You don’t need to love beer to enjoy a good brewpub (though it certainly doesn’t hurt). In fact, just about anywhere you go, you can count on the local brewery to provide quality, stick-to-your-ribs food in a convivial, casual setting. Maui Brewing Company is no exception to this rule; rather, it’s a shining example of it.
Located in the Kahana Gateway Center in the building that used to house Fish & Game, Maui Brew Co.’s fully renovated restaurant is spacious and welcoming. Ample natural lighting brightens the space and softens the industrial décor, as do a number of “keg lights” (light fixtures made from actual kegs) that hang from the ceiling.
Big wooden picnic tables fill the center of the room, with more intimate booths off to the side. Owner Garret Marrero says he built the tables (meaning literally, he built them) to create an old time pub atmosphere, a place where people would enter as strangers and, a few pints and a bit of conversation later, emerge as friends.
Though it doesn’t stray too far afield from the usual brewpub fare, the menu is loaded with enticing options. Soups, salads, onion rings, nachos, burgers, steaks, pizza, all cooked with fresh quality ingredients, many of them local—let’s just say, come hungry.
I settled on the fish and chips, always a good barometer of an establishment’s overall commitment to quality. If a place serves up a basket of uniformly shaped, defrosted slabs with soggy fries, you can bet that lackluster attitude spills over into the rest of the menu. No worries here—the fish was fresh and flavorful, and the fries crisp and warm. But the made-on-site beer batter was what really pulled the dish away from the pack. Even decent fish and chips are often over-battered; usually there’s at least one piece that’s more dough than mahi. Maui Brew Co.’s signature batter, on the other hand, is light but flavorful, encasing and complementing the fish without overwhelming it. And for me, anything made from beer earns automatic points.
Which brings us to: the beer. Even if you haven’t visited Maui Brew Co.’s restaurant or the brewing facility in Lahaina, you’ve surely seen their product lining the shelves of your neighborhood grocery store or mini mart. In retail form, the beer comes in cans. Why? Funny you should ask, because Marrero has put more thought into the can vs. bottle debate than many people put into, well, anything. Basically it boils down to preserving the freshness of the beer and being more environmentally conscious (the specifics are best left for another article; for now visit www.mauibrewingco.com to learn more about the company’s admirably thoughtful philosophy, which extends well beyond how they package their beer).
At any rate, the canned stuff is good, and if you like beer and live on Maui you’ve probably tried it. But I’m a big proponent of tasting beer right out of the tap whenever possible, another compelling reason to visit the brewpub. Whatever your preferred taste and type—dark, light, sweet, hoppy—you’ll find a suitable libation.
On the lighter end of the spectrum there’s the ever-popular Bikini Blonde lager, which has almost no bitterness and an extremely smooth finish. Another of MBC’s more ubiquitous offerings is the Big Swell IPA, a delightful concoction for an unapologetic hop head like me; I found it to be the perfect accompaniment for the fish and chips (then again, I also have found it to be the perfect accompaniment for M&Ms and mango ice cream so, you know, take my word for what it’s worth). Fans of the dark arts might want to go with a rich, creamy, chocolate- and coffee-tinged coconut porter. Or, if you’re really feeling adventurous, confess your sins to the Father Damien Abby Ale, a complex meld of sweet and malty flavors that weighs in with a hefty 9.6 percent alcohol content. You’ll probably want to order a big plate of something if you’re planning to tip back more than one of those babies.
If you choose to do your imbibing up at the bar, be sure to take advantage of the newly installed frost ring, a refrigerated strip that runs around the edge of the bar, allowing patrons to keep their glasses cool (it’s also a good incentive to follow Mom’s advice and keep your elbows off the table). The frost ring is just one of many decorative and practical flourishes MBC has added that elevate the establishment from just another brewpub to something truly unique and special. With its emphasis on sustainability, local ingredients and staying in harmony with the Maui community, those same words could be used to describe the company as a whole.
And did we mention the beer is really good?
Okole maluna! MTW