Kona Brewing Co.—founded in, you guessed it, Kailua-Kona—was one of the very first entries into Hawaii’s craft beer scene in 1994. Given the Big Island’s long history with craft beer, it only seems natural that several other breweries have followed Kona into the market.
In this article, we’ll show you where to find the best breweries on the Big Island of Hawaii. And, if you love locally crafted beverages but you’re not a beer fan, we’ve got a few spots for you, too. You’ll find opportunities to sip the Big Island’s finest creations all over the island. Whether you’re a resident looking to enjoy a pau hana drink with a friend or a visitor exploring everything the island has to offer, you’ll never be far from refreshment!
Let’s get started…!
#1: Ola Brew Co.
Ola Brew Co. is all about community. First and foremost, the brewery focuses on sourcing local ingredients with the mission of supporting Hawaii’s agricultural economy. Additionally, Ola is also employee- and community-owned, with more than 2,800 small investors and 40+ employee-owners supporting the operation. In fact, if you want to become a micro-supporter of Ola, you can join their Mug Club for $100. Membership comes with a nice perk: an automatic upgrade to a larger-sized beverage.
Perhaps the best thing about Ola, though, is the variety in their lineup. In addition to their rotating beers on tap, Ola also offers a hearty selection of hard seltzer, hard cider, and hard tea—plus limited-edition weekly releases that drop every Thursday.
Ola means life in Hawaiian—and you’ll find plenty of that at both their Kona and Hilo locations.
74-5598 Luhia St.
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
1177 Kilauea Ave.
Hilo, HI 96720
#2: Big Island Brewhaus
Big Island Brewhaus has the distinction of being the “highest” brewery on the Big Island, located at 2,764 feet in the town of Waimea. Their team leverages creativity and imagination in their award-winning beers, while including plenty of local ingredients. Food can feel like an afterthought at some breweries. However, at Big Island Brewhaus, you’ll find a robust menu with lots of vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Finally, Big Island Brewhaus is also a great place to hear live music. They’ve got an open mic night every Thursday and live music every Friday, giving you yet another reason to get yourself up to Waimea.
64-1066 Mamalahoa Hwy
#3: Kona Brewing Co.
One life, right? Why not infuse it with some liquid aloha? That’s the promise behind Kona Brewing Co.’s lineup—a little taste of Hawaii in every bottle:
Since 1994, Kona has been turning out island-inspired brews. Just a few years ago, they opened a new 30,000-square-foot brewery in Kailua-Kona, focused on sustainability. Their solar panels generate one-third of the energy they use, and a state-of-the-art carbon dioxide recovery system allows the brewery to produce 100% of its own CO2.
At the Kona Pub, you’ll taste the favorites that put Kona on the map, including Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, and Fire Rock Pale Ale. Plus, you’ll also be able to sample a few exclusives you won’t find anywhere else. At the Tap Room in the Hilton Waikoloa Village, you’ll also find a strong Kona lineup, with a few Hawaii-only beers in rotation. However, if it’s the small-batch exclusives you’re after, head for the Kona Pub.
Finally, if you fall in love with Kona’s offerings and you find yourself craving their liquid aloha outside of Hawaii, you’re in luck. You’ll find Kona beer in 36 states and 10 different countries.
74-5612 Pawai Pl.
Kailua Kona, HI 96740
Tap Room at the Hilton Waikoloa
69-425 Waikoloa Beach Dr
Waikoloa Village, HI 96738
#4: Hilo Brewing Company
275 E Kawili St.
Hilo, HI 96720
Specializing in small-batch, handcrafted beer, Hilo Brewing has its roots in two of the Big Island’s previous craft beer brands—Hawaii Nui and Mehana Brewing Company. Hawaii Nui merged with Mehana in 2009. Unfortunately, Hawaii Nui declared bankruptcy in 2013 and was bought by a Honolulu oncologist. In 2018, Big Island entrepreneur Marcus Bender bought the equipment and the trademarks, with the intention of establishing a new, Big-Island centric brand. From there, Hilo Brewing Company was born.
You’ll find Hilo Brewing’s cans all over Hawaii. Or, stop by their Hilo tasting room for anything from a 4 oz. taster to a half-keg of the ~9 beers they have on tap.
Bonus Round: Brewpubs, Kombucha, Rum, Wine, and More
To round out our list, we’ll take you beyond breweries. Below, you’ll find several Big Island venues where you can enjoy a wide variety of locally crafted beverages, including wine, spirits, and kombucha.
Humpy’s Big Island Alehouse
Humpy’s motto—”no crap on tap”—pretty much says it all. At Humpy’s, you’ll find 36 draft beers, a solid menu with a big selection of pub fare, and a friendly atmosphere, all of which make Humpy’s a great stop in Kona.
Fun Fact: Humy’s original location is in downtown Anchorage! In 2010, they added the Kona location. In addition to an excellent beer selection, Humpy’s also features fantastic ocean views.
The Booch Bar
When your traveling with folks who have divergent tastes, head to the Booch Bar, where you can grab yourself a glass of locally-made kombucha from Big Island Booch, a specialty cocktail, or a local draft beer. On the menu, you’ll find a number of vegetarian and gluten-free options, including dishes like a kombucha smoothie bowl, mushroom bimimbap, and a tempeh taco salad. All tasty, all local, all healthy.
Kuleana Rum Works
Since 2013, Kuleana Rum Works has been making rum on the Big Island without added sweeteners, flavors, or coloring. They’re also on a mission to re-propagate 40+ varieties of heirloom sugarcane, many of which disappeared when sugarcane entered commercial production in Hawaii. You’ll find the Kuleana Rum Shack in the Queens’ Marketplace, where you can enjoy tastings, mai tai classes, cocktails, food, and more.
Started by a retired Oahu veterinarian, Volcano Winery has long experimented with uniquely Hawaiian ingredients, like honey from Big Island bees and locally grown fruit. Although Lynn “Doc” McKinney sold the winery back in 1999, it continues to be a family operation, now operated by the Bothof family. Stop by to sample their full grape wines, fruit blends, and honey meads. The winery offers daily tastings, plus tours by reservation.
12th Hawaii Distiller
One ingredient sets 12th Hawaii Distiller apart from the rest—raw Hawaiian honey. Very few other distillers use this particular ingredient, and it gives their spirits a unique flavor profile unlike any other. Currently, 12th Hawaii Distiller is producing four offerings: Hawaiian Honeyshine, Distiller’s Reserve, Hawaiian Vodka, and Hawaiian Kona Coffee Spirits. Stop by their Kailua-Kona distillery for a tasting.
Big Island Beer Festivals
Choosing whether to live on the Hilo side or the Kona side of the Big Island can be a tough decision. However, when it comes to beer festivals, there’s no reason to choose! Kona has its own Brewers Festival in March, and Hilo has its Brewfest in June, so why not attend both?! Beer lovers will relish the opportunity to sample unique offerings—and enjoy food, music and community, all in one place.
Getting Your Fill on the Big Island
As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities on the Big Island to enjoy a freshly brewed beer—or another local refreshment of your choosing. Whether you’re spending a few days on the Big Island, a few years, or a lifetime, you’ll find options all over to enjoy a uniquely-Big-Island beverage.
Considering a permanent move to the Big Island? With offices in Kailua-Kona and Hilo, we can help you get anywhere you want to go! Just reach out for a free quote to get started.
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