Some have come and gone, such as Aloha Beer, Hoku’s & Brew Moon, yet adding to steadfast old timer Gordon Biersch in Aloha Tower, Oahu is once again building back up its inventory of microbrewery/brewpubs.
The most recent addition being Waikiki Brewing Company, who opened this past March, at the corner of Kalakaua Avenue and Ala Moana Boulevard, next to Cheeseburger Waikiki, which was formerly a Sizzler.
While about the same time a year ago in April 2014, owner Geoff Seideman opened Honolulu Beerworks just a few miles down the road in Kaka’ako on Cooke Street.
As is typical in this industrial/commercial part of Kaka’ako, near the Jaguar/Rover dealership and the BikeFactory and Porsche dealership off Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu Beerworks makes its home inside a restored (Bishop Estate owned) warehouse.
Fittingly, it takes on a rustic look with an open air, very casual and relaxed ambiance.
Definitely a destination location, as somewhat hidden this gem is, it filled up with a pretty decent crowd soon after I arrived in the afternoon on the day of my first time visit, until the point it was PACKED by the time the sun set.
If there’s one thing I think they need are more big screen TVs, as currently having only one TV on a side wall not even facing the bar seemingly as an afterthought just doesn’t cut it. Then again, not having a game to watch on the tube does make everyone more enthusiastic to spark non-sports related “deeper” conversations, as it did for me.
At $6.75 per pint (16 oz.) glass, that’s about the going rate at most brewpubs and craft beer tap houses on the island, however it would also be nice if they offered a pauhana happy hour.
Oh, as usual, I made lotsa’ new, awesome friends at Honolulu Beerworks, chatting with two retired Honolulu Fire Department Captains, several business owners, high tech military contractors and more, which we’ll get to some of later.
If you prefer even more of an ”escape” and breeze than the already relaxing, open air bar inside, chill outside on the side.
While I didn’t take a photo of it (there were other guys in there), Honolulu Beerworks men’s restroom — just inside to the left of the outside area here — was VERY clean on both of my visits (so far).
“A Honu Life” by Stephanie Thibaudeau on display at Honolulu Beerworks
You’ll also notice reprints of beautiful paintings themed mostly of windward Oahu hung on the walls at Honolulu Beerworks, done by local photographer and artist Stephanie Thibaudeau. They’re actually available for sale at the brewpub, where with purchase, includes a free pint of beer. Nice!
“He’eia Sunrise” by Stephanie Thibaudeau on display at Honolulu Beerworks
“Ko’olau Waterfalls” by Stephanie Thibaudeau on display at Honolulu Beerworks
“Lanikai Morning” by Stephanie Thibaudeau on display at Honolulu Beerworks
I’m going to have to tip my hat to Waikiki Brewing Company for having the foresight in their design by placing all the beer making tanks right there behind the bar for the patrons to see and watch how all the “magic” happens. While here at Honolulu Beerworks, the “Brewer’s Office” is tucked away in an area behind the scenes.
Regardless, it’s all pretty much the same commercial grade stainless steel equipment, including the protocol Grain Mill, Mash Tun, Boiler/Brew Kettle, Heat Exchangers, Separator, Fermentation Tanks, Filtration Station and Brightener.
Speaking of which, in the introduction, Aloha Beer Company was mentioned, which has a close connection to Honolulu Beerworks, being Dave Campbell — who was the Brewmaster and part owner of Aloha Beer Company (and previously the Brewmaster for Sam Choy’s) — is now the Brewmaster for Honolulu Beerworks.
Getting straight to business, I started out like I always do for my first time at a microbrewery, hitting their best-selling IPA, which in Honolulu Beerwork’s case is the Sheltered Bay IPA. This brew is described as “Deep copper color with distinct hop aroma. Clean hop forward beer with the malt balancing out the alcohol.” It’s rated at 6.75% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) and 70 IBU (International Bittering Units).
And? Exactly as described above, and I might add, I like this one slightly better than Waikiki Brewing Company’s best IPA. Yes I said it, and with that, hat’s off to brewmaster Dave Campbell for crafting such a well-balanced, very tasty (great word!) IPA. Ono brah!
Braddah Earle “Capt” Kealoha was drinking his go-to fave’, Honolulu Beerwork’s Pia Mahi’ai Honey Saison. This one is described as, “Unfiltered Ale, pale–orange in color with heavy citrus aroma. 30% wheat malt added, and brewed with local orange, tangerine, lemon, lemongrass, and Big Island honey.” It’s rated at 5.7% ABV and 25 IBU.
Earle noted he prefers fruity, less bitter beers (you can tell he doesn’t have any German blood lol), and this one really works for his particular palate.
For my next round, I decided to try their *NEW* HI-PA (HOP ISLAND IPA “West Coast Style), spec’ing at 7.2% ABV and 80 IBU. In other words, this IPA is the most kick @ss, bitterest brew Honolulu Beerworks currently has to offer.
