Pau Hana Patrol: Vice Inferno offers ‘liquid goodness’

Nov. 2, 2012 | 1 Comment In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition

Vice Inferno's pau hana combines discounts on microbrewed beer with specialty pizza and a great location. --Courtesy photo

Vice Inferno's pau hana combines discounts on microbrewed beer with specialty pizza and a great location. — Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus.


One of the toughest challenges any startup business will face is raising capital. Someone has to pay for materials, or rent, or employees, or other associated expenses.

Young, hungry entrepreneurs in Honolulu often get past that hurdle by working with others and forming strategic partnerships that benefit all involved. Just look at what’s happening in Kakaako, where a new co-op venture seems to launch every few months, and successful events like “Eat the Street” bring together dozens of small businesses (i.e., food trucks) and an exponential amount of customers willing to spend money.

1200 Ala Moana Blvd.

Happy Hour:
4 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays
» $3 microbrews
» $3 cocktails

Over at Ward Centre, the owners of Vice Nightclub applied a similar strategy earlier this year. Bryan Yoshida, Sean Saiki, David Ung and Alex Kamm come from the world of club promotion, which in Honolulu often means strength in numbers. More hands on deck will typically attract a larger crowd.

So in July, Vice partnered with Inferno’s Wood Fire Pizza and renamed the business Vice Inferno. In August, beer lines that sat dormant since Brew Moon closed in 2009 were resurrected when Hawaiian Islands Brewing Co. joined the party. The result is an eclectic space that may not make a lot of sense at first glance but still does a number of things well.

WHICH BRINGS us to happy hour. We’re not talking about partying at Vice on a Friday or Saturday night, when hundreds of club kids — who probably used to frequent Ka Nightclub when it was open a few doors down at Ward Centre — go to warm up before heading to nearby Ginza Nightclub for post-2 a.m. shenanigans. Or Thursdays, when salsa dancers show up for “Salsamor” and its free lessons every week at 8 p.m.

No, we’re talking about pau hana in the traditional sense of the term, which appeals most to 9-to-5 types who might be able to sneak away from their desks a few minutes before quitting time for a drink or two.

Get to Vice Inferno from 4 to 7 p.m. daily (except Mondays), and the liquid goodness brewed up with aloha by HIBC’s Frank Wenzl and Greg Yount is just $3 per pint.

If Wenzl’s and Yount’s names sound familiar, you’re probably already a student of the Hawaii craft brewing industry and don’t need persuading to come down and throw back a few here.

Yount was at the helm when Brew Moon shut down production, and his decision to join Wenzl and reopen the Ward Centre brewery operation earlier this year was a reunion of sorts, as the two worked together nearly two decades ago when Wenzl founded Hawaii’s first microbrewery, Ali’i Brewing Co., in 1993.

A recent Tuesday visit found a nearly empty house at 5:30 p.m. and just one bartender on duty. Not necessarily that good for business, but great for those in search of a chill spot with some quality beer at an affordable price. And while the pizza isn’t discounted during happy hour, it’s still worth a visit here to try the wood-fired pies coming out of Kyle Okumoto and John Wong’s kitchen.

Standards like the 3 Cheese ($11), Pepperoni Lovers ($12) and Margherita ($13.50) fit hand in glove when paired with a HIBC brew. Others, like the Spinach Garlic Tomato ($13.50, made with fresh spinach and local tomatoes) and the Guava Smoked Pork ($15.50, made with local Shinsato smoked pork, Maui onions and locally produced barbecue sauce) make an effort to utilize local ingredients. And you can’t go wrong with the All Meat ($14.75) or White Truffle ($15.50) pies: Who doesn’t like pepperoni, sausage and sopresatta, or mushrooms and garlic drizzled with white truffle oil atop a cheese pizza?

VICE INFERNO’S central location and plentiful free parking make it a prime pau hana pick if you have a group of friends who can entertain themselves, or if you’re looking for a quiet spot for a first date over beer and pizza before heading over to the movie theaters across the street. And while most of the tables on the open-air lanai probably won’t work for those actually trying to do some business, a few booths inside near the bar provide a bit of privacy for decision-makers looking to broker a deal over a slice (or celebrate with shots).

For now, six HIBC beers are on tap at Vice Inferno. Diamond Head Lager, Diamond Head Gold, Akamai Amber Ale, Lei O’ Mano IPA and Kona Coffee Stout are expected to be joined in the coming months by at least three more types of beer. The brewery has also partnered with local clothing retailer In4mation to release a limited-edition “hi” beer on tap.

I’m partial toward the Diamond Head Lager on a hot day or when I’m looking for something cold and refreshing after a long afternoon at the office. The Lei O’ Mano is my pick for big flavor, while the Kona Coffee Stout is an easy substitute for Guinness when I feel like a more substantial brew.

Another plus? HIBC sells the same 64-ounce growlers I started buying at Brew Moon back in 2005. While the growlers cost $18 to fill up, refills are just $12 when you bring the glass container back to the bar on subsequent visits.

Until this place gets too crowded and I can’t find an open seat, I can see Vice Inferno becoming one of my top picks during the week. And I don’t feel bad about sharing this spot, either, since I know I can always call in a takeout order for pizza and bring in my empty growlers for a refill.

  • Anonymous

    The place is doomed. Next door to Ryan’s with an extensive menu and a vast back bar and beer selection, Inferno/Vice cannot succeed as a one trick pony. The business plan is simply not-viable. I have been by three times and never stayed because the place is always empty. There needs to be some major surgery done here – define the market and the offering, develop a compelling pupu program paired to the micro-brews, embark on some meaningful marketing and advertising. Good luck guys but you really need some help – get it before it’s time to turn turtle.