Issue 11.2: April / May 2008

Island Hoppers

story by Paul Wood

Set in a small warehouse in central Lahaina, the Maui Brewing Co.’s brewery shines with spotless steel tanks, kettles and fermenters, all linked by semi-automated valves and pumps. Here, owner Garrett Marrero (at right) gives me an enthusiastic tour of the world of beermanship—where grist gets sparged in a mash lauter tun, where wort flows unbruised by means of a grant, and where yeast flocculates via a fermenter’s racking arm. Garrett—young, tightly shorn and built like a linebacker—moves twice as fast as the ordinary mortal and with twice the grace. A former San Francisco investment consultant, he underwent a Maui epiphany in 2001, moved to the island with his wife Melanie, took over a brewpub in Kahana and then created this brewery. Last March, the couple started wholesale production of three of brewmaster Tom Kerns’ concoctions; they went statewide last August.

“We’re creating our own village brewery,” says Garrett, “trying to be local the best we can.” That translates into inventiveness: Maui Brewing Co.’s spent grain goes free to a local rancher. Waste vegetable oil from the brewpub fuels all the company vehicles. Garrett designed reusable cardboard boxes (at 1,000 percent more cost than plastic rings, but “it’s the right thing to do”); patrons get a $1 rebate for every box returned. Most important, this brewery cans, not bottles, its beer.

Garrett is fervent about this, noting that contemporary cans have an invisible interior coating so the beverage never touches metal. Cans are lightweight, safe, readily recycled, quick to chill and immune to the quality-eroding effects of light and oxidation. Such protection is vital because these guys make “live beer,” neither filtered nor pasteurized. They’ll finish canning at 7 a.m., load the truck and get the beer into Maui stores immediately. Last year, their Coconut Porter took a gold medal at the World Beer Cup. This year, their Bikini Blonde Lager took the gold (in its category) at the North American Brewer’s Association. Can beer from Lahaina really be that good? If you’re reading this while flying trans-Pacific, see for yourself. It’s Hawaiian Airlines’ beer of choice. HH