And? I LOVE IT! It’s pretty much very similar to their Sheltered Bay IPA, kicked up huge notches. It’s so good, it’s almost addicting, really. Pretty much THE BEST crafted microbrew I’ve tasted in Honolulu yet.
Finally for this visit, I tried Honolulu Beerworks’ South Shore Stout, described as “Jet black in color with a tan head and roasted malt and caramel nose. It’s full mouth feel carrying a coffee flavor with dark chocolate finish. Very well balanced.” 7.0% ABV, 60 IBU.
And? Pretty much as advertised, while I might also add, like their HI-PA, Honolulu Beerworks’ South Shore Stout is again, the best take on this darkest style I’ve tasted from a Microbrewery on Oahu, yet, and far superior than any Guinness I’ve had on tap.
I loved their HI-PA — and the joint in general — so, so much, I soon returned to Honolulu Beerworks for a “hana hou” visit, this time ordering a flight of samples.
With the samplers, you get to choose up to six 4 oz. flavors for each flight. To which they hand you a sheet to write the ones you want yourself.
As you see there, I chose the Makakilo Brown Ale, Surf Session IPA, Point Panic Pale Ale, Rye Not Pale Ale, Cooke St. ESB (Extra Special/Strong Bitter) and Kewalo Cream.
Right to left (not left to right): Makakilo Brown Ale, Surf Session IPA, Point Panic Pale Ale, Rye Not Pale Ale, Cooke St. ESB (Extra Special/Strong Bitter) and Kewalo Cream 4 oz samplers x 6 flight by Honolulu Beerworks
The bartender will arrange your sampler flight in the order you list them, handing back your order sheet after they pour so you know exactly which is which as you go through them. Perfect system.
And the winner is? Da’ Makakilo Brown Ale! This one is described as “Clear brown color, medium body beer with a mild roast flavor and mild bitterness created by the grains. It carries a mild fruitiness with a low hop level.” 5.6% ABV, 35 IBU.
As I told my server Carolyn, the Makakilo Brown Ale came across to me as being essentially a crossbreed of the South Shore Stout and the Sheltered Bay IPA, with a pronounced roasted flavor thrown into the mix. All that said, next to the HI-PA, the Makakilo Brown Ale is my second best’est of the est’est. lol For reals though, if you come to HBW and you like both IPAs and a nice ‘n chocolate-dark Stout, you definitely gotta’ try the Makakilo Brown Ale. Winnahz, brah!
There’s certainly enough alcohol in these beers to almost make it a requirement that you order some food to help absorb some of that, as here we have Honolulu Beerwork’s pub grub menu.
Honolulu Beerworks Big Island Meatball Sub: Pork & Big Island Beef Meatballs braised in HBW’s South Shore Stout, served on a locally made Roll with caramelized onions, baby Arugula, housemade Horseradish Sauce, and then toasted with Provolone Cheese on top. Served with a side of HBW’s refreshing Corn Salad
Honolulu Beerworks Italian Hoagie: Thinly sliced Black Forest Ham, Genoa Salami and Capicola, Provolone Cheese, Maui vine-ripened tomato, Ewa Sweet Onion, shredded Iceberg lettuce, mayo’ and housemade Red Wine Vinaigrette on a locally made roll. Served with a side of Kettle Chips and a spear of HBW’s housemade Beer Pickle
And? I tried the Soft Pretzels and Smoked Ahi Dip with Toasted Baguette, and they were both ONOLICIOUS winnahz!
The soft Pretzel really does arrive pipin’ and soft and fresh, right out the oven, while the mustard and beer cheese fondue it’s served with is the perfect compliment to the salty-soft Pretzel bread stick.
Then there was the Smoked Ahi dip, which was simply ADDICTING. The toasted Baguette slices were the perfect way to serve it, while if given the chance, I could seriously eat a whole sub sandwich filled with that dip in it. You definitely gotta’ order the Smoked Ahi Dip with Toasted Baguette when you come to HBW.
Pomai “talks shop” with Mike Smith, owner of Homebrew in Paradise (this guy is seriously AKAMAI when it comes to everything about brewing beer!) at Honolulu Beerworks ~ 7.2015
Between Waikiki Brewing Company and Honolulu Beerworks, I’m not going to say either one is better than the other, as they both put out some supah ono ‘kine kick okole craft brews, both have great ambiance, and most of all, both have the BEST folks that both work and play there. Okole Maluna!
328 Cooke Street (behind BikeFactory)
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Tel. (808) 589-2337
The Tasty Island rating:
(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)
• Honolulu Beerworks – Yelp user reviews
• Honolulu Beerworks – Trip Advisor user reviews
• Honolulu Beerworks: Opening a craft brewery, part one – Honolulu Magazine
• Waikiki Brewing Company – The Tasty Island
• Rogue Side Street Inn Ale – The Tasty Island
• Homebrew in Paradise – The best homebrew and winemaking supply store in Hawaii!