Excellent Craft Beer in a perfect little Island Town
If you’re a craft beer lover visiting the Island of Hawaii or maybe you’ve just had enough of all that icky sand, warm ocean water and post card sunsets, then Big Island Brewhaus is calling.
Nestled in the quaint upcountry town of Waimea, these guys are brewing award winning, world class beer. Waimea is worth a trip anytime you visit the Big Island, anyway. Its higher elevation means it’s greener and cooler than the arid, resort lined Kona coast. Waimea’s a perfect respite from the heat and throngs of tourists. My mom was raised on the Big Island and my relatives still live in and around Waimea. So, it’s awesome to have a kick-ass craft brewery right down the way from our Auntie’s place.
Big Island Brewhaus used to be Taco Taco Tacoman before Tom and Jayne Kerns relocated from Maui to Waimea to set up shop and start brewing beer in 2008. Tom was schooled in the brewpubs of Portland in the 90s. He also brewed in The Philippines and had just helped get Maui Brewing Company up and running when he started Big Island Brewhaus. In 2017, they’re still serving Mexican cuisine, only now with a world class line up of beers.
During our visit to the Big Island Brewhaus we were able to sample 18 beers. Across the board, some the most balanced and fun beers we’ve come across. They use local flavors and ingredients from the Big Island to give their brews interesting and unique personalities. Couple that with the fun beer names, laid back island vibes and crave-able Mexican fare, Big Island Brewhaus can get any visitor out of their beach chair and heading for the upcountry.
Here’s my review of the 18 beers we tasted during our visit to Big Island Brewhaus:
Starfruit Nectar Bier – ABV: 5% IBU: 12
Kari points out in our VLOG from Big Island Brewhaus that we appreciate when breweries use local ingredients and flavors to give their beers personality. This is a great example of that. This brew has a tart hint of starfruit. It drinks a bit like a sour, but balances out with a little sweetness to keep it from puckering your kisser. This is a great light bodied beer to enjoy in Hawaii’s tropical climate. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 3.0
Starshine Ginger Bier – ABV: 4.5% IBU: 25
Beer Lovers! Don’t head for the beach just because this brew’s got ginger in it. This isn’t a ginger beer like you float in a Moscow Mule or like a fruity cider. This is a real beer brewed with local Hawaiian ginger. It’s an easy drinking beer with a playful hint of ginger to give you something unique and refreshing. Like it’s cousin, the Starfruit Nectar, this is a beer easily consumed in the heat of the Islands. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 3.0
Hoptopias: Double American IPA – ABV: 7.5% IBU: 60
For me and Kari, balance is the key to drinkable IPA. This baby’s got it. With a name like Hoptopias, you expect the hops to ravish your tastebuds with that bitter flavor hopheads love in an American IPA. But, Brewer,Tom Kerns has created an incredibly balanced and smooth drinking IPA. Hoptopias still delivers plenty of hop flavor for IPA lovers, but has smoothed it out for a more accessible version of the American IPA. A fully drinkable IPA if you want to dip your toe in the IPA pool. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 3.5
Dark Sabbath: Belgian Strong Dark Ale – ABV: 9.5% IBU: 35
Don’t get me going on my love for strong Belgian Beers. It’s an irrational and unconditional love. Despite my infatuation, the Dark Sabbath isn’t my favorite Big Island Brewhaus offering. I got a lot of cherry and dark fruit as well as banana in the Dark Sabbath. But, a bit too much for me. However, fitting flavors for the island vibe. It’s also light bodied and drinkable for it’s 9.5% ABV. I’d drink this beer again for sure. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 3.75
Golden Sabbath – ABV: 8.5% IBU: 30
I like my beers strong and Belgian. The Golden Sabbath embodies both of those perfectly. But, what elevates the Golden Sabbath is that it’s brewed with local Hawaiian honey. It gives the beer a super subtle sweetness that defines the brew and sets it apart from other Belgian’s I’ve enjoyed. As much as I love Belgians, you’d assume this one would be my fave. While I do like it, there’s one i like better. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 4.0
Chardonnay Barrel-Aged Golden Sabbath
An interesting twist on an already good beer. This version of the Golden Sabbath spends 5 months in an American Oak chardonnay wine barrel. The aging gives the beer the taste and feel of a sour or mild lambic. It’s very complex, incredibly interesting and surprisingly smooth even with all it’s got going on. Love the high ABV. Super fun beer that I’d drink any day of the week. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 3.25
Coco Tart: Porter – ABV: 5.9% IBU: 35
Another fun island creation. Coconut isn’t necessarily my favorite flavor in a beer, but this is a well done brew for those who do. You don’t have to climb a tree to get the coconut flavor out of this beer. It’s right up front and the sweetness of the brew really wraps around the coconut to highlight the flavor. Those who like their porters with chocolate and other sweeteners will be fans of the Coco Tart. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 3.25
White Mountain Porter – ABV: 5.8% IBU: 30
The Big Isand Brewhaus tasting notes read: “Robust Porter with hand-toasted coconut and estate grown coffee.” What you read is what you get. A delicious, earthy blend of coconut and coffee. The coffee comes from a small coffee estate on the Hilo-side of Hawaii. A big tasty porter like this doesn’t seem like a warm weather beer. But, I assure you the light body and balance of this beer make it pretty palatable in the Island heat. It’s also a good one if you’re staying upcountry in Waimea where it gets a bit chilly in the evenings. A perfect dark booze-bomb beer. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 4.0
