On Tap in Hawaii: Kakaako welcomes Hana Koa Brewing Co.
It’s not easy opening a brewery, and extra tough to do so in Hawaii, but today one of those new breweries opens right here on Oahu.
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Close to 1,000 new breweries were expected to open in 2019, a staggering amount considering the more than 7,000 breweries already operating in the US.
It’s not easy opening a brewery, and extra tough to do so in Hawaii, but today one of those new breweries opens right here on Oahu. It took the passion and hard work of a whole family to bring Hana Koa Brewing Co. to fruition.
The brand new brewery and restaurant in Kakaako, an ultra hot area in craft beer right now, was conceived almost as a joke between father and son. In 2015 father, Kerry Kopp, told son, Josh Kopp, about a building he had just acquired. Josh, then working at E.J. Phair Brewing Co. in the Bay Area, jokingly suggested that they build a brewery in the vacant warehouse space.
That joke quickly turned into something real, and the start of an adventure. At 25, Josh had worked his way up the ladder at E.J. Phair to become head brewer and had just started dating his future wife, Chrissie. In 2016, Josh and Chrissie, now engaged, moved to Oahu to start planning Hana Koa Brewing.
It took three years — along the way Josh and Chrissie got married, with their reception hosted in the brewery — to plan and build out the brewery.
TODAY, Josh, Kerry and family finally open the doors of Hana Koa, with brother-in-law Chris Wong as head chef.
The 10,000-square-foot warehouse on Kawaiahao Street has been transformed into a gleaming new brewery, occupying half the space, and a sleek, modern and spacious lounge, bar and dining room that can easily seat 200. A mezzanine with another full bar, featuring a robust cocktail menu, will open later.
The brewery has plenty of room to grow. The plan is to start with draft beers only and to service local bars, pubs and restaurants. Crowlers, 32-ounce cans, will be available to-go at the bar (with online ordering in the works as well). Josh says they hope to sell their beers in cans around Year 3, but for now they want to focus on producing amazing beers on tap.
“I believe that a beer is only successful if someone is wanting to have a second pint. If you can’t achieve that want, the beer is a dud,” Kopp says.
WHAT CAN we expect beer-wise? At first, six beers will be available. Breaktime Blonde is a light, easy-drinking blonde ale meant to be approachable yet satisfying. Roof Top Pale Ale is a modern juicy pale beer loaded with tropical fruit notes and a mild, soft bitterness. Sunny Showers Hazy IPA is brimming with citrus notes, pineapple and tangerine, with a smooth and soft mouthfeel. Beyond the Sea West Coast IPA packs a bit more bitterness and a touch of pine with a clean, light maltiness. Espresso Your Inner Bean Coffee Stout is a dark, strong stout, packing a wonderful coffee aroma and taste. Finally, Kettle Run Guava Sour is tart, bright and loaded with guava fruit for a refreshing finish.
Josh plans to quickly expand the selection to 14, including two lagers, his favorite beers to brew. Early next year they’ll start aging beers in various barrels. The plan is to start brewing saisons and letting them age, to slowly pick up acidity, sourness and complexity. Josh wants to experiment with small batches, adding fruit and hops as the beers age.
Hana Koa Brewing Co. opens today at 962 Kawaiahao St. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily except Tuesdays. A small parking lot is on the Diamond Head side of the building. Call 591-BEER (2337).
Tim Golden, a certified cicerone, shares his obsession with all things craft beer on the third week of each month. He is part owner of Village Bottle Shop in Kakaako.