 14, 2008 at 7:29 am
    Permalink

    I just got back from the islands and I “discovered”. It is a good beer stuck on the Miller High Life side of the cooler. ! I could only find it at some bars and Long’s Drug Stores.

    Reply
  • May 5, 2008 at 12:50 am
    Permalink

    I AM WAITING FOR MY TURN TO TRY THE NEW PRIMO, I CAN REMEBER MY FIRST BEER (PRIMO) OVER FOURTY YEARS AGO. I HOPE IT TASTE THE SAME

    Reply
  • May 5, 2008 at 9:25 pm
    Permalink

    Warren, you know what? I think that Primo draft I initially “tried” wasn’t even Primo. Ack! Reason I say this, is I bought another pitcher of Primo draft again this past weekend, and it was WAY different than the first one I tried.

    This one was much “fruitier”, with a smooth, slightly sweet and fragrant taste. I liked this second try much, much better than the first one.

    Sorry I can’t compare it to the original, as I was too young at the time to try it. But I do remember it being on the “cheap side” back then.

    Reply
  • August 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm
    Permalink

    I came , I drank, I was disappointed.
    I went to Foodland and got a six pack, I had high hopes, but found the taste a cross between Bud and Miller. Pilau! I should of known better with Strohs handling the recipe, a mass brewer just can’t be imaginative. I was hoping for something along the lines of Samuel Adams, Saint Arnold’s (a Houston brewer), or New Belgium. Primo, I no like.
    However I was very impressed with the Kona Brewing Co. line up. I was able to sample the Long Board Lager, Fire Rock Pale Ale, Pipeline Porter, and Wailua Wheat. Was ONO! Now that is BEER. I just found out that a local distributer carries the kin’, so I going try get some. Aloha

    Reply
  • August 25, 2008 at 8:52 pm
    Permalink

    Correction:
    Not Strohs but Pabst is the villian here. Strohs use to make Primo after Schlitz. Either way they really dropped the ball. Primo could have been a great “micro” brew.

    Reply
  • August 26, 2008 at 3:04 am
    Permalink

    I am not a beer drinker but use it in cooking. Wine is mostly what I drink in restaurants. I did try dark beer and ale one time not bad.

    Reply
  • September 6, 2008 at 6:01 am
    Permalink

    Back in the 60’s I used to take a six pack or two on the plane when heading to east coast on vacation. Did not know it was resurrected until I saw it at the store at Ulupalakua yesterday. What a surprise! Memorable were the stacks of empties in, it seemed, everyone’s carport on Oahu when I lived there. Now to try it in one of my Primo glasses.

    Reply
  • September 8, 2008 at 12:33 pm
    Permalink

    My great grandfather Alfred Hocking was the original brewer of Primo at the turn of the 20th century. I wonder if Primo is interested in some info about him. I look forward to trying some when I visit the islands next year. Wonder if I can get some shipped.

    Reply
  • September 14, 2008 at 2:02 am
    Permalink

    I have only tried the bottled version of the “new” Primo. It was fractionally fuller-bodied than I expected, compared to the old “stubby” 11 oz. bottles original recipe. Color is dark gold; I bet this is achieved by adding corn to the recipe, which should include some malted barley, minimal hops, cane sugar, and yeast. Taste is somewhat sweetish/malty; but again, it’s got to be the corn and cane sugar added to the brew kettle, not the barley, that gives the beer a fuller-bodied taste. I bought a 6 pack on sale at Tamura’s for $7.69, still way too pricey for this kind of lager. Some stores and markets sell Primo six packs for as much as $11.99; $8.99 on sale at Foodland. I won’t buy any Primo again. There are better choices in lagers; I prefer the bitter-hopped, fuller bodied German pilsners, even though in export versions, are nothing like those on draught in Germany.

    Reply
  • September 14, 2008 at 11:48 am
    Permalink

    Bruce, hello!
    Who are you? MY great great grandfather was Alfred Hocking who owned Primo brewery. Are we related?

    Reply
  • October 10, 2008 at 12:15 am
    Permalink

    Is Primo available in SoCal?

    Reply
  • October 15, 2008 at 7:01 pm
    Permalink

    Primo Beer is SO wonderful!!! I absolutely loved it!! Tried it for the first time on my honeymoon… I don’t usually like this type of beer, but the sugar cane makes it delicious!!! It reminds me of Heineken or Guinness but I don’t like either of those.

    Reply
  • October 16, 2008 at 1:28 pm
    Permalink

    Bruce and Kate – I live in England and Alfred Hocking was a relative of mine also…..could we all be related??

    Reply
  • November 12, 2008 at 4:56 pm
    Permalink

    There are only four ingredients in beer, malted barley, water, yeast and hops. Sugar, pure cane Hawaiian or otherwise is no part of the recipe.

    It may be called PRIMO, but it’s not beer.

    Reply
  • November 29, 2008 at 12:00 am
    Permalink

    I remember drinking it back in the 60’s and 70’s. Is there anyone out there, who knows if appearel Hawaiian Shirt Companies are still making/selling those Primo Beer shirts?

    If so, please email me the company’s name so I can have one of my friends in Honolulu buy a few for me. I live in California.

    Mahalo,

    Billy Lee

    Reply
  • December 1, 2008 at 3:37 am
    Permalink

    In a world where everything is going wrong, finally something is going right for a change.

    Ahh, tradition!

    No really, I mean it. Name with a long tradition. Local product albeit with “mixed” reviews.

    And maybe we can get some cool looking shirts out of the deal.

    (God I hope somebody doesn’t try to “modernize” or “update” the logo.)

