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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

Pairing Local Brews With Comfort Food

The first meeting of the Hawaii Homebrewers Association took place in 1994. It was a modest gathering of devoted hopheads who shared home-brewed beers, camaraderie and optimism about a new brewing movement in Hawaii. A few months later, Dave Campbell and wife Michelle opened Oahu Homebrew Supply, and I started a newspaper, Brew Hawaii. It looked like a beer revolution was about to begin. Turns out it took a bit longer than we thought. Fortunately, Campbell is a patient sort.

“I’m from Hawaii,” he says. “I knew I wasn’t going to go to the Mainland to pursue a career in brewing. I thought I’d wait it out.”

Gordon Biersch opened at Aloha Tower Marketplace, Kona Brewing Company opened on the Big Island, and Campbell opened the brewery attached to Sam Choy’s BLC. He’s been perfecting his craft ever since.

But a resurgence in the movement, assisted by the enthusiastic promotion of craft brews by local bars and the recent openings of gastropubs Real and Pint and Jigger, has seen production at Campbell’s Aloha Beer Company almost double. And with the opening in June of a restaurant that showcases Aloha Beer Company’s own brews, the little brewery that could is at capacity.

In a quasi-industrial space on Nimitz Highway that’s home to Aloha Beer Company’s restaurant, the bar seats 22 people and features eight freshly brewed beers. A contemporary take on a classic beer hall, the no-frills dining room is cavern-like, and the menu offers island-style comfort foods. Fried pork with onions, fried oysters, kalbi short rib sliders and calamari are perfect pairings with ABC lagers and ales. Usual beer partners spicy chicken wings and kim chee fried rice are on the menu alongside a smoked turkey leg that begs for a beer to wash it down.

“The smoked turkey leg was either going to be a love it or hate it deal,” says Campbell, adding that it’s quickly become a best-seller. Paired with an Aloha Dark Lager with its toasty, light body, there’s a subtle smoke that’s offered by both beer and giant drumstick. And don’t mistake the nachos for the usual sad and soggy offering. The folks at ABC take their short rib nachos almost as seriously as they take their beer.

“We marinade beef short ribs in our red beer and then use it to cook them,” says Campbell, “then we break that meat down and put it in the nachos.” Try them during the daily happy hour, where much of the menu is offered at a significantly reduced price.

With the growth of the local beer industry comes a new era in local brewing. And with the current popularity of freshly brewed beer, it looks as though there’s room enough for island breweries of all shapes and sizes to survive.

“For everybody involved in the local beer industry right now, it’s all just coming together,” says Dave. “Everybody’s stoked.”

It wasn’t the fastest revolution in the world, but it was worth the wait.

Happy eating!

Aloha Brewing Company 580 N. Nimitz Hwy. Honolulu 545-5959

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