Paradise in a Bottle: Oahu’s Hottest Craft Beer Destinations
You may not expect it from a destination most famous for mai tais and pina coladas, but now, Hawaii is home to a serious craft-beer scene. Microbreweries are popping up all over the islands, and Oahu neighborhoods like Waikiki and its ultra-hip little sister Kaka‘ako are taking center stage. From small-batch innovation to island-inspired flavor profiles—think breadfruit blended with experimental hops or hand-toasted coconut cozied up to malted barley—the brews are as diverse as the islands themselves. And just as inviting. We’ve rounded up a shortlist of the best spots for craft beer in the area. So you can focus on the flights. Ke aloha!
Maui Brewing Company
First up: Maui Brewing Company located at the all new art-inspired hotel, Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger. One of Hawaii’s biggest brewers, this industrial-chic space has a shaded lanai for sipping outside and a rooftop for sampling with a view of the iconic Waikiki cityscape. With Hawaiian-inspired murals and even-more-Hawaiian-sounding brews like Da Hi Life, Barefoot Brew and the smooth-bodied Pineapple Mana, the 36 craft and specialty beers served on tap here make you want to be on endless (island) vacation. The 18,000-square-foot spot is all about a good time, too: Play a round of shuffleboard, hear live music daily, or pair a beer sampler with a Bikini Blonde beer-crust pizza. Welcome to the ‘ohana. Insider Tip: Grab your favorites to-go in a regular growler or crowler (the growler’s fresh, new 32-oz-can cousin). .
Aloha Beer Co.
Known as the “pioneer of craft beer” in the local brewing community, Aloha Beer Co. is one of Kaka‘ako’s coolest kids on the block. Tucked away on a historic section of Queen Street with serious beer-making roots, this laid-back spot is known for its helpful beertenders and lively pau hana (Hawaii’s version of happy hour). There’s a taproom in the back, and the moody hued, indoor-outdoor space is as well-crafted as the beer. A must-try? The Red Zeppelin, a malty IPA that, well, rocks. And the roasted-chocolate goodness of the Kiawe Honey Porter and the juicy Froot Lupes IPA are top of the list, too. Make sure to ask about food pairings: The pupusa and shared plate-driven menu was created by renowned chef and “pork purveryor” Robert McGee to bring out the flavors of the brews on tap. Insider Tip: Check out the sister speakeasy HI Brau Room upstairs, where you can play records on a vintage turntable against an oh-so-chic backdrop of glam-mod décor and portraits of famous Hawaiians and Hollywood celebs.
Beer Lab HI
A small-batch brewery with a mission of constant evolution, Beer Lab HI uses a special 7-bbl system that allows for creating unique beers with varying hop and specialty-ingredient profiles. The result? Deliciously experimental flavors. The taps are constantly rotating (check their Instagram for the latest), but a few regulars to make an appearance are the hazy-fruity Ko'olauloa IPA and the inspired-by-sushi, brewer’s choice Omakase Series. With concrete floors and simple tables, the space feels like a brewery in the best possible way, and board games make it a popular local’s spot. If you’re in the mood for something a little healthier, Beer Lab HI's Department of Zymurgy brews over 40 different flavors of Kombucha and Jun. Insider Tip: It’s BYOF (bring your own food), but you can grab takeout or food-truck fare nearby.
Home of the Brave Brewing Company
In a cool, walkable area just outside of Kaka‘ako, this unique brewery-meets-USO-style museum is one of the city’s true hidden gems. WWII memorabilia transports you to another time, and interactive displays ditch the typical look-but-don't-touch policy of a museum. Pick up the phones on the wall to hear conversations from the war. Watch classic war movies playing on oversized screens. Or take a selfie on the Jeep Ben Affleck drove in the Hollywood blockbuster, “Pearl Harbor.” And the beer is as storied as the setting: The Pilot Pale Ale is a smoky-meets-fruity staple, and the 442 Go for Broke Ale is a must-try ode to Hawaii's legendary 442 Regimental Combat Team. Insider tip: The hours skew more museum than brewery, so make sure to plan ahead. It’s worth it.
From its limited-edition You’ll Never Go Back Black IPA and the hoppy Intergalactic Party Punch to the handful of year-round options on tap, the microbrews at Honolulu Beerworks are as bold as their names. In the heart of Kaka‘ako, this local-and-tourist favorite puts Honolulu’s beer scene on the map. Recycled-wood walls showcase local art, and colorful communal tables and two beer gardens make for a perfect afternoon of microbrews and board games. And beer-infused cocktails pack a punch, too, like the citrusy Laid Back and the Beermosa. The locally driven menu is worth the trip on its own, with midday munchies like the Smokin Ahi Dip and Sweet Potato Hummus, and suppertime plates like the Beermade Mac & Cheese. Insider Tip: If you need a Beerworks fix on the road, a handful of their most popular brews are now available for purchase in cans all around the island, including the Kewalos Cream Ale and Cocoweizen.
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