One for the road: Kona Brewing Co. marks final batch of beer where it all started

  • Kona Brewing Co. founder Cameron Healy and former president and CEO Mattson Davis address employees on the occasion of the last batch of beer brewed at their facility next to the Pub.

  • Danielle Benke brews the last batch of Kona Brewing Co. beer at the brewery next to the Pub.

  • Kona Brewing Co. brews its last batch of beer at their brewery next to the Pub on Thursday.

  • Kona Brewing Co. brews its last batch of beer at the brewery next to the Pub on Thursday. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Kona Brewing Co. Brewery Operations Manager Ryan McVeigh checks on the last batch of beer being brewed Thursday at the facility next to the Pub.

  • Kona Brewing Co. former president and CEO Mattson Davis, front center left and founder Cameron Healy, front center right pose with brewery employees on the occasion of the last batch of beer brewed at their facility next to the Pub. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

Kona Brewing Co. crafted Thursday its final brew — a hoppy Imperial Castaway IPA — at the site where it all started at the end of Pawai Place more than a quarter-century ago.

Since those early days back in 1994 when Kona Brewing Co. founders Cameron Healy and son, Spoon Khalsa began tinkering with barley, hops, yeast and the bounty of unique flavors Hawaii has to offer, revitalizing the state’s commercial beer industry, the venture has grown exponentially, with Liquid Aloha now recognized and consumed worldwide.

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And Kona Brewing Co. continues to grow, starting its next chapter with an expansion to its new state-of-the-art, sustainable and energy-efficient brewing and canning facility where brewers began crafting beer at the end of February, ensuring a continual supply of Kona-brewed suds. The 30,000-square-foot, 100,000-barrel capacity brewery, located just down the road from the current brewery and pub, is expected to open this summer. Though the brewery is moving, the restaurant will remain at the end of Pawai Place.

“It’s a nostalgic day and a day of moving forward,” Healy, who now serves as an adviser, told team members as the final brew’s barley mashed with hot water, preparing for the next stage: a good boil to render the sugars for fermentation.

Brewery Operations Manager Ryan McVeigh, who’s worked for Kona Brewing Co. since 2005, said the final brew will likely be on tap this month.

“In two weeks, when it’s all done, we‘ll put it into kegs and then move tanks out,” he said, “and then we’ll be fully transitioned.”

The move to the new brewery and cannery marks the end of years of planning and construction to bring the operation to fruition in Kailua-Kona.

“It’s a little bit bittersweet to be at the end. I’ve had a lot of really great memories here,” he said. “This is my 16th year — it’s kind of sad to see it go because I have spent a lot of time here and met a lot of great people and made a lot of great beer.

“But we’re so excited for the future and while it’s sad to see this one close down, it’s time has come and we’ve done so much more than was ever expected out of this brewery that I’m very thankful for that,” he continued.

Since opening, the brewery, which is housed in the building that once was occupied by West Hawaii Today’s printing press, has brewed more than 100,000 barrels or about 310,000 gallons of beer, according to McVeigh.

“We’ve been in here since 1994; it’s taken us that many years to get to this 100,000 barrel mark, but this new brewery that we’ll be moving into, that’s its capacity once were fully operational,” he explained, adding the brewery at the end of Pawai Place maxed out at 10,000 to 12,000 barrels a year.

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With the increased capacity, Kona Brewing Co. will be able to produce locally all of its beer sold in the state. It’ll also become an attraction for visitors looking to tour the facility.

From the consumer standpoint, there’s always big demand for people to come to the island to come and do tours,” said Healy. “Our product is sold all over the world, so people want to come to the source.”