Mattson Davis

Jo McGarry photo

Mattson Davis – President, Kona Brewing Company

Where were you born and raised? I was born in Milwaukee, Wis., and I grew up in the Midwest.

Was your family in the restaurant industry? No, but my family really enjoyed eating together every night, and I think that’s what made me aware of the happiness that you can give people through food and beverage.

You came to Hawaii at the start of the craft brewery movement, which seems like a long time ago. (laughs) Yes, I came over when Kona Brewery was in its infancy. It has been a great journey.

Where do you like to eat when you’re home on the Big Island? I love Annie’s in Kainaliu, where the whole menu is locally sourced – everything from the bread to the beef, to gelato … it’s all amazing. They make incredible basil and garlic french fries. And, of course, Beach Tree (Hualalai) is fabulous.

Do you cook at home? I used to, but my wife does nowadays.

What’s always in your fridge? A variety of cheese. And I’m the condiment king. If it’s good, then I believe it’s better with hot sauce. Oh, and we usually have homemade pesto in there, too.

Can we still call you a microbrewery? Technically the term is regional brewery nowadays, as we’re quite a bit bigger than when we started.

Twenty years ago it was a bit of a struggle to get people to put Kona on tap.

Oh, absolutely, it was. In most bars there’d be two or three domestic beers and maybe an imported beer on tap, and people were so worried that we weren’t able to fill their orders they were almost afraid to order from us. Today it’s so much easier because there are way more people who are educated about craft beers and about great food. People know what’s possible and they expect more.

What’s your personal restaurant philosophy? And the answer is yes. Now, what was the question?’

With whom would you most like to have dinner? Bill Clinton. It would be a fascinating evening of conversations. I heard him speak recently and he was so engaging. And President Obama is an amazing speaker who I hear enjoys a good beer.

New beers we can look forward to drinking this fall? We’re just playing with local flavors right now – ones that you can only find in Hawaii. Our Island Series beers feature Rift Zone Red made with yeast from the slopes of Mauna Loa, and we’re using local Big Island cherries – local ingredients enhance the beers.

What are you eating and drinking right now? A trio of fish – salmon, ahi