Maui Brewing Co.’s latest seasonal release craft brew known as Aloha B’ak’tun may appear difficult to pronounce but it sure goes down easy. The imperial Belgian stout’s dark and spicy makeup comes from being brewed with Big Island chocolate and locally sourced chipotle peppers and cinnamon. Its name comes from the Mayan language and is a play on the release date, which coincided with predictions of the end of the world in December.
“B’ak’tun is a number of cycles in the mayan long count calendar,” says MBC owner and founder Garrett Marrero. “We thought it’d be fun to play with the whole end of the world B.S. and put a positive spin on it. That beer is really cool.”
Garrett and his wife Melanie run the seven-barrel brewpub in Kahana. There you can find the special brew on tap. The brewery also produced 400 barrels and released 4,300 cases of canned Aloha B’ak’tun, which is now in stores.
Stouts are known for their dark rich flavor, and pair nicely with tangy barbecue and chocolate cake. In my taste test, I washed it down with pau hana lamb sliders from Main Street Bistro and vegan cupcakes from Wailuku Coffee Company–all three are highly recommended.
The release of the beer also coincided with changes in Maui Brewing Co. ohana.
“This year we saw a few of our ohana move back to the mainland–two in particular that are truly missed, John Walsh and Kim Lutz,” Marrero says. “At the same time we added quite a few new teammates. Darren Moser, Director of Brewery Operations, was with Trumer [Pils] in Berkeley. Brandon Fenner, Lead Brewer, was formerly with Magic Hat from Vermont. Kaiao Archer, Brewer, is from Big Island Brewhaus. I’m stoked to have them all on board. It’s a great group of guys to help further develop our staff and carry us into the next evolution.”
The release of Aloha B’ak’tun is not the only good news Maui Brewing Co. is sharing. The brewery also plans to build a new facility in Kihei. The planned location is up at the Maui Research and Technology Park, mauka of Lipoa Street and the Piilani Highway. The new building will bring in alternative energy sources, which are already important to the company that has sustainability incorporated into their current operations on the Westside.
MBC says beer production will increase five-fold and the new location’s closer proximity to Kahului harbor will be an advantage as well. The company also, eventually, plans to add hand-crafted sodas, ciders, meads and distilled products to their ever expanding menu of craft beer.
“We’re designing it to be ‘tour capable’ while in full production,” says Marrero. “We look forward to many visitors coming to see how we do what we do. We do tours now but due to safety and production we only offer them on Fridays and Saturdays. We’ll offer at least five days, if not seven, in the new site. The brewpub will be a full-service location much like Kahana. The tasting room will not have food but in the beginning, but until the brewpub is built, we’d like to work with local food trucks to rotate through the tasting room. I think it’d be fun to showcase their foods and our beers together. It will be very efficient as a brewery and beverage facility.”
At their production brewery in Lahaina, MBC has expanded several times, and utilized many up-cycling opportunities incorporating defunct pineapple cannery equipment and other machinery no longer in use by other companies. Their newest Kihei operation, although built brand new, will be no different.
“We have a bunch of stuff that we got for the new facility from Maui Land & Pineapple Co.,” says Marrero. “Sinks, signs, light fixtures, brick, wood, etc. to use in the decoration and design of the new site. Some of our existing equipment will move to the new site but we will look to either sell the Lahaina facility equipment turnkey to a startup brewery, or decommission and sell off-island.”
The hardest part about creating a completely locally sourced craft brew on Maui is the lack of hops and grain ingredient crops grown here for the beer. The Marreros have to import that in. But Garrett hasn’t given up on the idea of some kind of special edition crop grown for the beer.
“Hops need a frost each year and barley takes a lot of room,” Garrett says. “Then there’s the malting process, which is heavy on time and energy demands. We’ll see. We’d likely never see enough to produce all our beer, but even if we could get enough for a local harvest ale it’d be cool. I’d totally be supportive of that.”
Last year MBC produced about 22,000 barrels of Maui beer using local labor, alternative energy sources and local food sources like pineapple and coconut. And they canned all of it at their local West Maui brewery using the most eco-friendly materials available.
This year, the company plans to make 24,000 barrels. But they have maxed out what they can do at their existing spot. Marrero says they can’t physically make enough beer to keep up with demand.
The new Kihei facility is expected to take about a year to build and will add about 80 new jobs to their company that already employs more than 60. First Hawaiian Bank is financing the SBA/HEDCO business loan, and Marrero is giving some thought to a potential equity offering to allow Hawaii residents to be a part of MBC.
“I think it’d be cool that our community could be a part of what they’ve helped us build,” he says. “We’ll see.”