Grind Time: Kona Brewing brings Big Isle to Oahu

Nov. 12, 2015 | 0 Comments


There’s no question Hawaii is in the middle of a beer boom, with a number of new breweries setting up shop on Oahu and the recent passing of a new law allowing sales of growlers — glass bottles used to store and transport draft beer — to thirsty customers.

But the relatively quick growth is also a bit of a double-edged sword. Some of the new players, like Honolulu Beerworks and the Waikiki Brewing Company, scored hits right out of the gate. Others have felt the growing pains that go along with running a start-up business, like overcoming obstacles which threaten to delay (or shut down) production, or products that might have seemed like a good idea at first, but ended up an epic disappointment by the time they reached customers’ pint glasses.

That’s why I’m so jealous of beer drinkers on Maui and Hawaii Island, who have not just one, but two Maui Brewing Company brewpubs and the original Kona Brewing Company, respectively. Sure, I can get MBC cans at my favorite retailer on Oahu and there’s a KBC pub in Hawaii Kai, but I’ve found the most exciting stuff going on happens at the breweries’ home bases, where small batch experiments and other one-time-only beers make their appearances.

It takes a special occasion for this stuff to make it over to Oahu, like last week’s Farm-to-Table Beer Dinner at Hula Grill Waikiki. Chef Matthew Young featured fresh ingredients sourced from Hawaii Island that were paired with seasonal Kona Brewing beers that are usually only available at the Hawaii Kai pub in extremely limited quantities, if at all.

PHOTOS BY JASON GENEGABUS / JASON@STARADVERTISER.COMKona kampachi was among the items on the menu at a Farm-to-Table Beer Dinner featuring Kona Brewing Company at Hula Grill Waikiki on Nov. 4.


Kona kampachi was among the items on the menu at a Farm-to-Table Beer Dinner featuring Kona Brewing Company at Hula Grill Waikiki on Nov. 4.

Young did a great job of staying focused and not trying to do too much with his plates — with Big Island abalone, Kona kampachi and Ka’u oranges among the menu items, he was smart to present dishes that felt like comfort food yet were refined enough to remind guests they were at a special event.

Of the five seasonal beers served Nov. 4 — Lemongrass Luau, Pedaler’s Pilsner, Paddleboard Saison, Pipeline Porter and Mahalo Imperial IPA — it was really tough to pick a favorite. KBC brewmaster Billy Smith hit the ground running after his arrival in Kona last year, pumping out limited-run offerings like those poured last week along with overseeing the successful Makana Series of beers that commemorate the brewery’s 21 years in business.

It was all about the way the five beers paired with Chef Young’s food; while I’m not the biggest fan of lemongrass and didn’t particularly enjoy the Lemongrass Luau the first time I tried it, coming back to the stuff last week with a bite of abalone alongside it changed my tune. It was light and refreshing, bringing almost a sweetness out of the abalone.

 Kona Cold Water lobster was paired with Kona Brewing's Pedaler’s Pilsner

Kona Cold Water lobster was paired with Kona Brewing’s Pedaler’s Pilsner.

My favorite pairing was the Kona Cold Water lobster (served with a poached egg!) and KBC’s Pedaler’s Pilsner. I like this type of beer to begin with, and you can’t really go wrong with serving up fresh seafood and a cold one, right? The velvety texture of the egg yolk didn’t seem like a good idea to me at first, but that foolishness dissipated as soon as I took my first bite.

Other dishes served last week included Kona kampachi with Paddleboard Saison, Paniolo Cattle Company short rib with Pipeline Porter and Ka’u orange and Hamakua vanilla bean panna cotta with Mahalo Imperial IPA.

If you’re kicking yourself over missing this one, don’t worry. Hula Grill hosts special dinners like these throughout the year — and you don’t need to be a VIP guest or have special connections to get on the invite list. The restaurant maintains an active presence on social media and shares details about special events online far enough in advance for you to plan accordingly. Follow Hula Grill on Instagram and Facebook for the latest info.
“Grind Time” is always looking for the latest places to get your grub on. Email Jason Genegabus with restaurant, bar or any other food/drink-related item at and follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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