Tall, Dark and Mandarin – ABV: 7.8% IBU: 35
If you’re not drawn in by the name alone (perhaps that’s not “how you like your men…or women”), then perhaps my description will entice you. I think the flavor is similar to one of those yummy chocolate/orange candies that show up around Christmas time. But the Tall, Dark and Mandarin is better because you don’t have to smack it on the counter to bust it open and enjoy. Just lift the glass and taste this one-of-a-kind dark brew made with locally grown cocoa and tangerines. This was may favorite brew of the day. So unique. So fun. Just an excellent brew! Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 4.5
Pau Hana Pale Ale – ABV: 4.5% IBU: 30
From Hawaiian to English, “Pau Hana” translates to “finished work”. That’s what this brew is made for. It’s that easy drinking, after a hard-day’s-work beer. Big Island Brewhaus says it’s a “refreshing American Pale Ale” and I agree. The Pau Hana PA is a well crafted beer that you don’t have to think much about to enjoy. This one’s an anytime drinker, perfect for all occasions. Especially since you’re probably on vacation and you’re “Pau Hana” for a week or so! Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 3.5
Red Dwarf IPA – ABV: 4.9% IBU: 35
A highly drinkable and hop forward red IPA. If it’s lacking in redness or hoppy-ness, it makes it up in balance. The balance in Big Island Brewhaus’ beers are what make them all highly drinkable. As a result of the balance, the Red Dwarf is one of those beers that doesn’t exactly fit the mold. However, because it’s well done, no matter your beer preference, you can enjoy this one. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 3.5
Red Giant – ABV: 6.5% IBU: 40
This hoppy red IPA is the bigger, buffer version of the Red Dwarf…as the names suggest. It’s redder, it’s hoppier and the ABV cranks up nearly 2 percentage points. If the Red Dwarf’s beer stature leaves you wanting, the Red Giant is a perfect step up. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 3.75
Monk’s Brunch – ABV: 4.5% IBU: 25
A brunch-able saison with a light easy drinking body. I’d gladly eschew a glass of bubbles for a goblet of the Monk’s Brunch during a meal between breakfast and lunch any day. It’s got some fresh and lively notes that would have most monks turning in their brown robes for a pink popped collar, a pair of Ray-Bans, and a seat on the patio. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 4.0
Coconut Cream Ale – ABV: 4.5% IBU: 20
Brewed with the same hand-toasted coconut as the White Mountain Porter, this cream ale is served off the nitro tap, into the glass and looks as sexy as it sounds. The creaminess and coconut create a flavor and mouthfeel that evokes the word “paradise”. After all…this is Hawaii. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 4.0
Paniolo Pale Ale – ABV: 5.6% IBU: 37
Paniolo is the Hawaiian word for “cowboy”. Modern day Waimea (where you can find Big Island Brewhaus) is the town that sprung up around the Parker Ranch, a massive cattle ranch established in mid 1800s. Hence, the tip of the cap to to the town’s rich history. It’s a full-flavor, yet very accessible beer just about any beer drinker will appreciate. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 3.5
OktoberFiesta – ABV: 5.3% IBU:28
This German style marzen is a charmer. With a strong dark body, it delivers some full malty, caramel flavors. This is the beer to get if you’re a dark beer lover. Kari liked this one a lot. It’s very smooth drinking and, simply put, a well made beer. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 4.25
Graham’s Pilsner – ABV: 5.6% IBU:35
Probably one of the best Czech Style pilsners I’ve had. No question about it. This is the type of beer that makes me think twice about my disdain for green bottle beers that come from Europe. What I liked was the full flavor. This isn’t a watered down light beer. It’s smooth, with full flavor and precise balance. This pilsner deserves a place among the best American pilsners. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 4.5
Overboard IPA – ABV: 6.9% IBU: 45
While having our tasting paddles filled, we chatted with a local gentleman whose favorite beer is the Overboard. I can see why. Seems like this is Big Island Brewhaus’ take on IPAs that are so popular across the US. It’s another feather in the cap for the team at Big Island Brewhaus. Bobby’s Brew Review Score – 4.0
Come on up to the ‘Haus!
In conclusion, Big Island Brewhaus is a beer destination worth pulling yourself away from the pool and hotel buffet for. They’ve got a massive and excellent lineup of beers to sample, in addition to yummy Mexican grub. Waimea is just 20 minutes from the Kona coastline, and a perfect place to stop off for lunch when taking the Hawaii Belt Road between Hilo and Kona. They often have live music acts on weekends. Follow them on social media so you can see what’s poppin’ when you’re on the island.
If you can’t make it up to taste beer fresh off the tap, look for Big Island Brewhaus beers in the shops around where you’re staying.
Mahalo to Jayne, Tom, Sunny and the whole Big Island Brewhaus crew for showing us some warm Hawaiian hospitality during our visit. We can’t wait to go back and see what’s new next time we’re on the island!
If you like what you’ve read here, pop on over and check some of our other brew reviews from breweries near and far!