Honolulu neighborhood craft brewery boom

Hawaii has not been to immune to the craft brew craze, and breweries have popped up all over the Islands in the last five years. The quickly developing Honolulu neighborhood of Kakaako has become a magnet for fledgling beer-focused businesses, with new tap rooms, microbreweries and canning facilities.

The concentration makes for a pleasant, easily walkable brewery tour, and now is a perfect time to hit the streets of Kakaako, which literally received a fresh coat of paint recently. The annual street art festival Pow!Wow! is based in the neighborhood, and in February wrapped up another year of international artists covering the area buildings in a fresh series of murals.

Honolulu Beerworks: One reason microbreweries are coming to the area is because the neighborhood was once a light industrial area with auto shops and warehouses — in the mid-1900s it was also Honolulu’s beer district, housing several breweries — and the bones of those old buildings provide the high ceilings and space for the new brewery operations. Beerworks has been making its own brews in one such converted warehouse since 2014. The brewers focus on using locally sourced and unique, imported ingredients in the brewing process, and have worked with barrel-aging and Belgian-style farmhouse ales and seasonal fresh-hop beers.

Aloha Beer Co. opened its new brewery and tap room in Kakaako in January 2017. They feature both in-house brews and craft cocktails, and also opened a separate, speakeasy-style lounge above the brewery. The pub-influenced menu includes charcuterie boards, sandwiches, and fries that can be loaded up with bacon fondue, Japanese curry gravy, a sweet and savory peanut sauce, or marinara and mozzarella.

Waikiki Brewing Co. launched in 2015 and then expanded with a new brewery and pub in Kakaako in 2017. They feature a core lineup of nine beers ranging from a crisp blonde to a full-bodied porter while also featuring seasonal and limited-release beers. The food menu offers a wide variety, with pizza, burgers, sandwiches, salads and larger plates such as kiawe smoked baby back ribs.

Real, a Gastropub: First opened in 2012, this restaurant was one of the early hangouts for beer enthusiasts in Kakaako, but then closed in 2017 when its location was redeveloped. It just reopened in a new, nearby 3,600-square-foot spot in March, and they will welcome Bent Tail Brewing Co. as a tenant later in the year. The gastropub has more than 30 taps and 20 bottles, and the menu includes burgers, fish and chips, salads, and confit chicken wings.

Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room: A package store and bar in one, sit down for a cold one or pick out an interesting selection of brews to take out. There are more than a dozen craft beers and eight wines on tap, with local and seasonal specialties. On the shop side, there are 350 different bottles and you can pay a corkage fee and pop it in the bar if you just can’t wait to get home.

If you’re the type of flock that needs a shepherd, there are a couple of companies set up offering Kakaako beer tours. Paradise Pedals ($40 per person) offers tours on 15-passenger party bikes. The special bikes come with a guide and sound system, and participants pedal their way  to three breweries or bars in Kakaako. Additionally, the Honolulu Brews Cruise ($55 per person) takes participants to three area breweries where they get a tasting flight and discounts on additional purchases.

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