Craft breweries are on the rise, so it’s no surprise that the Kohola Brewery took over the spot vacated by Maui Brewing Company after their new Kihei facility opened. Kohola’s tasting room in Lahaina is a primo spot to taste all 10 of their beers. They opened about eight months ago, with partners Ian and Christine Elumba, William Ramirez and Justin and Brittany Brouhard. But it’s Ian and Christine who are on the ground and running here on Maui.
“We saw the potential for growth here on Maui,” says Christine. “We really wanted it to be Hawaii because we really wanted to live in Hawaii. The opportunity came to purchase this because Maui Brewing Co. outgrew it. The doors just really opened for us.”
“I think this place was for sale for a while, but for some reason or another it wasn’t taken,” says Ian. “Then one day [Maui Brewing Company owner] Garrett [Marrero] replied to my email and said to come check it out. It was bigger than we needed, but it was such an opportunity. Initially we were planning to open a seven-to-10 barrel place–this place has 25 barrels. So it’s pretty big. We just decided to go for it. To start from the ground up and have to ship everything is crazy. And if it breaks, we have to fix it. This place was here for eight years before us, and if something breaks, Garrett knows what we have to do to fix it. He and his wife Melanie have been great.”
That’s when the plan for the Kohola Brewery started to gel.
“When we were planning this brewery, it started as just a fun conversation,” says Christine. “It was something we would discuss on date night. Then it got serious. Ian started to homebrew. During the process, I would mention it to my friend Susan. Then we needed a business partner and she suggested it to her husband William [Ramirez]. Everything fell into place.”
Then William met brewer Justin Brouhard and found their third piece of the puzzle while Ian was meeting with Garrett and figuring out the fourth. Things were going to flow in their brewery idea. Their original plan only involved about five beers so there was some tweaking to do to move into the facility.
“A lot of things changed from our original business plan, says Ian. “Originally we thought we would have five core beers. But it’s hard to call a beer your flagship or your core beer because you have to actually see how the public accepts your beer. You just don’t get a second impression on beer. Once somebody tastes your product, if they don’t like it they won’t buy it ever. We have to get them on the first impression. It can’t be too bitter or too sweet.”
Christine says they worked on recipes and kept the tropical heat in mind.
“So we tried to do four main beers that we sell in kegs,” says Ian. “The Lokahi, our German style pilsner, is a really easy drinking, clean, crisp beer. Then we have an IPA, for those who like a hoppy bitter beer. We call it the Mighty 88 because ‘Kohola’ means ‘whale’ in the Hawaiian language, and 88 Feet is the longest humpback whale measured in Hawaiian waters. We have Talk Story Pale Ale a light medium-bodied beer, really good for Hawaii. Then we have the Red Sand Ale. The Red Sand is a more complex, fuller beer, not like most beers you’ve tasted. It’s earthy, goes well with barbecue and pizza. Most places have a lager and an IPA so we felt the Red Sand was unique for us.”
Now they sell kegs to over 45 locations on the island. They have 10 beers available: Talk Story Pale Ale, Lokahi Pilsner, Pineapple Lokahi Pilsner, 88 Light Rye IPA, Shoots Extra Pale Ale, Mean Bean Coffee Stout, Smooth Tide Ale, Mighty 88 IPA, Red Sand and the Kai Ala. The Kai Ala Saison is a new Belgian-style beer collaboration with Westin Ka`anapali Ocean Resort Villas. The Shoots Extra Pale Ale is a recipe by their in-house brewer Andrew Brunson.
“The red ale has higher-kilned malts, like black malt,” says Brunson. “The malt itself is already processed, then I brew it. We have a base malt that comes from Alberta, Canada. The beer is about 80 percent of that. Then we have other malts that we get with different characteristics that we add to get specific flavors, like a caramel malt. It’s that last 10 percent of the malt that gives that flavor.”
He brewed the saison with Upcountry lemons, processed by hand.
“With the saison I hand zested 350 lemons and added that towards the end of the boil to get more flavor,” says Brunson. “Our lager is probably one of the only unfiltered pilsners you will try. We aren’t under the production pressures of a lot of other breweries. We don’t have to filter it. We can let it lager naturally–that’s why it’s so awesome.”
The brewery tasting room has the Ono Tacos food truck around the corner if you want to grab food nearby. They offer a few tasting flights to sample their beer, and you can also bring it home in their hydro flask growlers. They recently hosted a beer-pairing dinner and plan to do more events. Ian is also planning to start brewery tours in September.
“I thought at first that all I need to do for tours is talk, but now I need a reservation system so I can work out all of the kinks early on,” says Ian. “We want to grow slowly but grow significantly. We don’t bottle or can yet but we are looking closely at doing that. Canning is the way to go in the future. On the Mainland, they have mobile canning units that come to your brewery and can for you. We don’t have that here. I have to get my own canning operation going. So we have some tough decisions to make.”
The Tasting Room at the brewery is open every day of the week, Monday through Saturday, 1 to 9pm, and Sundays from 1 to 7pm. They offer Happy Hour from 5-7pm featuring $5 pints and from 5-6pm they do a Growler Hour with $5 and $3 off options. Kohola Brewery also serves Vitali-tea Kombucha.
910 Honoapiilani Hwy, #55
Lahaina, HI 96761