Hawaiian Islands Brewing Company: Honolulu's newest brewery
Above: Greg Yount (front) and Frank Wenzl (back) of Hawaiian Islands Brewing Company
The brewpub formerly known as Brew Moon is back. And in the same brewmaster's hands—Greg Yount. He and Frank Wenzl have teamed up once again to put the dormant tanks back into production. They first met 19 years ago at Alii Brewing Company, which Wenzl founded in 1993, one of the first microbreweries in Hawaii. Together, they also opened Palau's first brewery in 1998.
Ali'i closed in 2000 and Brew Moon in 2009, but the two are giving brewing another go. The Brew Moon space now houses three businesses: Vice Nightclub, Inferno's Wood Fire Pizza and Hawaiian Islands Brewing Company (HIBC), which explains the bizarre interior mash-up. There are red and white checkered tablecloths, as if lifted from an Italian-American joint; neon-colored lights; a frightening floor-to-ceiling illustration of Heath Ledger's Joker. If we stay a little longer, we are told, we can join the salsa lessons.
The brewing room entrance is tucked away by the elevators. The whole building was built around the beer tanks, which you used to be able to see through the column of glass, but they've now been frosted over (a shame).
HIBC currently offers five beers on tap, from a lager to IPA to coffee stout. We try them all, and they've got great flavor, though they have a sweet, malty finish. We wonder about this, but not for long. It turns out, sitting at the bar, are Doug Lamerson, beer geek and one subject of my recent beer article, drinking with Yount and Wenzl. The malt taste is intentional, Yount and Wenzl tell us, preferring to highlight malts over hops, in contrast to most microbrews these days. The sweetness, though, they're hoping to tone down in future batches.
This night, Yount is drinking a new invention: a locally-brewed variation on a Black and Tan, with the Kona Coffee Stout layered on the Lei O Mano IPA. Try it.
Mark your calendars for HIBC's grand opening October 3, open to the public at 7 p.m.
Hawaiian Islands Brewing Company, at Ward Warehouse, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd., 2nd floor