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Hawaii Island's Ola Brew Co. grows quickly with focus on sustainability

In the last decade, Hawaii has seen a boom in microbreweries, along with a trend of prioritizing local products and farm-to-table dining.


Ola Brew Co., which opened on Hawaii Island in December 2017, is combining the two trends by working with local farmers to produce beers and ciders made with Aloha State ingredients.

The company's 14,000-square-foot brewing facility and taproom in Kailua-Kona includes a full canning and production line and capacity for 22,000 barrels per year. Ola Brew is working toward B corporation designation, a private certification focused on meeting high standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

Since opening, they've purchased 100,000 pounds of food from Hawaii farmers, and they are planning to double that in 2019, according to Naehalani Breeland, president and director of marketing, who started the company with Brett Jacobson.

"Because we're in the middle of the Pacific, everything takes more time and costs more to put together," Breeland said. "We're really focusing on how we can work with the environment we have and regenerative things we can do. A lot of companies around the world go green because it's the right thing to do but also because it's the trendy thing -- here it's truly a necessity."

The company is quickly growing, recently adding food service and new brews, and offers daily tours of their sustainability-focused facility.

"When you walk in the tap room it's overlooking the brewery portion of everything so you can see what's going on -- there's lots of tanks and stainless steel," Breeland said. "In the tap room it's all mango wood bar tops and tables, 28 taps all with different beers and ciders. It's really beautiful."

They offer a range of Hawaiian fruit-based ciders, including pineapple, lychee-dragon fruit, and ginger, and the beers have Hawaiian touches such as their signature porter flavored with local vanilla and mesquite. They haven't yet been able to source hops in Hawaii, but Ola is experimenting with its own production.

At the start of June the taproom kitchen opened, and is currently offering a menu of flatbreads, salads, poke bowls and a poke melt that is "basically the best tuna melt you've ever had," Breeland said.

Ola Brew strives to one day be zero waste, and has instituted several initiatives gradually building toward that goal. The spent grain used in the brewing process helps feed the pigs on the farms working with Ola chefs. Instead of importing the 85,000 pounds of carbon dioxide needed to carbonate their beverages each year, the brewery's has a recovery system that pulls CO2 off the fermenting tanks which is supplemented by a nitrogen generator. Jacobson started in the beverage business in 2010 when he founded Hawaiian Ola Beverage Co., which produces nonalcoholic specialty drinks such as coffee leaf tea and noni juice shots. Breeland joined the company roughly three years later and at the time, they were packaging and shipping the drinks in Arizona.

"We had to start somewhere, but that was never really part of actual plan," Breeland said. When they started designing their own canning line on Hawaii Island, the idea of adding alcoholic beverages to their repertoire came up.

"As we worked to move production for the other drinks to the island we saw an opportunity with the cider market," she said. "No one was producing cider yet in Hawaii, and we thought we could do some interesting things with beer and local products. So it made sense with our mission to create a bigger demand for local agriculture by sourcing more local ingredients. That's where the move into cider and craft beer came from."

Ola Brew has begun distributing to some stores and bars across the state. After producing 1,800 barrels in 2018, they are on track to put out 7,200 barrels worth of beer and cider this year. Moving forward they are looking at expanding the product line and distribution around the state, Breeland said, and they are already working on preliminary plans to open a second location.

Tours ($10 per person) are offered daily at 1 p.m. Participants get a full walk-through of the brewing facility before heading to the taproom to sample four beers and ciders. Read the original article here About Ola Brew


Ola Brew is an employee and community owned brewery whose mission is to increase the local agricultural economy through sourcing Hawai'i-grown ingredients and incorporating them into their beverages. The brewery has organically driven the beyond beer space in Hawai'i as the first locally produced hard seltzer and hard teas while also brewing up delicious beers and hard ciders. True to their mission, Ola Brew has sourced and purchased over $1.2M in local agriculture since their inception in December 2017.

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