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Kaka’ako Drinks: Honolulu Beerworks

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.

Honolulu Beerworks Sheltered Bay IPA: 6.75% ABV, 70 IBU

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!

Honolulu Beerworks Pia Mahi’ai Honey Saison: 5.7% ABV, 25 IBU

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.

Aloha Beerworks HI-PA (Hop Island IPA “West Coast Style): 7.2% ABV, 80 IBU (their most kick okole brew on tap!) **Pomai’s pick for best IPA on Oahu**

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.

Honolulu Beerworks South Shore Stout: 7.0% ABV, 60 IBU

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 Bavarian Soft Pretzels: Served up fresh from the oven with HBW’s South Shore Mustard and Beer Cheese Fondue made with HBW’s Point Panic Pale Ale

Honolulu Beerworks Smokin’ Ahi Dip: Creamy Ahi dip with delicious smokey flavor and a horseradish kick, served with locally made toasted Baguette

Honolulu Beerworks Miso Pork Sliders: Pork braised in HBW’s Farmhouse Ale and Miso, then topped with a creamy Wasabi Asian Slaw and served on locally made Taro Rolls

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.

The fellah sitting next to me who ordered the Miso Pork Sliders also raved about it, ravaging all three within one beer’s worth of time. Animal!

Finally we get to the peeps who both work and “play” at Honolulu Beerworks, all of whom I met were SUPER-DUPER AWESOME. The coolest, most Aloha-spirited folks in town!

Scott and Earle, both retired Captains of the Honolulu Fire Department, relaxing at Honolulu Beerworks ~ 7.2015

Pomai chillin’ ‘n chattin’ with retired HFD Captains Scott and Earle at Honolulu Beerworks ~ 7.2015

Warner chillin’ ‘n chattin’ with Pomai at Honolulu Beerworks. ~ 7.2015

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

Megan, Manager of Honolulu Beerworks, with Pomai (mahalos Sistah!!!) ~ 7.2015

Connor is now the happy owner of a Honolulu Beerworks 64 oz. “Growler”, filled with tap-cold HI PA! ~ 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!

Honolulu Beerworks
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’!)

Related links:
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!

9 thoughts on “Kaka’ako Drinks: Honolulu Beerworks

  • July 16, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Dang Pomai,

    You wrote all that and still got to sit, enjoy some great brews, and #TalkStory.  You R Awesome!

    Aloha bro!


    • July 16, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      Howzit Earle,

      Right on bro! You too! I really enjoyed the chat with you and Scott! Maybe I’ll see you there again next week. ;-)


  • July 16, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    I like it. Good idea. And the people found it.

  • July 17, 2015 at 3:51 am

    Having frequented one or more brewpubs (recently and frequently) living here in the Pac NW, this looks promising.

    I really like it.  The obligatory one TV: just in case UH makes a bowl game or to keep up on tsunami warnings. Sparse furnishings.  Community seating.  Nice width on the beer offerings.

    Would love to see a graffiti artist (or if you want to be traditional, a muralist) really personalize the biergarten.  That would really brighten up that spot.  Urban oasis, concrete jungle kinda vibe.

    Overall, it looks like a nice place to talk story and drink good beer.  Which is really all it needs to be.

  • July 17, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    @ Arny B – Sounds like you really understood the vibe at HBW through how I tried to convey it in this review. Appreciate it, bro!

    Where’s your (latest) favorite Brewpub in your neck o’ the PAC NW woods? I know Oregon and Washington state have MANY to choose.

    My crystal ball says there will eventually be Microbrewery/Brewpubs in Hawaii named after every popular town, e.g.:
    • Ewa Brewing Company
    • Waimanalo Brews
    • Haleiwa Bier Haus

    @ Pat – Umm, did you get that comment from a bumper sticker? lol

    I like it.
    Good idea.
    And the people found it.

  • July 18, 2015 at 5:15 am

    Beer in the Pac NW is kinda like food on Oahu.  You got the usual suspects in the usual areas but the good stuff is tucked into the neighborhoods.  And some neighborhoods are more beer centric than others.  For example, in the neighborhood of Ballard, there are no less than 10 brewpubs and probably twice as many bars serving good beer. Ballard would be the beer equivalent of Kahili a.k.a. “The Center of Hawaii’s Food Universe

    I actually have an app on my phone that lays out all the brewpubs in the state.  I love it when I am in an unfamiliar area and I stumble onto something new or haven’t heard before.

    Having said all that, my favorites tend to be in the ‘less crowded’ category.  Some places, like Fremont are packed all the time (because the beer is soooo good) so I really have to want to go there (like if they are having a special release).

    So (and this list is always changing) my favorites in the Seattle area at the moment are: Engine #9 in Tacoma, Machine House in Georgetown, Seven Seas in Gig Harbor, Black Raven on the east  side. In Seattle proper, I like Elysian but they just went corporate so I hope the quality does not drop.

    And if you ask me again in a month, it will be different.  And we did not even touch Portland…..



  • July 18, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Whoah! Off-topic, but a MAJOR fire just broke out about a half hour ago within view of where I live. All I heard was this strange sounding “pop”, then soon after smoke started billowing across my view of Manoa Valley.

    Not sure exactly where or what type of unit right now, but it’s on a street behind the Marco Polo on Kapiolani Boulevard. It smells heavily like burning electrical and wood materials. Guaranteed total loss. Hopefully nobody got injured.

    I got video of it from my place that I’ll be forwarding to the local news channels. You’ll defnitely hear about it in the news soon. Nuts. Looks like a war zone over there.


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