The Big Island of Hawaii has rainforest, volcanoes, snow, and green sand beaches. It also has great breweries.
From Ola Brew Co. in Kona to Big Island Brewhaus in Waimea, the Big Island’s brewmasters make paradise taste even better.
1) Big Island Brewhaus
Located in the high altitude paradise of Waimea, Big Island Brewhaus serves great beer, excellent Mexican-style food, Big Island beef burgers, and margaritas from a consistently-crowded location on the main street through town (Mamalahoa Highway).
Big Island Brewhaus has regular events like concerts. They also do something I’ve never seen at any other brewery: they serve tasting flights in muffin trays. Why don’t other breweries do this?
Like Ola, Big Island Brewhaus is locally owned and operated. As far as I know, it’s a genuinely independent brewery, brewpub, and restaurant.
Big Island Brewhaus has fantastic artwork on its beers. It’s very “Big Island retro”. It’s distinctive, and it makes it easy to spot Big Island Brewhaus beers at a growing number of stores across the Big Island.
Last time I visited, they served classics like their Overboard IPA and White Mountain Porter. They also had more unique options, like an imperial red ale called Red Sea of Cacao.
Big Island Brewhaus is a must-visit if you’re driving through Waimea. It’s a great place to stop for lunch/dinner after exploring the Hilo side.
2) Ola Brew Co.
Ola Brew Co is an independent craft brewery just up the road from Kona Brewing Co. They brew good beer and have frequent events – like trivia night.
While Kona Brewing Co. is owned by Anheuser-Busch, Ola Brew Co. is owned by its employees and the community. Ola has 650 small investors and 20 employee owners.
Locals love Ola. The small taproom is generally busy. Ola also serves food – including locally sourced produce, fish, and livestock (pizza, poke, seafood, and more).
Ola is straightforward with its beer names. Its IPA is called IPA and its lager is called American Lager. They also get more adventurous with beers like Ma’a (a Kolsch) or the A’a IPA.
3) Hilo Brewing Company
Hilo once had a brewery called Hawaii Nui Brewing Company. Then, Hilo had a brewery called Mehana Brewing Company.
Today, Hilo has a brewery called Hilo Brewing Company – and it’s in the same location. Established in 2018, Hilo Brewing Company is a popular spot on the Hilo side of the Big Island.
Popular beers include Humpback Island Lager, Volcano Red Ale, the Mauna Kea Pale Ale, and Tsunami IPA.
Hilo Brewing Company claims Hawaiian water makes their beer taste so good because it’s “rated in the top of the country and the rest of the world”.
4) Big Island Booch Kombucha
Big Island Booch is a kombucha brewery in Hilo. It’s attached to the Conscious Culture Café, best-known for its breakfast and brunch.
Big Island Booch uses local flavors like mamaki, spirulina, ginger, honey, lilikoi, and coconut. They also let you experiment with different kombucha options, like mixing a 50% beet and 50% blue-green mix.
Kombucha is fermented tea. It’s technically healthy because it has antioxidants, enzymes, probiotics, amino acids. Annoyingly, anyone who drinks kombucha is required to tell you this.
5) Kona Brewing Company
Kona Brewing Co. has a brewery and brewpub just off Ali’i Drive in Kona. The food and beer is great (especially the pizza), although Kona Brewing Co. is far from island-owned.
Kona Brewing Co. launched in Kona in 1994 and has grown into a giant. You can find this beer across the United States and around the world – including all over Canada.
Kona Brewing Company may not be the local mom-and-pop shop it once was. The Kona Brewing Co. beer you buy on the mainland isn’t even brewed on the Big Island: it’s brewed in Portland, New Hampshire, and Colorado.
Yes, Kona Brewing Company has gone big. But there’s still some local flavor. In 2020, the company opened a new 30,000 square foot brewery in Kona just down the road from the original Kona brewery and brewpub. That facility has an annual capacity of 100,000 barrels and a canning line.
What’s Next for Big Island Breweries?
The Big Island has a population of around 200,000, although that population swells regularly with tourists.
It’s possible that Hilo and Kona could support another brewery – given the popularity of Ola and Hilo Brewing Company. However, it’s also possible that the Big Island has reached its brewery limit for now.