On a recent trip to New Zealand, Jennifer and Tom Crown went on a craft brewery tour, visiting hop growers and talking to brewmasters along the way. As enthusiastic homebrewers, the Crowns are among a growing segment of the population who prefer to make their own beer. Now, they’ve turned that passion into a business.
“When we got back to Hawai‘i, we noticed that craft brewery tours don’t exist here in Honolulu,” says Jennifer Crown, who with her husband, Tom, started Aloha Tastings. “So we decided to go for it and invest in ourselves.”
Although Hawai‘i’s history with beer dates back to before the Civil War, the brewing industry is bigger than ever, with a surge in the number of craft beer producers and gastropubs looking for locally grown products, and a market of consumers looking for beers native to Hawai‘i. Although many of these craft beer companies may be relatively new, the trend of Hawai‘i’s beer industry being filled with pioneers and brewers trying new things—with locally sourced ingredients—has persisted through the years. Even Hawai‘i’s famous Primo and Kona beer brands had humble beginnings and have moved with the market, like boards in the surf.
“When we were living in San Antonio, the craft beer scene was popping,” Jennifer Crown says. “We’re starting to see that here in Hawai‘i so we want to introduce visitors to Hawai‘i’s own craft beers.”
The early 2010s saw a wave of new bars, brewpubs and gastropubs open in Hawai‘i. These venues carried and emphasized craft beers, high-caliber bar food and a generally more elegant version of Hawai‘i’s traditional bar experience. Just as the farm-to-table movement had seized Hawai‘i’s dining scene, so too was becoming the approach to beer.
With more local bars offering a wider variety of craft beers, the demand for more locally-produced craft beer has also grown. Many craft brewers have begun popping up around Honolulu at a rate never before seen, practically one per neighborhood—Waikīkī Brewing Company, Pālolo Valley Brewing Company, Honolulu BeerWorks, Aloha Beer Co. in Kaka‘ako, Lanikai Brewing in Kailua, Big Island Brewhaus and the list goes on. Many of these breweries have full bar and food selections at their locations. Even large chains like Whole Foods are tapping into the market, with craft beer bars now at both their Kailua and Kahala stores in Honolulu.
“We do three stops: Waikīkī Brewing Company, Honolulu BeerWorks and Aloha Beer Co.,” says Jennifer Crown, who leads the tours. “We spend about an hour at each place, which gives the brewer a chance to come out and explain the beers.”
With the rise of technology and accessibility in the 21st century, it’s easier now than ever to see what people are enjoying, to follow trends and to discover the next new hot thing in the food and drink industry, anywhere in the world. So whether we’re finding out about a new craft brewpub from the Internet or hearing about the opening of Kona Brewing Company on television, it seems that Hawai‘i’s craft beer scene has always yearned to grow. And as long as good cicerones (beer sommeliers), brewmasters and business owners are willing to push the envelope, we certainly will.
“We want to take our guests out of their comfort zones—to introduce them to a beer that they would not have ever tried on their own,” Jennifer Crown says. “They’ll get to sample four different types of beers, including a light, dark, specialty and porter or stout.”
Aloha Tastings tours are held Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 1 to 5 p.m. To reserve a spot, visit www.alohatastings.com or call 808.352.9518.