Craft beer fans on Oahu have waited patiently for more than a year as local bar owners Tory Terorotua and Lisa Kim worked to reopen Real Gastropub in Kakaako.
Real closed its former Ward Farmers Market space in September 2017 after five years in business, to make way for construction in the area, but Terorotua didn’t expect his ‘Ilima Award-winning pub to be out of action so long.
Along with opening Brew’d Craft Pub in Kaimuki five years ago, he introduced Palate Craft & Eatery to Chinatown in 2016 with Kim and business partner Pat Kashani. Palate ended up closing after less than a year, and Terorotua spent much of 2018 working behind the scenes making a new Real a reality.
“I’m just glad that Real finally came back,” Terorotua said on Sunday, two days after Real’s soft opening resulted in a standing-room-only dinner crowd. “We were predominantly done here in December, but the bathrooms weren’t done. The trash room wasn’t done. Without those, I couldn’t open.”
Guests who remember knocking a few back at the original Real will have fun trying to spot all the items on the walls imported from the old location. Lighting elements from the old bar help illuminate the new space at Keauhou Lane, while handles from the old tap system now decorate the walls. The bar is the main focus of the room, with several dining tables on the ewa side, while the “Dog House” on the opposite end of the room is home to a handful of cocktail tables and equipment for Bent Tail Brewery, the in-house beer-making operation Terorotua named for the bent tail of his 9-year-old rescue dog, Bender.
“That’s my dog! So it means something,” said Terorotua. “Bent Tail is personal to us. We’re the only brewery in Hawaii that doesn’t have a Hawaiian name. You’ve already got Aloha, Waikiki, Lanikai, Maui, you know, Palolo. What am I gonna do? Kakaako?”
Terorotua partnered with Big Island Brewhaus founder Tom Kerns to consult on the new brewery, based on a seven-barrel system using two sizes of fermenters and brewing tanks. Once Bent Tail is fully operational in a few months, however, don’t expect Real to clear all 38 of its taps to solely serve Bent Tail beer.
“We still have our original guest handles up,” Terorotua said. “And we’ll still have them up when we have our own beer.”
Real is open for lunch and dinner daily, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m., expanding on Monday to 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily (until midnight Fridays and Saturdays). Chef Lee Warnick will pull double-duty overseeing the kitchens at both Real and Brew’d.
STOPPING IN for a cold one (or three) at Lanikai Brewing Co.’s Tap & Barrel is always a good time — and especially so when LBC founder, CEO and brewmaster Steve Haumschild is in the building to talk story with customers.
That was the case March 6 in Kailua when Haumschild — still basking in the afterglow of winning the Hawaii Venture Capital Association’s Entrepreneur of the Year award earlier this month — showed up with Gigantic Brewing brewmaster and owner Ben Love to co-host a Gigantic tap takeover. The two spent time together on Oahu this month researching possible beer collaborations.
While the room was full of guests sampling a variety of Gigantic’s offerings, I was there to get my first taste of a unique style of brewing that Haumschild has developed. All beers must incorporate yeast into their recipes in order to ferment alcohol, and Lanikai Brewing is the only one using yeast strains native to the Hawaiian Islands.
“Where I’ve always wanted to go — and it’s taken me a really long time — is to be able to get local yeasts that can produce alcohol. And not just alcohol, but can also produce good flavors,” said Haumschild. “Over the last 2-1/2, three years, I’ve captured about 80 different strains of yeast. We’re always trying to target specific yeasts that provide a specific flavor.”
Of the 80 strains he’s captured outdoors around Hawaii, only about 10 percent are suitable for beer-making, Haumschild said. So far, he’s created “four or five” beers with native yeast strains, with two available on tap. Kalani Honua, a “Hawaiian Wild Farmhouse Ale,” debuted in February, made using a yeast strain Haumschild captured in Volcano on Hawaii island that’s refermented over local winter mango.
“It’s the spirit of exploration,” he explained. “In winter, mangoes aren’t going to have that sweetness. They’re a little more tart. And then there’s the native yeast strain that’s contributing a little bit of pepper and spice, but it’s still very much a beer.
“We’re just trying to create something that we believe represents authentic Hawaii, now and here. We’re seeking flavors of Hawaii that people might not expect.”
Another one of those unexpected flavors is strawberry. While the fruit is grown on Maui, it’s not the first flavor most associate with Hawaii (instead, think the aforementioned mango, pineapple, papaya, etc.). LBC’s Hualani Sour, made with native yeast and fresh Kula strawberries, helps change that perception.
The 14th installment of Lanikai’s Mauka to Makai series of limited-edition beers, Hualani debuted on tap last week and went on sale in bottles on Saturday. Since it’s a single-batch release, expect supplies to be limited and/or sold out within the next couple of weeks.
“Our brand is really focused on trying to create as many layers of authenticity with our beer as possible,” said Haumschild. “I’ll never be satisfied. Adaption is key to being relevant.”
Find LBC’s Hualani Sour at Tap & Barrel, 167 Hamakua Drive. The taproom is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; visit lanikaibrewing.com.