There’s nothing like a nice cold beer after a day under the hot Hawaiian sun. From refreshing ales, feisty IPA’s, fruity ciders, rich porters, and everything in between, there are some excellent brews to be found on the Big Island of Hawaii. Two of the island’s best breweries are located in Kona, My Hawaii Hostel’s home town. For true beer nerds, it’s possible to hit up all four breweries on the island if you’re really committed. Here’s the 411 on Big Island breweries.
Ok, we may be a little biased, but Kona has it going on when it comes to well-rounded breweries with good beer, yummy food, and a fun atmosphere with many live shows and events.
The Big Island's newest brewery, Ola Brew, is located in Kona. These folks have a passion for crafting amazing hard ciders with fresh, locally sourced island fruits in an effort to support Hawaii farmers. Flavors like White Pineapple, Dragonfruit Lychee, and Fresh Ginger will knock your socks off. Since they opened in 2017, they have expanded their beer brewing operation extensively, offering a wide selection from IPA’s to porters, to smooth lagers and ales. In 2019, they launched a canned hard seltzer and currently sell six different products in stores across the Hawaiian Islands - their signature IPA, Ma’a Lager, Kona Gold Pineapple Cider, and three hard seltzers -ginger, lemon lime, and lemongrass.
The tap room itself is modernly adorned with a classy wood bar top, long bar tables to accommodate large groups or a mingling of smaller parties. Their menu features a creative mix of flatbread pizzas, poke bowls, salads, and ‘poke melts’ served on locally baked bread from Sundog Bread. A daily tour and tasting is offered at 1 pm for $10. It is recommended to book ahead of time on their website.
Ola is a popular hangout with Kona locals for pau hana (after work) drinks and often hosts live music and other parties and events over the weekends. Follow them @olabrewco to stay in the loop.
Kona Brewing Company has made a name for itself all over the world. You can buy six packs of their most famous brew - Longboard Lager - as far away as Europe. A trip to the Kona Brew Pub is well worth it to sample their specialty and seasonal brews on tap that aren’t always available bottled. Try their classic Castway IPA, or Hula Heffewiesen, which pairs perfectly with their cheeseburger pizza. Did we say pizza? The Kona Brew Pub is known for their pizza and in addition has a full menu with appetizers, salads, and sandwiches. Monday through Friday 3-5pm they have “stoked hour” specials with discounted pints, slices and tacos. They have weekly live music - typically rock, blues, or reggae style bands.
The brew pub is popular with locals and visitors, so there can be a long wait for a table. Call ahead for a reservation at (808) 334 2739. Tip: If you are not a large party, just head back to the bar area. The bar is first come, first serve open seating. You can have a drink while you stalk a table in the bar area.
You can tour the brewery at 10:30 am and 3 pm daily, with additional tour times on Wednesdays and over the weekend listed on their website. The 1-hour tour is $15 per person and includes beer samples and a gift. You can grab a growler of beer to go at their growler shack, right outside the brew pub main entrance. They sell 64 oz growlers for $22, and refills are $13.50.
Hilo is home to some award winning brews made at Hawaii Nui Brewery (formerly Mehana Brewing Company). Straight-forward no frills and all about the beers. This is the Hilo brewing company’s approach. You can sample beers in their tasting room, or grab a growler to takeaway. They have a stellar line up of beers to choose from. Some of our favorites include their Hapa Brown Ale, the Humpback Blue (a German Style Kölsch), the Mauna Kea Pale Ale, and the Hawaiian Crow Porter. Their staff is passionate about beer, and happy to talk story with you. They do not offer tours.
Their location is in a warehouse in an industrial area in Hilo, not far from the airport. The brewery makes a great pit stop if you are heading to some of the Keaukaha beaches like 4-Mile or Richardsons mentioned in our Go Hilo blog post. We like to grab a growler and some poke from nearby Suisan Fish Market and head to Coconut Island for an epic picnic.
You’ll notice that some of their beers are dubbed Hawaii Nui, while others have the name Mehana. Mehana Brewery was bought by Hawaii Nui and the new owners decided to keep the Mehana name on the original brews developed by the founding family. Both original Mehana brews and new Hawaii Nui beers are absolutely delicious.
Don’t forget to stop in at the Big Island Brewhaus up in Waimea. Their beer menu is impressive, with 35 brews including their flagship beers and special seasonal offerings. At the Brewhaus, you can enjoy sampler flights, pints, half pints, and some special beers, like their Golden Sabbath Belgian style strong ale, in fancy goblets. Cheers! For takeaway, they have quart and half gallon mason jars and growlers. Three of their most popular beers are available to-go in 22oz bottles.
In addition to great brews, they have a Tex Mex menu with a Hawaiian twist. The space is intimate and cozy, with a small bar area and dinning room for eating in, plus some outdoor seating. For entertainment they have Open Mic night on Thursday nights, and live music Friday nights. There is a monthly songwriter showcase. Check the events calendar on their website for more information. They do not offer brewery tours.
Live music, vendors, gourmet food, and of course BEER - don’t miss the Big Island’s two brew festivals if you happen to be in town. Both events raise money for local charities and are usually a rowdy good time. The Kona Brew Fest happens every spring in March. The Hilo Brew Fest is held every summer in June.
PLEASE KOKUA AND DRINK RESPONSIBLY.
There are many DUI and alcohol related car accidents in Hawaii. Please don’t drink and drive. We recommend taking an Uber if you plan on drinking. Both breweries in Kona are a short Uber ride from My Hawaii Hostel or can be accessed by the Kona Trolley.
What’s your favorite Big Island brew? Don’t forget to tag us @myhawaiihostel on your brewery adventures during your visit.