Mar 12, 2016
By Bret Yager
In the big push to open the original Kona Brewing Co. in 1994, the marketing director and co-founder had to be out helping pour concrete.
On Friday, the company broke ground on a massive new brewery capable of 10 times the output of that original facility, and Kilkuskie reflected on the progression of 22 years.
“I don’t think we’d be doing that with this building, which is just a testament to how far it’s come,” said Kilkuskie, the contractor on the first site.
Standing adjacent to piles of crushed concrete slab at the new building site on Pawai Place, just down the street from the current location, co-founder Cameron Healy said the roots of the craft brewery won’t change with the increase in scale.
“This has been a really rich journey and it will continue to be a rich journey,” he said.
While brewery operations will move into the new building, the existing Brew Pub will be renovated and expanded, “but without losing the specialness of it,” Healy said.
A small pilot brewery geared to small-batch innovation will be set up at the old site as well, Healy told West Hawaii Today.
“In my mind there was never any question,” Healy said of his choice to keep the brewery in Kona. “Of course, you have to look at all options, and having an appropriate site was a key factor.”
Kona Brewing Co. is leasing the 2.6 acres from the Queen Liliuokalani Trust. An estimated 100,000 barrels will be brewed each year at the new $20 million facility. The company initially had trouble lining out enough water for the brewery, but ended up investing $5 million in wastewater recycling and other efficiency measures.
More than 100 people attended the groundbreaking, and many sampled a specially-brewed keg of First Rock Pale Ale, a malty brew heavy on the hops, with a touch of honey and caramel. The concoction was based on the original recipe for Fire Rock Pale Ale, the brewery’s first production beer.
The groundbreaking and blessing came on the eve of the 21st anniversary of the Kona Brewers Festival, being held today at the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.
Head brewer Sandi Shriver said the new brewery and cannery will allow not only a ramping up of the flagship brands sold in some 14 countries, but will also make room for new innovations in the small batch category.
The facility is set to open in 2018. The next phase is design and engineering, said Chief Operating Officer Scott Mennen.
“The next real activity will be later this year as we do site prep — plumbing and underground,” Mennen said. “This time next year you’ll start to see the building coming out of the ground.”