Libations made in Hawaii

Maui Brewing Co. operates three restaurants, with a fourth on the way, and also offers brewery tours.
Maui Brewing Co. operates three restaurants, with a fourth on the way, and also offers brewery tours.
Tovin Lapan
Tovin Lapan

Lovers of Longboard Lager may have done a spit-take last week when they saw the headlines regarding Kona Brewing Co.

The Hawaii-based brewer, owned by Craft Brew Alliance, is being sued for deceptive advertising by two California residents who say they paid a premium because they believed the beer was actually brewed in Hawaii. The bulk of the beer, according to the lawsuit, is actually brewed in Oregon, Washington, New Hampshire and Tennessee. While Kona Brewing does have a brewery in Hawaii, it mostly produces beer for distribution within the state.

"Consumers purchase items, and are willing to pay more for items, because they are from Hawaii," the lawsuit reads. "Craft Brew is well aware of this."

The Kona Brewing website mentions the brewery operations on the U.S. mainland, but the complaint argues the company is still being intentionally deceptive. The two current plaintiffs are seeking class action status for the suit, and Craft Brew Alliance has said it does not comment on pending litigation.

In January 2016, Kona Brewing announced it had chosen a site on Hawaii Island for a new, $20 million brewery that would increase production in the state from 12,000 to 100,000 barrels per year.

"The Hawaii-born and Hawaii-based craft brewery prides itself on brewing the freshest beer of exceptional quality, closest to market," the release for the new brewery stated. "This helps to minimize its carbon footprint by reducing shipping of raw materials, finished beer and packaging materials."

The Kona Brewing controversy aside, there are several other alcoholic beverages that come from Hawaii, most prominently some craft beers and rums. The brewery scene in particular has expanded significantly in the last decade.


Maui Brewing Co.: This brewery founded in 2005 runs three restaurants, with a fourth on the way, and a taproom where hops hounds can take a tour of the operations. They feature four flagship brews, including a pineapple wheat and coconut porter, in addition to limited releases. The brewery was expanded recently, including a partnership with California's Stone Brewing Co., and the company has been steadily increasing its distribution across the mainland.

Big Island Brewhaus: On a much smaller scale than Kona Brewing and Maui Brewing, this Hawaii Island brewery and restaurant started bottling its beers in 2013, and only distributes throughout the state. They brew all sorts of lagers, pilsners, porters, stouts, bocks and other varieties, but their regular players are White Mountain Porter, Golden Sabbath and Overboard IPA, which was listed in the Men's Journal feature "101 Best Beers in America." The brewery sits above 2,700 feet and guests can enjoy their drinks and food in a bamboo beer garden.

Hawaii Nui Brewing Co.:  One of the state's larger independent breweries, Hawaii Nui brews all of its beers at its Hilo location. Founded in 2007, the beers are only sold in the state. The brewery has a tasting room, where you can sample their Belgian red ale or Kauai golden ale, but they are not currently offering tours. The Hapa Brown Ale won a silver medal for its category at the 2010 Brewers Association World Beer Cup.

Aloha Beer Co.: This Honolulu company opened a new brewery and taproom in January. Brewmaster Dave Campbell grew up on the island and has been involved in the area's craft brew scene for more than 20 years. The taproom features a rotating selection of more than 10 beers, in addition to a food menu featuring sandwiches, salads, and steak fries that can be augmented with gravy, fondue or other toppings.


Ko Hana: Manulele Distillers makes this rum from Hawaiian sugar cane. The "farm-to-bottle" production specializes in single varietals that are hand-harvested, pressed to juice and then distilled. Ko Hana highlights the natural flavors of the cane sugar, bringing out the unique characteristics of each varietal. Tours of the Oahu distillery and tastings are available daily for $25.

Koloa Rum: The first licensed distillery on Kauai started operations in 2009. They specialize in single batch rums that are distilled twice in a refurbished, vintage 1,210-gallon copper-pot still built in Philadelphia in 1947. Rum lovers ages 21 and older can get a complimentary tasting at their Lihue tasting room and company store. They make white, gold, dark, spiced, coffee and coconut rums, and each variety earned a gold medal at the 2016 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival.

Ocean Vodka: This Maui distillery uses desalinated deep ocean water and organic cane sugar to make its vodka that comes in a distinct spherical, light blue bottle. The company started in 2005, and now distributes Ocean vodka across the U.S. and Canada. The vodka won a triple gold medal at the 2013 Beverly Hills World Spirits Competition. Tours of the 80-acre farm and solar-powered distillery, with a tasting for those of age, are available seven days a week.
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