Kona Brewing Company
Longboard Island Lager, Kona Brewing Company's flagship beer
|Owner(s)||Craft Brew Alliance|
Kona Brewing Company is a craft brewery located in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii's Big Island and is the top selling craft beer in the state. Since October 1, 2010, it has been owned by Craft Brew Alliance. Kona's year-round beers include Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, and Fire Rock Pale Ale. They have three rotating seasonal brews in their Aloha Series including Koko Brown, Wailua Ale  and Pipeline Porter. Kona Brewing Company distributes in 36 states and 10 countries with more than 220,000 barrels of beer sold in 2012.
Kona Brewing Company introduced Pacific Golden Ale (now called Big Wave Golden Ale) and Fire Rock Pale Ale to Hawaii in bottles and kegs in 1995. Longboard Island Lager was added three years later. Approximately 10 other styles of beer are brewed on a regular basis and served at Kona Brewing Company’s pubs with a select few being served in other restaurants all over the islands.
Kona Brewing Company was started in the spring of 1994 by father and son team Cameron Healy and Spoon Khalsa. Kona Brewing Company's Kailua-Kona Pub on Hawaii's Big Island opened in November 1998. "A mahogany log lifted from the shores of Kailua Bay (used to adorn the acacia koa wood bar) and rusty corrugated tin from an old distillery helped transform the ink-smudged pressroom into a little hops-flavored oasis," said Kona president Mattson Davis in an interview with the Honolulu Star Bulletin in 2004. On the Go Hawaii website, the pub is listed as serving "fresh entrees including gourmet pizzas, sandwiches, pupus and salads. The menu is filled with locally-grown products, including greens, herbs, tomatoes and cheeses" as well as fresh beers on draft.
In 2003, Kona Brewing Co. opened its second restaurant at the Koko Marina Center in Hawaii Kai on Oahu. In an interview with examiner.com in spring of 2009, Davis said that Kona's strategy in 2003 was simple: "Make sure we made great beer, get it to market, and hand out coasters."
In July 2008, Kona Brewing Company opened its third restaurant location and first franchise at Honolulu International Airport. Located at the mainland terminal, the restaurant features Kona Brewing Company's craft brews and pub menu items.
In February, 2010, Kona Brewing Company hired Sunetric, the largest Hawaii-owned and operated commercial solar energy contractor, to install a 229 kW solar energy generating system at its Kailua-Kona brewery and pub, which is expected to be fully operational by April, 2010. The project, a roof-mounted grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) system, is estimated to produce a daily average of 900 kWh of electricity, which will allow Kona Brewing Company nearly 60 percent offset of its current electricity usage. The brewery held a private blessing of the system with Sunetric on Monday, October 18 led by Hawaiian cultural educator Kumu Keala Ching as its solar system became fully operational.
Year-round beer offerings
Aloha Series beers
- Koko Brown Ale (brewed with toasted coconut) – Available January through April
- Wailua Wheat (Belgian-Style Wit brewed with tropical passion fruit) – Available May through August
- Pipeline Porter (brewed with 100% Kona coffee) – Available September through December
- Castaway IPA
- Lavaman Red
- Black Sand Porter
- Dukes Blonde Ale
- Hula Hefeweizen
Breweries and sourcing
Kona Brewing Company produced 220,000 barrels of beer in 2012. Kona Brewing Company runs its flagship brewery in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii's Big Island. Kona Brewing Company also produces its bottled beer at Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland, Oregon and Redhook Ale Brewery in both Woodinville, Washington and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as part of its partnership with Craft Brewers Alliance, Inc. (BREW). Kona Brewing Company prides itself on providing the freshest beer close to the market it is consumed. Brewing in multiple locations helps the company to minimize the carbon footprint by reducing shipping of raw materials, finished beer, and wasteful packaging materials. This partnership with Craft Brew Alliance grants the company access to the Anheuser-Busch distribution network, which, according to Hawaii Business Magazine, "has the most technologically sophisticated distributor system in the country, with computer terminals in thousands of independently owned distributors and its own network of wholly owned distribution branches."
Recipes and beer specifications are dictated by Kona Brewing Company's brewmaster, who oversees all production at each Kona Brewing Company's partner breweries. The beer brewed at Kona Brewing Company's partner breweries utilizes Kona's hops, malt, and proprietary yeast. In order to create a consistent experience across the board, the water mineral levels at each brewery are adjusted to replicate the water used in Hawaii. First the water is treated for impurities and then minerals are added to mimic the fresh water available in Hawaii. Water is an important aspect of all Kona Brewing Company's beers. A sample of every batch of beer is sent to the Kona, Hawaii brewery and corporate offices for sensory evaluation.
