Maui Beer Five-Oh
By Bobby Bush
Aloha! Tune up those surf guitars, a la Dick Dale. We’re going to Hawaii. First priority
was sunshine and fun, but, you know, there are brewpubs in all fifty states. So.....in
pursuit of beer we went.
Confined just to the lush island of Maui, pickings appeared to be slim. BeerTravelers.com
listed two, though we learned shortly after landing that Hapa’s Brewhaus was out of
business. A phone call confirmed that sad news. So we hailed a taxi and asked to be
delivered to Fish & Game Brewing Company & Rotisserie in Lahaina, just a few miles
away. The driver was out of sight before we realized that he had dropped us off at a nice
restaurant in downtown Lahaina, a touristy commercial district that we would visit several
times. Seated securely in another cab, we drove westward, back past our hotel and finally
found our destination in Kahana Gateway, a residential community’s shopping center.
Fish & Game opened as a restaurant in 1994 and installed brewing equipment in
May 1999. A little nervous when we saw that Budweiser was their only guest beer, we
settled down at the dark, horseshoe-shaped bar and felt immediately at home. Menus and
sampler tray promptly issued, we started the tasting ritual that I’ve performed so enjoyably
in 26 other states (and a few foreign countries). Fish & Game Hefeweizen wafted a
pungent citrus aroma. Its flavor was yeasty crisp. Winter Wit, a seasonal Belgian-style
selection, presented initial pale ale qualities, though yeast, coriander and dried orange peel
were obvious within its thin body. Kahana Kolsch, cloudy with clean taste, was a
traditional German lagered ale, tart and crisp. Not nearly hoppy enough, India Pale Ale
unleashed slight grapefruit off-flavor, while Wild Hog Stout was big, smooth and
chocolatey, served with nitrogen infusion. With 45% wheat in the mash, seasonal Dunkel
Weisen was chestnut brown in hue and featured rich tones of roasted and chocolate
About the time our dinner arrived, we were introduced to brewmaster Tommy
Kerns. Tommy learned brewpub scale brewing while working for the famed brewing
mogul McMenamin brothers in Oregon. Lamenting that all his ingredients had to be
imported, Tommy was rightfully pleased with the beer produced in his seven barrel
brewery. Fish & Game’s most popular beer, the 6.0% abv Cascade-hopped Plantation
Pale Ale, was working in his upstairs fermenters, as was the lighter Honolulu Helles
Lager. He teased us with a taste of his four-week-old Pilsner. In need of a few more
weeks of conditioning, this green beer already possessed a very hoppy nose.
We finished our filling meal of shrimp crab cakes and mahi mahi with weird green
fettucine and sadly departed this more-local-than-tourist brewpub. It was nice to learn
that good beer is alive and well in Maui.
Not content with just one brewpub and extra time on our hands, we were urged
onward by others in our party. News, like scouting reports, was fed back to us. There’s a
brewpub here, there’s a brewery there. We sniffed them all out. Brew Maui, a Lahaina
disco, had no brewery, though their Honolulu counterpart did.
Then there was Sam Choy’s Big Aloha Brewery. That name had promise. Duh!
But alas, after spying a sparkling new seven barrel brewhouse and four fermenters
installed against one wall, we learned form the bartender that the system had never seen a
drop of beer. Since 1997, Sam Choy’s has brewed at their Honolulu location (no, I did
not check the price of air fare to Oahu). At least they served their own company-brewed
beer in Maui. All poured way too cold, the Hefe-weizen wafted clove-estery scents.
Kakaako Cream Ale introduced itself with a tingling tongue sensation chased by a bitter
snapping end. Steamship Lager was somewhat hoppy, finishing bitter. Kiawe Honey
Porter was coffee throughout. The Ehu Ale tap was dry. For beer-by-boat, Sam Choy’s
beers weren’t bad.
We found bottled and kegged beer from Honolulu’s Ali’i Brewing Company and
the Big Island’s Kona Brewing Company in several Maui restaurants and bars. And, of
course, a few bottles of each found their way into my over-stuffed suitcase.
But the bell sounded. Time was up. Trip’s over There’s more beer to discover in
paradise ... on another trip.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush