The Kona Brewing Co. has been brewing its beer on the Big Island since 1994–opening its first pub in Kona in 1998 and, in 2003 its second restaurant in the Koko Marina Center in Hawaii Kai in East Oahu. It was at this location that Sheila and I had the chance to experience a unique blend of fine beers, ono food, and great entertainment.
Before, I tell you about our experience, I have a confession to make. I didn’t take my first sip of Kona Brewing beer until March of this year. I’ve always been the Bud Light kind of guy, so I went out on a limb when I ordered a bottle of Kona’s Big Wave. It turned out to be one of the best beers I’d ever tasted, but alas, it was our last night of our trip–which felt like a cruel joke. So, you can imagine how excited I was to head to a restaurant that featured more than 10 Kona Brewing Co. beers!
The restaurant itself was a little hard to find. It’s tucked at the back of the Koko Marina Center, and is about a 25 minute drive outside of Waikiki. Parking was easy, and as you’ll see from the photo opposite, the restaurant had a warm and welcoming feel to it. All of the staff were friendly–honestly, I can’t remember the last time I met a grumpy Hawaiian anyway–and they showed us to our table. We were both a little disappointed not to be seated close to the railing–with its marina view–but we soon got over that when we realized we had a great view of Grammy Award winning slack key guitar master Led Kaapana. He plays at the restaurant every Sunday between 6pm and 8pm, and will definitely add to the enjoyment of your dinner. Keep an eye open for his most avid fans and their “Led Head” t-shirts.
Before I get to the beer, let me tell you about the food. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much more than your typical bar food. Boy was I wrong–it actually ended up being one of my favorite meals of the whole trip. The Niu Valley Nachos ($12)–with Kalua Pork–were delicious, and we would have been happy re-ordering them all night. Fortunately, we broke the Nachos habit in time to try the equally tasty Kettle Chip Crusted Ono ($22)–which is rolled in Kettle Chip crumbs, sauteed, smothered in the fabulous Golden Ale butteryaki sauce and served with vegetables and hapa rice. I am literally salivating as I type this!
OK, so time for the beer. It’s exactly what you would have guessed. How can you fault the beer, when you’re sitting in the restaurant of a brewery? Of course, I started off with the Big Wave, but then our server quickly encouraged us–OK, it didn’t take much–to go through their mini-beer samples. For $8 you get 4, 6oz samples of any of Kona Brewing Co.’s beers. With ten of them to try, you can imagine the fun Sheila and I had tasting each one–all in the name of professional journalism, of course! 😉
The Black Sand Porter really did have a chocolate taste–as claimed–and the Pipeline Porter is made with 100% Kona coffee. Duke’s Blonde Ale was a real thirst-quencher, and the Hula Hefeweizen had an amazing hint of banana!! They also had a macadamia nut beer, which they serve seasonally–wait, they have seasons in Hawaii? 😉 Even if you’re not a beer drinker–which Sheila certainly isn’t–you’ll enjoy sampling the many delicious beers. Think of it as a high-society wine tasting, except with beer and kalua pork!
I can highly recommend the Kona Brewing Co. for a night of affordable sandwiches, pizzas, and pupus, great beer and lively entertainment!
What you need to know, before you go:
- The Kona Brewing Co. is located at the Koko Marina Center, 7192 Kalaniana’ole Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96825 – it’s hard to find the actual restaurant so use this Google map.
- Menu items range in price from $5-$14 for Pupus; Soups & Salads $9-$12; Pizzas $11 (small) to $25 (large); and Entrees $16-28. Not sure if you’ll like the food? You can download the menu and check it before you go.
- Grab a map from your car rental desk, or keep an eye open for one of the many free guides. We found a coupon in our Avis map good for free crab cakes with any beer sample order.
- If you want a “water” view, then make a reservation. That said, don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get it–the location is a small boat marina, not oceanfront.
- We took a few more photos, which you can view here.
- Want more information about Kona Brewing Co.? Check out their website: www.KonaBrewingCo.com