Categorized | Business, Featured, Food

Big Island Brewhaus offering up new menu of beers

Jayne and Tom Kerns watch as Kahu Dean Kauka performs the blessing at Big Island Brewhaus. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

Tom Kerns tapped into a long-time dream last week and decided it tasted pretty good.

Kerns and his wife, Jayne, hosted a blessing and grand opening Friday for Big Island Brewhaus, touted as the state’s highest brewery at 2,812 feet above sea level.

The Waimea pub, in the old Tako Taco restaurant at Cook’s Corner, still serves up Mexican dishes, but also now will pour pints straight from tanks in the warehouse across the parking lot.

Beer is pumped from the storage tanks in the brewery through pipes under the parking lot directly to the taps in the pub.

“At first, it wasn’t planned like that, but it actually makes things easier,” Kerns said.

Kerns admitted he had a few anxious moments when he first opened the taps.

“I knew what I was shooting for, but last night when I turned on the draft system it was really foamy, but I knew there was beer in there,” he said. “The first batches were as good as I could have hoped for and among the best I’ve ever brewed.”

Kerns know what he is talking about.

Kerns began his brewing career at Oregon’s McMenamins Edgefield in 1993 and then helped open a brewery in Manila, Philippines.

In 1997, he was the founding brewer at Fish and Game in Kahana, Maui, where he was still brewing and creating original recipes in 2005 when ownership changed and it was renamed Maui Brewing Co.

While serving as Maui Brewing Co.’s brewmaster, he garnered multiple awards in international competitions alongside beers from the United States, Germany, Canada, Australia, Russia, Trinidad, Romania, Lithuania, Belgium, Japan and Singapore.

Big Island Brewhaus has four brews in the tanks so far: Paniolo Pale Ale; Aloha Lager; Overboard IPA (India Pale Ale); and the St. Patrick’s Day special brew Irie Irish Stout.

“It’s a Jamaican word that means ‘everything is good,'” Kerns said. “That just seemed fitting.”

Kerns’ beers also will be offered at Kona Brewers Festival, which is March 12 at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.

Jayne, who works at an architect office in addition to helping fun the restaurant-brewery, said she leaves the beer operation to her husband.

“He has got an amazing palate,” she said. “I usually can only say ‘Oh, I like it.’ I didn’t even like beer before I met him.”

Kerns said he is always on the look out for local ingredients for his brews, which he’ll rustle up about once a week. This week, he’s working on his Mandarin Gold creation, which includes Honokaa oranges and mac nut honey.

“It really is remarkable to be able to use products from the land,” he said. “Not only is it fun, but it just tastes better. It’s inspiring. It’s a blast.”

Ken Melrose built the building back in 1976 and ran Cedar Homes of Hawaii out of the it. His office was where the kitchen is now.

Melrose said he is delighted the building has found a new use. “This is definitely it’s highest and best use,” he said.

Jayne Kerns said she and her husband are grateful for the community support.

“Everyone’s always excited about their own dreams, but we’ve been overwhelmed by the support from everyone in the community,” she said.

A neighbor once saw Kerns struggling to move equipment with a forklift, called a friend at HPM and within minutes a worker cruised up with a second forklift and helped get the job done.

“That was amazing,” Jayne said. “I just looked out the window and here comes a forklift, trundling along main street Waimea. Where does that happen? It was one of the things that makes me so happy we’re here in this town.”

Kahu Dean Kauka performed the official blessing Friday and stuck around to test Kerns’ first brew.

“It’s always great to be at the beginning of things and see how it develops,” he said. “It’s an honor. And this beer is great.”

The restaurant has 10 employees, all Waimea area residents and including four who date to the previous owners.

Big Island Brewhaus is open 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon-8 p.m. Sundays.

For more information, call 887-1717.

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Brewery staff chop up 1,300 oranges for the Big Island Brewhaus' special Mandarin Gold brew. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Friends and beer lovers packed Big Island Brewhaus after the blessing to sample Tom Kerns creations. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

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