Mike Watanabe lives, breathes and, well, drinks beer. He reads about craft brews, participates in the chats at beerinhawaii.com and often plans his travels around beer — bringing home souvenirs of beer, of course. Given his years of daily experience drinking his way around Honolulu, we asked Mike for his top picks.
By Michael Watanabe
Beer. Sure, there’s Bud Light, Corona and Heineken. But I’m talking about the other side: craft beer. It’s become a slight obsession for me. I find myself reading up on the newest batch of barrel-aged stouts and ales, buying the new release of a double or triple IPA, and most importantly, tasting and drinking all of the above.
Thankfully, with the proliferation of the craft beer scene in Hawaii in recent years, we’ve been getting more and more access to tasty brews that were previously unavailable — and with that, a growing number of bars, pubs and other drinking venues, each with its own feel.
Here are my top 5 places to grab a beer when I’m so inclined (read: daily). Honorable mentions go out to Tropics Tap House, Ferguson’s and Murphy’s (proper pubs in the heart of Honolulu to catch a footy match), Bar Eight50 and Taps & Apps (bringing the craft beer scene to Pearl City and Mililani, respectively).
No. 5: Whole Foods Kailua
More often than not, I find myself buying bottles of craft beer to bring home or enjoy with friends, and Whole Foods Kailua is the only bottle shop on this list. However, this note is about their bar area with about 10 to 12 taps available. They have a great happy hour, which goes against that stereotype about “Whole Paycheck.” Recently I dropped in for a pint and found Deschutes Fresh-Squeezed IPA (my current favorite) on Happy Hour for $3! For townies and others who might be a little turned off by the trek out to Kailua, the Kahala store will unveil their own bar after all their renovation.
Whole Foods Market Kailua • 629 Kailua Rd. • 808-263-6800 • wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/kailua
No. 4: Pint + Jigger
What strikes me most about Pint + Jigger, besides their wall of 21 taps — which just so happened to include Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin on a recent visit — is the ambience. Like speakeasy-style bars on the mainland (Ball & Biscuit in Indianapolis, for one), this place is a throwback to Prohibition-era days. If you somehow can’t find a brew to suit your needs, the mixologists do a great job of pandering to your liquor preferences and draft up some serious concoctions.
Pint + Jigger • 1936 S. King St. • 808-744-9593 • pintandjigger.com
No. 3: Honolulu Beerworks
When I first learned of the concept of a growler (i.e. personal beer sippy cup), I was fascinated and sought out places to fill them. Unfortunately, due to some laws, only pubs and venues that brew the beers onsite can fill growlers. Honolulu Beerworks is the only one on my list that qualifies, and the beers they’re cranking out are tasty. If you want to sample their brews before settling on your favorite, their 4-ounce tasters are $2 to $4, which in the craft beer scene is very reasonable.
Honolulu Beerworks • 328 Cooke St. • 808-589-2337 • facebook.com/HonoluluBeerworks
No. 2: BREW’d Craft Pub
REAL a gastropub helped change the landscape of the craft beer scene in Honolulu. Its sister pub BREW’d is doing a great job of continuing that influence, with the added benefit of a neighborhood pub feel. The taps continually rotate, meaning that if you find something you like, visit often because your favorite brew will disappear; and if you can’t find anything you like, visit often because there’ll likely be a new rotation the next time. If you’re into craft beer, dropping into BREW’d is a must. It’s almost sacrilege not to.
Brew’d Craft Pub • 3441 Waialae Ave. • 808-732-2337 • brewdcraftpub.com
No. 1: Bar 35
For most, Bar 35 is “that bar with the long line at First Fridays” or “that bar with the open-air patio in the back” or “that bar with over 150 bottles of beer on their wall.” For me, Bar 35 is “that bar.” It’s my Cheers, and for good reason. Their Wednesday night beer tastings featuring a small subset of their massive offerings are what brought me in six years ago. Recently they’ve revamped the furniture as well as a significant portion of their beer menu. Right now the Gigantic Ginormous Imperial IPA is on tap, so go soon, because it’ll likely be gone in no time. That, partnered with having Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA, great service and a happy hour until 10 p.m. EVERY DAY makes this my No. 1 spot.
Bar 35 • 35 N. Hotel St. • 808-537-3535 • bar35hawaii.com