Kona Brewing Company has three restaurants in Hawaii with 250 employees working on the islands in the brewery, restaurants, and in the corporate offices. Being the oldest brewery currently brewing in Hawaii, the company creates brews with tropical inspirations that link to its local Hawaiian identity and use of local ingredients. 80% of the produce at the Kailua-Kona pub restaurant is locally sourced.
- Rift Zone Indigenous Red Ale is brewed using yeast cultivated and found only on the volcano rifts from the Big Island.
- Pipeline Porter is brewed with 100% Kona coffee from their neighbor on the Big Island, Cornwell Estate.
- The ginger in their Big Island Ginger is cultivated in Kona.
- The Lemongrass in the Lemongrass Ginger Luau is grown on-site and at employees' houses.
- Cacao nibs for specialty beers are sourced from Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory.
People at Kona
Growth and distribution
In 2009, Kona Brewing Company was ranked #14 in sales of all craft brewers in the US (approximately 1,450) according to the Brewers Association. Kona's beers are available in the United States in twenty five states and the District of Columbia.
Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, and Fire Rock Pale Ale are available all year. Wailua Ale and Pipeline Porter are limited releases of the Aloha Series, available for six months each in bars and grocery stores and specialty beer shops. Wailua Wheat Ale is available March through August and Pipeline Porter is available September through February. The company launched its third Aloha Series beer Koko Brown Ale to the West Coast in February, 2011.
Caps and labels
The collectible caps of Kona beers all have Hawaiian words partnered with their English definitions. There are now 50 words in the collection Some examples include:
- Wai: Water
- Brah: Dude
- He’e nalu: Surfing
- Kâmau: Cheers
- ‘Ale: Wave Crest
- Pâ‘ina: Dinner Party
The labels are produced by Flint Design Co. of Portland, OR (formerly known as Anstey Healy Design) and have been the sole graphics company for the brand, designing everything from the logo to packaging. All labels depict actual beaches and island scenes in Hawaii, such as Longboard Island Lager showing Honolulu's Waikiki Beach on Oahu. The crater in the background is Diamond Head. The label shows "surfers backed by Hawaii's volcanic mountains ride blue, blue waves toward a broad and sandy beach. The logo itself echoes a tribal tattoo, adding to the local vibe." 
Sustainability and community support
Kona Brewing Company supports numerous community events throughout the year, including surf and surf-inspired events and causes that celebrate Hawaiian people, land and water. These include sponsoring professional surfers Jeff Silva and CJ Kanuha. Kona supports Sierra Club's Blue Water Campaign and a number of chapters of Surfrider Foundation, including the Pacific NW and Hawaii's Surfrider Kona Kai Ea Chapter. In 2008 the brewery took part in the Ho'okipa Beach Park cleanup for the Maui chapter of Surfrider and supports the annual Kona Surf Film Festival held on Hawaii's Big Island each November.
Kona brings the Sno-Kona Pond Skim to Mt. Hood Meadows, Oregon, each spring where costumed skiers and snowboarders skim across an icy pond. The athletes are competing for a number of prizes, among them a trip to Hawaii. Kona Brewing is also a sponsor of Portland's Backyard Bang, a snowboarding rail jam event in the streets of Portland's Pearl District hosted by Salomon Snowboards and the Art Institute of Portland. Kona also sponsored the 15-city North American tour for Lost Prophets – Search for the Collective in 2009.
Each year the brewery hosts the Kona Brewers Festival, a sold-out event that has raised more than $555,000 for local environmental, educational and cultural organizations over the past 18 years. In 2007, Kona Brewing Company won the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce Kuleana Award for exemplary integrity, citizenship and stewardship.
As of January, 2008, Kona has had a sustainability coordinator in place. Also, according to the Big Island Visitor's Bureau sustainable tourism practices section, "Kona's restaurant was constructed with recycled materials and adorned with native woods; local produce, fresh-caught fish and sustainably-raised beef on menu. Heat reclamation systems in the brewery greatly reduce energy demand; plastic, paper, metal, glass, and cardboard are recycled, takeout containers are made of plant-based materials and automatic faucets and toilets reduce water usage."
In late 2009, the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association (HOFA) granted Kona Brewing with organic certification for its Oceanic Organic Saison, the first certified organic beer in the state of Hawaii. The beer will be served at Kona Brewing Company's pubs in early January, 2010.
