maui brewing co.: brewin’ up a storm in kihei & beyond

MBCTastingRoom2Head mauka on Lipoa Parkway in Kihei past the Maui Nui Golf Club, drive through a couple more curves, and looming ahead is what can only be described as a shrine to the craft of making beer. You’ve arrived at the shiny new Maui Brewing Co. Brewery and Tasting Room. Be prepared: your socks are about to be knocked off!

Founded in 2005 by Garrett Marrero and his wife Melanie, Maui Brewing Co. (MBC) started with 4,800 square feet in Kahana, which included their flagship brewpub. Late last year, they unveiled their new 42,000 square foot facility in Kihei, which includes 30,000 square feet dedicated to brewing; a tasting room with 32 beers on tap, plus an additional six faucets for sodas and guest beers; and ample space for a brewpub, which they hope to have up and running by late 2016 or early 2017.

And, as if that isn’t enough to keep this entrepreneurial couple busy, in July they announced plans to open the company’s first off-island brewpub next year, at the Holiday Inn Resort Waikiki Beachcomber hotel.

MBC beers are distributed by 18 different wholesalers, in eleven states, and five countries besides the United States. Although Garrett travels extensively on behalf of MBC, we caught him on-island recently getting ready for the 2015 Maui Brewers Festival.

You can’t help but notice the cluster of lofty stainless steel tanks standing sentinel at the Kihei brewery. “The ability to have such tall tanks here has given us the opportunity for more production,” Garrett explains. “This year in Kihei we will put out 40,000 barrels, and we have the capacity to put out 120,000 barrels. We hope to remain the largest production facility in the State of Hawai‘i.”

MBC has an additional acre behind the Kihei brewery for future expansion. “We can actually add on another 40,000 square feet of building, which I anticipate will occur in the not-too-distant future,” Garrett says. “We had to build this brewery just to be able to meet the current demand and say ‘yes’ to everyone who wanted our beer. Eighty-five percent of our beer is sold in Hawai‘i. We are looking at new markets, but we want to make sure everyone in Hawai‘i who’s thirsty for beer is taken care of first.”

The biggest tanks at the brewery hold 250 barrels, but they also have some 100-barrel tanks, and small 24-barrel tanks that Garrett says are their “play tanks” so they can “geek out” and do custom brews. “Making beer is an artistic expression,” he explains. “So if one of our staff members tastes something that inspires them, we have those tanks available to do just that. It’s a lot of fun for everyone.”

MBC runs three brewery tours per day. In addition to the 30-minute tour, the nominal $5 fee nets you a flight of their four flagship beers or root beer. All participants are required to wear safety goggles unless, like me, you wear eyeglasses. Although MBC employs professional tour guides, I’m fortunate today to be on a private viewing with Garrett.

The first thing you notice when you enter the brewery, besides the massive amount of equipment and cacophony of sounds, is a somewhat funky aroma that definitely isn’t beer. “That grainy smell is wort—the liquid that’s extracted during the barley mashing process,” Garrett says. “Wort contains the sugars that will be fermented by the brewing yeast to produce alcohol.

“Upstairs is the mill room where we crack the malted barley and turn it into grist, or milled, barley,” Garrett continues. “It goes into the mash tub, which cooks the barley and extracts the sugars. We have a really unique system here with seven vessels that operate as two four-vessel systems sharing a common mash mixer. The reason we did that is so we can have a 50-barrel brewhouse on one side, a 25-barrel brewhouse on the other. So we’re able to produce two different types of beer at the same time by staggering the usage of the mash mixer. This gives us more production capacity, and more versatility to do specialty beers like the ones we like to ‘geek out’ on every now and again. We can do that without cutting into the production of our core brands.”

Garrett explains that after mashing the material goes into the lauter tun, where liquid is strained off from the grain and drained through a false bottom. This liquid, known as wort, produces the unusual aroma in the air. The wort goes into a large kettle where it’s boiled for sanitation and sterilization, and to eliminate undesirable by-products like sulphur. Then hops and other flavors are added before it goes to the whirlpool to separate the wort from the hops, and get it ready for fermentation.

We step outside to yet another area where massive silos and equipment reside. “All of our base malted barleys are stored in these silos,” Garrett says. “We get in about 40,0000 pounds at a time, and at any given time we have 400,000 pounds of malt on hand.” Outside with the silos are chillers, boilers, air compressors, and other infrastructure that runs everything inside. “This stuff generates a lot of heat, so we keep it all outside,” says Garrett.

Back inside, we head over to a hefty centrifuge that clarifies the beer by centrifugal force. “A filter inside spins at 4,800 to 5,000 revolutions per minute,” says Garrett. “Fermented beer enters the centrifuge and the solids are extracted to clarify the beer. This process results in a cleaner, clearer beer with better flavors.” You can definitely smell beer at this part of the building where there’s also a sanitizing station at which dirty empty kegs are cleaned and sterilized, then refilled and safety capped.

Garrett and I enter the tasting room so I can sample some MBC beers. I’m not a beer drinker, so Garrett queries me on the types of flavors I like in cocktails. I tell him I tend toward savory/citrusy. He pours me a sample of Belgian Pale Ale. “It’s fermented with Belgian yeast, so you’re gong to have a sweet component along with citrus notes,” he says. I confess I find it to be a bit “hoppy” for my taste, but not to worry…MBC has something for every palate.

Next I try the Red Cock Doppel-Bock. “This beer is a lager, and it is all about the malt, rather than the hops, so the bitterness level is lower,” Garrett says. “This beer focuses on the malted barley, so it’s sweeter, with cinnamon, vanilla, and raison notes, without being cloying.” Now we’re getting somewhere. I could become a beer convert yet!

Last, I try Kihei Kolsch, a spring 2015 limited release beer. “Kolsch is a style that originated in Cologne, Germany.” Warm fermented, then conditioned by lagering at cold temperatures, Garrett says it’s been brewed this way for centuries. Kihei Kolsch is grassy, with hints of grain and citrus. It’s perfect for a warm Maui day.

Until the Kihei brewpub is built out and up and running, MBC hosts two food trucks per day, with the schedule posted on their website and on social media, from which patrons can purchase food for consumption in the tasting room or out on the lanai. There’s also live music on the lanai three evenings per week, and in August, MBC introduced a new monthly event called Brushstrokes & Brews, where a “Partista” (Party Artist) from Island Art Party walks you through the techniques for creating your own original work of art while you sip beer.

“The scope of our business has grown immensely over the past ten years, and we’re really blessed to have been so successful,” Garrett says.

–heidi pool

AT A GLANCE…

WHAT •

Maui Brewing Co.’s Kihei Brewery and Tasting Room, offering brewery tours, tasters, flights, and pints from their thirty-two tap draft. Kegs also available.

WHERE •

605 Lipoa Parkway, Kihei.

WHEN •

30-minute tours are held three times daily for a nominal fee of $5, which includes a flight of four flagship beers. The tasting room is open daily from 11am to 10pm. Food is available for purchase at food trucks parked outside.

HOW •

Please call 213-3002 x105 or email tastingroom@mauibrewing.com. Can also just show up for a tour with a “beertender” in the tasting room. Participants must be at least 10 years old.

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