New Kona Brewing Co. brewery expected to be fully operational next spring

  • Construction continues on the Kona Brewing Co.’s new brewery on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • 100 barrel tanks are installed at the Kona Brewing Co.'s new brewery. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Construction continues on the Kona Brewing Co.'s new brewery on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Fermenting tanks are installed at the new Kona Brewing Co's brewery. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Mary Smith stands under one of the 100 barrel tanks at the site of the new Kona Brewing Co.’s brewery. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • The Kona Brewing Co.'s new brewery construction is progressing on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • The Kona Brewing Co.'s new brewery construction is progressing on Friday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Construction is moving along at Kona Brewing Co.’s new brewery, with the first kegs and cans of beer targeted to roll off the line this spring.

After grading and laying the concrete pad upon which the 30,000-square-foot brewery and canning facility will sit, crews are currently raising the metal girders that’ll frame the building and installing the brewing equipment, including brewing vessels and fermenting tanks. At full operation, the brewery will turn out upward of 100,000 barrels per year.

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“We’re looking to be all pau by the end of February, beginning of March,” Bill Smith, Kona Brewing general manager of Hawaii operations, said Friday.

With the brewery and canning operation expected to be up and running by then, the first beer is anticipated to be ready for consumption around March or April.

Kona Brewing, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, broke ground on the Old Kona Industrial Area facility in March 2016 and initially expected to be in full operation by early 2018, ahead of the silver anniversary. In 2017, that date was pushed back to 2019 by setbacks with the facility’s wastewater system that’ll render wastewater to R1 reusable water.

Smith said construction, which began with grading the 2.6-acre lot in the Old Kona Industrial Area, got underway shortly after building permits were received from Hawaii County in March. Things will go pretty quick from here, as all the materials needed are already on the island allowing “us to bring this brewery to life in a more expedited manner.”

“We appreciate everybody’s patience and support,” the operations manager said. “We’re looking forward to having everyone come through for a tour when we’re up and running.”

Kona Brewing Co., founded in 1994, currently distributes its products in all 50 states and 30 countries. The company merged with Craft Brew Alliance in 2010 and has brewed the majority of its beer in Oregon and at other breweries throughout the country.

With the new brewery’s annual capacity of 100,000 barrels, the equivalent of 200,000 kegs, Kona Brewing Co. will move most of its production of cans and kegs for Hawaii back to the Big Island. The current facility, where tap beer offered in Hawaii is brewed, puts out about an eighth of that, at just 12,000 barrels annually.

“Everything that comes out of here will be shipped all over the islands,” Smith said. Bottled beer will still continue to come from facilities on the mainland.

Bringing production home, thus reducing the impact on the environment by cutting shipping between the Aloha State and the mainland, was just one of the reasons the company built the new brewery.

“What it did was also give us an opportunity to look at our brewing practices and focus on what our biggest ethos is, the environment and sustainability,” Smith said.

Among the sustainability features of the new facility is what Smith called the Kona Resource Reclaim Center, an aerobic-anaerobic treatment system that’ll render wastewater to R1, the highest quality reuse water, for irrigation and other uses, such as washing down floors and the kegs outside.

The company’s also turning to solar, installing panels and a battery system that’ll mitigate electrical use by 25-30%, Smith said.

Another aspect, which Smith was “quite unique” to the new brewery, is a CO2 (carbon dioxide) reclamation system that’ll allow the company to capture the gas naturally produced during fermentation to use later in the process. Currently, CO2 has to be brought from the mainland and processed on Oahu before being shipped to the Big Island, increasing the cost and impact on the environment.

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“As big as this project is, really what it continues: Just the way of being of Kona Brewing — being more than just a brewery,” Smith said explaining the company’s main focus is based on those set by founders father-son team Cameron Healy and Spoon Khalsa back in 1994, to give back to the community and have a positive impact on the environment.

Those interested can keep up with the project via live feed at https://app.truelook.com/?u=ik1526399757#tl_live. For more information, visit www.konabrewingco.com.

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