Nestled in the heart of Honolulu, the Royal Brewery stands as a testament to Hawaii's rich brewing heritage. As the oldest extant brewery building in the state, it embodies a history that traces back to the early days when the craft was more a novelty than the burgeoning industry it is today. Though its vats and kettles no longer simmer with the promise of a fresh batch, the edifice itself remains a stalwart symbol of the bygone era, the very genesis of Hawaii’s brewing journey. The Royal Brewery, despite no longer producing beer, continues to hold its place as an important cultural and historical landmark, resonating with the echoes of its past.
Yet, the inception of beer culture in Hawaii is credited to a different name: the Primo Brewing and Malting Company. Founded in 1901, Primo was not just a pioneer but the progenitor of local beer production, serving as the first company to brew and distribute beer in the islands. The brand became synonymous with Hawaiian beer, cultivating a local and even international following over the years. Primo’s story, however, took a turn towards the end of the 20th century, when in 1998, the company ceased its operations, marking the end of an era for the brand that had become a cornerstone of the Hawaii Beer identity.
Despite the quieting of these historical giants, the spirit of brewing in Hawaii was far from extinct. Kona Brewing Co., founded in 1994, rose to carry on the legacy, rapidly becoming the torchbearer of the island’s craft beer movement. Though it may not have the chronological precedence of its predecessors, Kona has grown over nearly three decades to embody the innovation and persistence of Hawaii's brewing culture. It stands today not only as the oldest brewery in Hawaii still in operation but also as a beloved icon of Oahu's vibrant craft brewery scene, inviting locals and visitors alike to partake in the flavors that continue to shape the story of Hawaii beer.
Photo: Joel Bradshaw