- Longboard Island Lager
- 2013 Silver Medal – Dortmunder/Export category, North American Beer Awards
- 2013 Bronze Medal – Dortmunder category, Australian International Beer Awards
- 2012 Bronze Medal – Munich Style Helles Lager category, Great American Beer Festival
- 2012 Gold Medal – Helles category, North American Beer Awards
- 2011 Silver Medal – Dortmunder/Export category, North American Beer Awards
- 2010 Silver Medal – Munich Style Helles Lager category, World Beer Championships
- 2010 Silver Medal – Munich Style Helles Lager category, Great American Beer Festival
- 2010 Best of the Northwest/Pacific – Helles category, United States Beer Tasting Championships
- 2010 Silver Medal – European Style Lager, Australian International Beer Awards
- 2009 Gold Medal – Lager category, Portland Spring Beer & Wine Fest, Oregon
- 2009 Bronze Medal – American Lager/ Pilsener category, U.S. Open Beer Championships, Georgia
- 2009 Honorable Mention – Light Lager category, San Diego County Fair Craft Beer Competition, CA\
- 2008 Gold Medal – Dortmunder/ Export category, North American Brewers Association, North American Beer Awards
- 2008 Silver Medal – Lager category, Portland Spring Beer & Wine Festival, Oregon
- 2008 Bronze Medal – European Style Lager category, Australian International Beer
- 2008 Best of the Northwest/Pacific; Dortmunder/Helles Category – US Beer Tasting Championship
- 2007 Best of the Northwest/Pacific; Dortmunder/Helles Category – US Beer Tasting Championship
- 2006 2nd Place/Helles Category – Craft Lager Festival, Manitou Springs, Colorado
- 2006 Silver Medal; Lager Category – North American Beer Awards
- 2005 Silver Medal; Lager Category – Portland Spring Beer & Wine Festival; Oregon
- 2005 Gold Medal; Lager Category – Capital Food & Wine Festival, Washington D.C.
- 2004 Best of the Northwest/Pacific;Dortmunder/Helles Category – US Beer Tasting Championship
- 2004 Silver Medal; Lager Category – Portland Spring Beer & Wine Festival; Oregon
- 2004 Silver Medal; European Style Pilsner Category – LA County Fair Beer Competition
- 2004 Gold Medal; Lager Category – Lake Arrowhead Suds of September Beer Festival
- 2003 Best of the Northwest/Pacific;Dortmunder/Helles Category – US Beer Tasting Championship
- 2002 Best of the Northwest/Pacific; Dortmunder/Helles Category – US Beer Tasting Championship
- Fire Rock Pale Ale
- 2009 Bronze Medal – American Pale Ale category, U.S. Open Beer Championships, Georgia
- 2008 Honorable Mention; Pale Ale Category – US Beer Tasting Championship
- 2007 Gold Medal; Pale Ale Category – Portland Spring Beer & Wine Festival, Oregon
- 2007 Bronze Medal; American Style Pale Ale Category – Australian International Beer Awards
- 2005 Gold Medal; Pale Ale Category – Capital Food & Wine Festival, Washington D.C.
- Big Wave Golden Ale
- 2007 Best of the Northwest/Pacific;Golden Ale Category – US Beer Tasting Championships
- 2001 Best of the Northwest/Pacific;Golden Ale Category – US Beer Tasting Championships
- Pipeline Porter
- 2010 Bronze Medal – Hybrid/Other category, Australian International Beer Awards
- 2007 Bronze Medal – Coffee Beer category, Great American Beer Festival, Colorado
- 2007 Silver Medal – Other Beer category, Australian International Beer Awards
- 2012 Bronze Medal – Robust Porter category, Great American Beer Festival, Colorado
- Wailua Ale
- 2009 Gold Medal – Wheat Beer category, Portland Spring Beer & Wine Fest, Oregon
- 2004 Best of the Northwest/ Pacific – Fruit Beer category, USBTC*
- 2002 Best of the Northwest/ Pacific – Fruit Beer category, USBTC*
- Outside Magazine Longboard Lager review October 2004
- Imbibe Magazine Beer of the Week--Wailua Wheat
- Honolulu Star Bulletin "A Pint of Paradise" by Karin Stanton, 12/24/06
- Go Hawaii travel website
- Examiner.com 4-part interview with Mattson Davis, 2009
- Beer Advocate August 6, 2008
- KHON news, February 2, 2010
- "Brewing National Success," Hawaii Business Magazine, November 2007
- Examiner.com 4 part series on Kona Brewing Past, Present, Future
- Midweek.com Mattson Davis Profile
- Brewers Association 2009 North American brewery rankings
- Kona is in the top 50 for 2009, Pacific Business News, April 14, 2009
- examiner.com interview, part 1
- du Terenne, Veronique. "Beer label art matches the quirky character of the microbrews". Los Angeles Times. LA Times. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
- Travel Oregon, Pond Skim
- Beer Northwest Pond Skim, May 5, 2009
- Honolulu Star Bulletin, May 31, 2007
- Honolulu Star Bulletin, "Brewing with a Conscience" Jennifer Sudick, June 28, 2008
- Draft Magazine Online, December 12, 2009
- Awards – Kona Brewing Company
- Kona Brewing Company homepage
- "Kona offers mainland a little sip of paradise". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
- Honolulu Area Attractions
- Kona review on Oahu Visitors Bureau
- Go Hawaii Kona Brewing Co. listing
- Wailua Wheat Review
- Fodor's Travel Guide, Big Island