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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

  • October 15, 2008 at 7:01 pm
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    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
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    Bruce and Kate – I live in England and Alfred Hocking was a relative of mine also…..could we all be related??

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  • November 12, 2008 at 4:56 pm
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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!

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  • December 11, 2008 at 10:00 pm
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    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…

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  • December 26, 2008 at 8:04 am
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    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
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    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?

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  • February 24, 2009 at 12:00 pm
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    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.

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  • March 21, 2009 at 7:30 pm
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    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.

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  • April 2, 2009 at 2:58 pm
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    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
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    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
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    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@!

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  • June 5, 2009 at 3:03 pm
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    Hey Primo, what’s you doing?
    Primo say, no can hear got beer in my ear.

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  • June 21, 2009 at 3:35 pm
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    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
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    ..live in phila,pa………any body carry this beer around here?

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  • September 29, 2009 at 9:29 am
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    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
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    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
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      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

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