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Mutual support: Farmers and Ola Brew work together to create local products

I first heard about Hawaiian Ola when my friend Doug Pittman, from Kona Hawk Farm, told me about his son Derek’s involvement in a new company that was buying local noni fruit to use in an energy drink.


When Derek’s California school buddy, Brett Jacobson visited Kona and Doug’s farm in 2010, Brett decided to buy 8 acres down Miloli'i Road in the Hoopuloa Farm Lots.


Doug said, “Brett was captivated by all the tropical fruit on our 5 acre farm in Miloli'i mauka and was inspired to buy land here and start growing fruit himself.” Brett wanted to make an economic impact on the community by creating a demand for ingredients grown locally. Hawaiian Ola was born and his first product, the Noni Energy Shot, was designed to use as many local ingredients as possible. Hawaiian Ola has expanded and grown but they remain dedicated to their original mission to help sustain our local economy and Hawaiian agriculture. Their dedication led Brett to found Ola Brew as a separate entity with a similar mission. He is now the CEO of Ola Brew, which brews both fruit ciders and beers that source more than 50 percent of their inputs from Hawaii.


In 2016, Ola Brew applied for and received a grant from business developers HTDC (Hawaii Technology Development Corporation) to build a canning facility in Kona. They opened their plant in December 2017 and were soon brewing fruit ciders and beers for market. Their tap room and brewery/cidery are at 74-5598 Luhia St. in Kailua-Kona and are open daily. Check out their website for information on their hours and brews at www.olabrewco.com.


Today, Derek Pittman is director of sales for Ola Brew and is participating in their process of seeking certification as a B-Corp company. To be certified by B Lab requires that a company address every aspect of the B-Corp application. They must maintain high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Ola Brew has among its priorities the health of the environment. This, and its care for the local community by putting equity back into Hawaii, sets them apart from many other businesses. Their support of local organic agriculture and their dedication to environmentally friendly processes has helped them qualify them for Corp B certification. They expect final word on their certification soon.

Many in Kona have been impressed by the company’s products as well as their dedication to Hawaii’s environment and agriculture at many levels. They currently offer the waste from their cider and beer-making to local farmers and ranchers for their use. They are also seeking ways to prepare their waste and by products for use as animal feed as well as for inclusion in a composting operation.


Doug and Sabina’s Kona Hawk Farm is one of the organic farms supplying products for Ola’s ciders. Some of their turmeric has been used in Ola products. The deep red color of their prize dragon fruit (‘Thompson S7’) is a special favorite of the Ola brewers, however. Last year Ola bought over 1,000 pounds of their dragon fruit. They are now planting more fruit including pineapple to meet Ola’s increasing needs for locally sourced juices.


“Farmers like me are really pleased to have a guaranteed market for their produce at a fair price,” Doug said. “They’ll even come out and pick the fruit in exchange for a slightly lower price.”


Jean Trueman and Scott Mandel of Farm Laniwai (heavenly water) grow lots of fruit on their 3 acre farm in Honaunau.


Jean was delighted to report, “When someone from Ola tasted some of our wonderous tangelos at Island Naturals they wanted more, so we invited them to come harvest. They arrived with a truckload of joyful people and picked about 800 pounds of tangelos in a little over an hour.”


A few weeks later, Jean and Scott went to the Ola brewery and were poured a cold, delicious glass of fresh tangelo cider, which had been made from their fruit.


After visiting Ola, Scott noted, “The people there were wonderful and quite enthusiastic about their beautiful new facility and exciting products. They were very eager to share their vision with us.”


A new product that their president and director of marketing, Naehalani Breeland, told me about is a tea made from coffee leaves from the Hala Tree Coffee Farm in Captain Cook. Farmers Danielle and Jean Orlowski grow organic coffee on more than 20 acres and were happy to sell the leaves from their coffee prunings to Ola. The tea has a moderate caffeine level and a lovely flavor.


The Orlowskis bought an old and neglected Japanese family farm at 1,500 feet in Captain Cook four years ago. They proceeded to reclaim the original 2 acres of coffee and soon put coffee trees grown from their own seed on another 15 acres.


They are dedicated to sustainability and are certified organic. They grow their coffee and fruit in their misty mauka location without the use of chemical pesticides. The also apply sustainable practices in their operation. For example, in their coffee fields they use a ground cover of perennial peanuts to add fertility and to protect against soil erosion.


“I was very happy to be able to sell my coffee leaves and to know that a delicious tea was being made from them and sold locally,” Jean said.


These are just a few examples of the support that Ola has offered to local farmers. They also purchase ginger and turmeric from Kauai, honey from the Big Island, noni from Puna, pineapple from Hamakua and are hoping to be able to grow grains and hops for their beers. They are continuing to seek local sources and remain dedicated to their Hawaiian community and economy including agriculture. 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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