New Kona Brewing Co. brewery eyes summer launch

  • Tanks sit waiting for use inside Kona Brewing Company’s new location. (Tom Linder/West Hawaii Today)

  • Kona Brewing Company’s wastewater treatment center - one of many the sustainability projects part of the new brewery - is under construction alongside the company’s new location on Pawai Place in Kailua-Kona. (Tom Linder/West Hawaii Today)

From the outside looking in, the skeletal look of Kona Brewing Co.’s new location on Pawai Place in Kailua-Kona makes it easy to assume it’s far from completion.

From the inside, however, the brewery is closing in on beginning production at their new home: potentially as soon as July, according to Kona Brewing’s General Manager Billy Smith.

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“We should be starting to do some test brews in late July, early August,” said Smith. “Hopefully in August, we’ll actually be packaging. September, we’ll be fully online.”

Originally slated for an opening in early 2019, Kona Brewing’s construction — one with a thorough focus on sustainability — has been hit by a handful of delays along the way. Kona’s remote location presented difficulties procuring the right equipment and materials for the brewery’s sustainability projects.

“It’s our kuleana and responsibility at Kona Brewing Co. to be sustainable and make sure that we don’t forget to take into consideration our impact here on the islands,” added Smith. “These are quite new processes in the brewing industry overall, but they’re fairly new to Hawaii as well.”

One of Kona Brewing’s biggest focuses with regards to sustainability in their new location is a wastewater treatment center. Designed to reclaim water spent during the brewing process for cleaning and re-use in other areas on site, this will cut the brewery’s water usage in half.

Other projects include a solar and battery storage system to reduce energy costs, a methane generator and a CO2 reclamation system. CO2 — often wasted as byproduct of the brewing process — is costly and used for multiple purposes, including purging tanks and being added to the beer for carbonation.

“CO2 isn’t manufactured here in Hawaii; all CO2 is shipped over from the mainland, processed here and sent out to the other islands,” said Smith. “It’s expensive and a huge drain on the environment… We’ll be CO2 independent. Hopefully, we’ll even be CO2 positive where we can actually help get CO2 out to the rest of the community for individuals that use it.”

Another significant change lies in the sheer size and production of the new brewery. The 30,000 square-foot facility will provide the vast majority of Kona Brewing’s consumers in Hawaii with locally brewed beer when production finally gets underway. The new brewery’s capacity is approximately 100,000 barrels per year: nearly eight times greater than the old location. The previous brewery was able to supply around 13% of the local demand; Smith suggests the new location will be able to increase that number to around 80%, with only bottled beer still needing to be shipped from the mainland.

“This will allow us to do more local beer, be fresher, be able to innovate,” said Smith. “Our beers that we have mainly at the pubs, we’ll be able to get them out to the market further so more people can experience all the different styles of beer.”

Kona Brewing’s new High Efficiency Brewing system helps with their desire to increase creativity in using the more than 40 tanks that fill the interior of the brewery.

“It’s very versatile and allows us to do innovation,” Smith said of the HEB system. “We can do larger or smaller batches depending on what we want to do.”

While production is likely to start later this summer, construction will continue on the administrative side of Kona Brewing’s building. Until completion, the administrative parts of the business will remain at the old location.

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A new deal regarding the company’s ownership – announced on June 10 – means Kona Brewing will be independently owned as business at the new location gets underway. Craft Brew Alliance, which bought Kona Brewing in 2010 for $18 million, will sell their assets in Hawaii to PV Brewing, a partnership between former Anheuser-Busch president David Peacock and investment firm VantEdge Partners. This revises a November deal where Anheuser-Busch was to acquire total ownership of Craft Brew Alliance, including their stake in Kona Brewing.

“For us, it allows us to be independently owned but fully locally operated,” said Smith. “It’s kind of a homecoming for us.”

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