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Craft Brews Punching Over Their Weight

Noe Tanigawa
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The Kakaako ambience is conducive to strolling, biking, and here, pedaling a bicycle trolley between brew pubs. There are four active brew pubs in a 1 mile radius. If you don’t get there by 5:30 ish, have fun cruising for parking!

Last year, the craft beer market continued its thirteen year upward trend, topping out at $23.5 billion dollars according to the national Brewers’ Association. In the U.S. as a whole, craft brew production doubled in the last 5 years to reach nearly 18 million barrels last year. As part of HPR’s ongoing series on craft brewing, Noe Tanigawa reports O‘ahu is tracking that pattern of growth.

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Recently, I was out with plant biologist, certified craft beer judge, Cindy Goldstein. She’s the contact for HOPS, Home-brewing On Pacific Shores, and she’s actively involved in trying to grow hops in Hawai‘i. Goldstein was introducing me to a simtra; truly golden, quite fizzy, it’s a very friendly IPA (India Pale Ale).  We sipped then sat back, letting the pleasure sink in.

"They’re everywhere. Where there are people, there are breweries. And that didn’t used to be the case. "

Bart Watson is Chief Economist with the national Brewers Association—they represent 4000 small and independent craft breweries across the country.

Watson: There used to be a typical place you expected see breweries, places that were a little maybe higher income, little more educated, college towns were the best example. And what we’ve seen is that there are now breweries across the country. About 80% of the 21+ population lives within ten miles of a brewery so we’re seeing breweries in rural areas, urban areas, basically everywhere in the U.S.

What about these new breweries, and where they’re popping up, they kind of change a neighborhood, don’t they?

Watson: They certainly can. One of the most beautiful parts of this brewery grow this that because they have

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Honolulu Beerworks is located on the ma kai end of Cooke Street in Kakaako. Owner and brewer, Geoff Seideman, has been aiming to expand to 4500 barrels a year and has recently added a new keg station and a canning line. Seideman told the Beer in Hawaii blog he hopes to increase Beerwork’s draft presence around the island, eventually to the neighbor islands as well.. He plans to expand a barrel aging program too.

that manufacturing component, can often go into areas that were formerly zoned industrial, so they can build back up neighborhoods. They’re businesses that promote foot traffic, so you often see them going into places in town that haven’t had a lot of investment and bringing new people into those areas. They’re magnets for community, they’re magnets for tourism and so they certainly have been one factor in many places helping to redevelop formerly run down areas.

Watson: I think often, yes, a brewery brings jobs, both manufacturing and service jobs. They have an incentive in getting the community to their space, and interacting with them, and finding out what they need. I think breweries in general have been great for main streets and small towns, not to mention big cities all across the country.

Are these really good jobs?

Watson: It will be a mix, certainly master brewers can make a fair bit of money, and there’s opportunities to work your way up.. they’re also going to be creating service jobs which are good or bad depending on your employer but are going to be very similar to other service jobs you see elsewhere in the economy.

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Waikiki Brewing Company was hugely popular in its first location on Kalakaua in Waikiki, and opened a second location August 4, 2017 on Queen Street in Kakaako. You can see brewery operations right from the bar. Brewmaster Joe Lorenzen says the ability to can beer at the new location will allow them to serve varied outlets on Oahu that are already requesting more product.

Economic statistics for breweries in Hawai‘i are sketchy, but according to state numbers, in 2016, the industry paid nearly 4.3 million dollars in wages, with average annual salaries at $38,600.

Watson: Having that manufacturing base, though, is good not only for that brewery but for the suppliers they work with. So it may be something that ripples out further in the economy where having a brewery there means they’re going to support welders and steamfitters, and people who need to work on the brewery and I think that creates new economic opportunities in the town as well.

In Honolulu, take cans for example. Maui Brewing spearheaded the drive nationally to gain respect for craft beer in cans, for good reason. Joe Lorenzen , brewmaster for Waik?k? Brewing Company, says that switch to cans is especially important in Hawai‘i. We caught him at Waik?k?’s new pub in Kaka‘ako.

Lorenzen: Canned beer had an association with being cheap beer, it was what your dad drank by the 12 pack. Craft beer was always in bottles. But the canning technology has really come a long way and in fact, when it comes to things like light ingress, you’re not going to have any light pollution to your beer. Light is one of the biggest enemies of beer. Also if you’re able to package your beer with really low oxygen in your package, the can does an even better job than the bottle keeping any additional oxygen that might try and get into your beer, so when it comes to freshness, shelf life, and quality, cans have actually surpassed glass in a lot of respects.

Lorenzen: And then for us, one of the best things about these cans is that they’re actually manufactured right

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Home of the Brave Brewseum is truly a pub and a museum in one. Tucked behind Jack in the Box off Ward on Waimanu Street, the Brewseum has a fascinating array of personal WWII memorabilia. It’s a project of the Tomlinson family which has kept this nook going for 25 years. A tiny nano brewery fuels both a pub and an “secret” upstairs speakeasy. They call it a family friendly brew pub, and it is.

here on O‘ahu. There’s a can manufacturing plant in Kapolei, Ball Corp has a plant out there. Not only are you incurring a big shipping cost, but the carbon footprint of your beer goes up exponentially shipping glasses full or air out here to fill with beer. But then there’s also the added impact that we get to, with our business, support other local business and help provide manufacturing jobs on this island which are hard to come by in this economy… it’s really a win-win-win, everybody comes out on top when it comes to cans.

Watson: (Breweries) are businesses that promote foot traffic so you often see them going into places in town that haven’t had a lot of investment and bringing new people into those asreas. They’re magnets for community, they’re magnets for tourism, and so they certainly have been one factor in many places in helping redevelop formerly run down areas.

Master brewer Dave Campbell is watching that happen in Kaka‘ako. Campbell helped start Sam Choy’s brewery, Aloha Brewery, and Honolulu Beer Works on Cooke Street. He’s now a partner in Aloha Beer Company around the corner on Queen.

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Local businessman Steve Sombrero and brewmaster Dave Campbell joined forces for the latest Aloha Beer Company brewery and tap room on Queen Street in Kakaako. They’ve found a spot in Honolulu’s historic beer brewing district right between the old Honolulu Brewing and Malting Company Building on Queen (currently the Honolulu Fire Department Museum) and the former Primo Brewery on Cooke Street.

Campbell: When Kamehameha Schools, KS, was starting to develop their block down there, they approached me about doing a brewery. Instead of how it happens in a Brooklyn or a Portland, where it just happens, you got low rent over there, so let’s go there. They manufacture, like all the street art, super cool, but it’s paid for by deep pockets to project that image. Early tenants they gave sweetheart deals to were like coffee shops, little independent shops, brewery, it’s the landowner creating that vibe. It’s still cool, but as it comes together, then rents are going to skyrocket and it’s tougher to do it.

You can see different development strategies at work on either side of Ward Avenue. This flowering of breweries right now ‘Ewa of Ward, don’t expect it to last forever.

Noe Tanigawa covers art, culture and ideas for Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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