    Reply
  • December 9, 2008 at 10:56 pm
    Permalink

    Skip Nevell…you are wrong wrong wrong.

    You are thinking of the “Reinheitsgebot” or “Bavarian Purity Law.” The original law (1516 I think?) allowed only water, barley (no requirement or malting, even) and hops (the yeast occurred naturally).

    It only ever applied to german beer, not to any other country, and many Belgians would be very pissed to be told they are not really brewing beer. Even in germany, it was replaced in 1993 with the Provisional German Beer Law (Vorläufiges Deutsches Biergesetz), which is broader and allows, among other things, wheat malt and cane sugar (just like Primo!). It does not, however, allow for unmalted barley. but which no longer allows unmalted barley.

    So now you know!

    Reply
  • December 11, 2008 at 10:00 pm
    Permalink

    Bought a cold six pack of Primo at Walmart for $9 in change back in November. Saw it at Don Quijote for little less than that but I had to get it after reading the reviews. Sought desperately to buy it last July on another trip but was not able to find it anywhere until now. I had to admit that I didn’t think it was all worth it but I had to try it again at least once. Back in the 60’s when I was in college, we used to take several cases of either Primo or Olympia beer to where Magic Island is now to party late at night on the beach. I believe it was around $2.00 a case back then? Pretty darn good for a college student’s budget back in those days. We used to call it “horse pee” cuz that’s what you did all night long! Ah yes, cheap thrills…

    Reply
  • December 26, 2008 at 8:04 am
    Permalink

    I got hooked on Primo back in the early ’70’s…. as I remember, there was a shipping? strike…. the prices of anything that normally arrived via ship went thru the ceiling… I started drinking Primo and got hooked… after a week or so of drinking it… I never went back to Bud… that is until I moved back to the mainland. Wife and I will be vacationing on Oahu this February…. looking forward to a cold Primo and a hot pizza at the Red Lion…!!!!

    Reply
  • January 10, 2009 at 3:46 pm
    Permalink

    Decent lager, mine says it’s brewed in Irwindale, CA. Wonder what they mean by “Proceeds Help to Preserve the Environment and Culture of the Islands”… specifically?

    Reply
  • February 24, 2009 at 12:00 pm
    Permalink

    Found Primo beer in Las Vegas. I haven’t tried it yet cause it’s
    not 5pm. Had Primo in Hawaii when the drinking age was 18.

    Reply
  • March 21, 2009 at 7:30 pm
    Permalink

    Had it in Maui last week. Reminds me of a Miller lite. Doesn’t surprise me considering it says that it is brewed in Irwindale which just also hapeens to be where Miller has a brewery.

    Reply
  • April 2, 2009 at 2:58 pm
    Permalink

    Hello Bruce,

    I’m researching Hazel Hoffman b 1882 CA, a stepdaughter of Alfred Hocking, who married her mom Harriet S Hoffman. We would certainly be interested in some info about him by email.

    Cheers,
    Jeff

    Reply
  • April 15, 2009 at 12:44 pm
    Permalink

    Aloha!

    I think I am related to all of you, my Primo cousins! So I’m in San Francisco and I saw Primo for the first time today. I had to buy it because I saw the islands and I used to live on Molokai. I bought it in the Mission on 23rd and Guerrero (northeast corner). I think it’s just okay. It’s no Heineken. ;) Or as good as Kona Brewing Co.’s brews. But hey, it’s a new day, a new beer, and it reminds me of the Budweiser on Molokai. I’m happy.

    Reply
  • April 29, 2009 at 7:25 pm
    Permalink

    I have drank the worse and the best… this brew is good to go. At first it tasted like Heineken, but lighter. It’s not Bud, nor Coors, but some where in between a Heine and American lager. I love it, brings Hawai’i home, where ever I rome…… memories and good times. I hope the sales dept. for the Primo can move their a** and put this brew in more stores! Pau hana. Aloha all@!

    Reply
  • June 5, 2009 at 3:03 pm
    Permalink

    Hey Primo, what’s you doing?
    Primo say, no can hear got beer in my ear.

    Reply
  • June 21, 2009 at 3:35 pm
    Permalink

    This is not granny’s beer, it has punch to it ! smooth finish and a very dark gold color. It goes well with strong flavors /bbq-sausages-ribs-and is a great-adjunt to seafood as well.cheese’s, baked beans, (getting the picture?) so don’t listen to the gripes just get your bbq fired up and start sucki’ng um up!

    Reply
  • September 28, 2009 at 3:43 pm
    Permalink

    ..live in phila,pa………any body carry this beer around here?

    Reply
  • September 29, 2009 at 9:29 am
    Permalink

    Aloha! A note of clarification here. Primo Statehood Ale — available in draught only — is brewed in Hilo on the Big Island by http://www.HawaiiNuiBrewing.com The Hawai’i Nui Brewing Ohana includes Mehana Brewing and Keoki. We are the only company that brews and bottles beer in the state of Hawai’i.

    Reply
  • August 4, 2014 at 5:16 pm
    Permalink

    Bought a six-pack anticipating nostalgia at the flavor, but it seems to me the only thing about this beer that resembles the Primo I drank at Pau Hana in the Sixties is the name.

    Reply
    • August 5, 2014 at 4:34 am
      Permalink

      Indy,

      I was too young to know what the original Primo Beer tasted like. All I can say is the new one tastes more like a “craft” brew. For the price point, I think it’s decent. Surprisingly, as iconic to the islands as the brand is, Primo isn’t very common in local restaurants & bars, particularly on tap. Kona Brew, Heineken and Blue Moon still reign supreme in the F&B here in Honolulu.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *