Kona Brewing Company

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Kona Brewing Company
Hawaii (5496324082).jpg
LocationKailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi
United States
Opened1994; 25 years ago (1994)
Annual production volume220,000 US beer barrels (260,000 hL) in 2012 [1]
Owned byCraft Brew Alliance

Kona Brewing Company is a brewery in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii's Big Island. As of October 1, 2010, it has been owned by Craft Brew Alliance. Kona's year-round beers include Longboard Island Lager,[2] Big Wave Golden Ale (formerly Pacific Golden Ale), and Fire Rock Pale Ale. They have three rotating seasonal brews in their Aloha Series including Koko Brown,[3] Wailua Wheat[4] and Pipeline Porter. Kona Brewing Company distributes its beers in 36 states and 10 different countries.[1]

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.[5] 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 few being served in other restaurants all over the islands.

Company history[edit]

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.[6] On the Go Hawaii website, the pub is listed as serving "fresh entrees including gourmet pizzas, sandwiches, pupus and salads.[7] The menu is filled with locally grown products, including greens, herbs, tomatoes and cheeses"[8] 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 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 brews and pub menu items.[9]

In February 2010, Kona Brewing Company hired 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.[10] 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[edit]

Year-round beers

  • Longboard Island Lager[11]
  • Big Wave Golden Ale[12]
  • Castaway IPA[13]
  • Fire Rock Pale Ale[14]
  • Koko Brown Ale[15]

Island-only beers[16]

  • Wailua Wheat
  • Lavaman Red
  • Black Sand Porter
  • Dukes Blonde Ale
  • Hula Hefeweizen

Breweries and sourcing[edit]

Kona Brewing Company produced 220,000 US beer barrels (260,000 hL) of beer in 2012.[1] Kona Brewing Company runs its flagship brewery in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii's Big Island. Kona Brewing Company brands are also produced at Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland, Oregon, and Redhook Ale Brewery in both Woodinville, Washington, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the sister subsidiaries of Craft Brewers Alliance, Inc. (BREW). This ownership by 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."[17]

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.[18] 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.

Hawaii roots[edit]

Kona Brewing Company has three restaurants in Hawaii with 250 employees working on the islands in the brewery, restaurants, and in the corporate offices.

  • 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.

Key people[edit]

  • Mattson Davis, president[19]

Growth and distribution[edit]

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.[20][21] Kona's beers are available in the United States in 25 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, labels and advertising[edit]

The collectible caps of Kona beers all have Hawaiian words partnered with their English definitions. There are now 50 words in the collection.

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." [22] In the late 2010s, the company produced television commercials through its "Bruddahs" campaign with actors Dave Bell and Brutus La Benz, who play friends making observations about "mainlanders" while discussing Kona beers.[23][24][25]

Sustainability and community support[edit]

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[26] and a number of chapters of Surfrider Foundation, including the Pacific NW and Hawaii's Surfrider Kona Kai Ea Chapter.

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.[27][28] Kona Brewing is also a sponsor of Portland's Backyard Bang,[29] a snowboarding rail jam event in the streets of Portland's Pearl District, and the Art Institute of Portland. Kona also sponsored the 15-city North American tour for Lost Prophets – Search for the Collective in 2009.

As of January 2008, Kona has had a sustainability coordinator in place.[30] 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."[31]


In March 2017, Kona Brewing Company faced a class-action lawsuit claiming its beer was not actually brewed in Hawaii.[32] The case was settled to compensate purchasers of Kona Beer between Feb. 28, 2013, and June 14, 2019, up to $20 each (with receipts) or $10 each (without receipts).[33]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Kona Brewing hits Ohio shelves, bringing taste of Hawaii to Midwest".
  2. ^ Outside Magazine Longboard Lager review October 2004 Archived 2010-09-19 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Kona Brewing hits Ohio shelves, bringing taste of Hawaii to Midwest".
  4. ^ "Imbibe Unfiltered: Drink of the Week: Kona Brewing Wailua Wheat". imbibemagazine.blogspot.com.
  5. ^ "The History Of Kona Brewing Co".
  6. ^ "Honolulu Star-Bulletin Business /2004/12/26/". archives.starbulletin.com.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-04. Retrieved 2009-10-09.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Go Hawaii travel website Archived 2010-05-04 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Beer Advocate August 6, 2008".[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "KHON news, February 2, 2010". Archived from the original on June 16, 2011. Retrieved February 5, 2010.
  11. ^ "Kona Brewing Co. - Kona Brewing Co". Kona Brewing Co. 15 June 2018.
  12. ^ "Kona Brewing Co. - Kona Brewing Co". Kona Brewing Co. 15 June 2018.
  13. ^ "Kona Brewing Co. - Kona Brewing Co". Kona Brewing Co. 15 June 2018.
  14. ^ "Kona Brewing Co. - Kona Brewing Co". Kona Brewing Co. 15 June 2018.
  15. ^ "Kona Brewing Co. - Kona Brewing Co". Kona Brewing Co. 15 June 2018.
  16. ^ "Kona Brewing Co. - Kona Brewing Co". Kona Brewing Co. 15 June 2018.
  17. ^ ""Brewing National Success," Hawaii Business Magazine, November 2007". Archived from the original on 2008-10-11. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
  18. ^ "Kona Brewing Brings the Taste of Hawaii to Minnesota - Minnesota Beer Activists". mnbeeractivists.com.
  19. ^ "Midweek.com Mattson Davis Profile". Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
  20. ^ Brewers Association 2009 North American brewery rankings[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Kona is in the top 50 for 2009, Pacific Business News, April 14, 2009
  22. ^ du Terenne, Veronique (March 25, 2010). "Beer label art matches the quirky character of the microbrews". Los Angeles Times. LA Times. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
  23. ^ "Kona Brewing's 'Bruddahs' Mystified By Screen Obsessions". www.mediapost.com.
  24. ^ Jason Genegabus (June 1, 2016). "Kona Brewing brings 'Bruddahs' back for new ad campaign". Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
  25. ^ "Kona Brewing's 'Bruddahs' Make First National TV Campaign". Big Island Now - Kona Brewing’s ‘Bruddahs’ Make First National TV Campaign.
  26. ^ "Brew, Blue Water - quite a splash". the.honoluluadvertiser.com. Retrieved 2015-08-28.
  27. ^ "Travel Oregon, Pond Skim". Archived from the original on 2009-04-02. Retrieved 2009-10-30.
  28. ^ Girl, Beer (5 May 2009). "Beer Northwest: Sno-Kona's Pond Skim Results".
  29. ^ "Salomon Backyard Bang Rail Jam This Saturday". Retrieved 2015-08-28.
  30. ^ Star-Bulletin, Honolulu. "Brewing with a eco-friendly conscience - starbulletin.com - Special - /2008/06/29/". archives.starbulletin.com.
  31. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-04. Retrieved 2009-10-09.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  32. ^ "Kona Brewing Co. Sued for Not Actually Brewing Its Beer in Hawaii".
  33. ^ "Kona Beer Hawaiian Origin Class Action Settlement". Top Class Actions. 2019-07-02. Retrieved 2019-07-09.

External links[edit]