The North Shore of Oahu is known for surf, beaches, shave ice and little Haleiwa town. You’ll find tons of surf shops in Haleiwa and now you can also find awesome craft beer. Bonzer Front is a beer, wine and spirits store with an adjacent vintage boutique located next to the famous Cafe Haleiwa. In fact, Bonzer Front is owned and operated by Megan Campbell and Noelle Hayes, daughters of Duncan and Jacqueline Campbell, the original owners of Cafe Haleiwa.
The family owned business offers a wide selection of craft beers from around the world and they specially like to keep local Hawaii made beers in stock. The tiny store packs in a great variety in a small space with everything from 6 packs to special releases. IPAs are a best seller and almost all of the beer is cold, which is great not only for quality, but it’s also ready to drink.
I recently stopped by Bonzer Front to chat with owner Noelle Hayes.
How did you get into craft beer? What was the first craft beer you remember leaving a mark on you?
Craft beer has grown tremendously in the past three years we’ve been open. I paid attention to the trend and evolved my coolers with my customers. My first craft beer I had in the shop was from Flying Dog Brewery out of Colorado. It was a brew called Raging Bitch and it was the most expensive 6pk I carried at the time. I loved it and my customers loved it! That was the beginning!
What sparked the idea to open a beer and wine tasting place on the North Shore?
Growing up on the North Shore I knew there was a market for craft beer and fine wine. As a resident it is frustrating to be forced to drive into town to buy simple pleasure like a great affordable wine or beer.
What kind of beer related events do you have?
We have a beer tasting every 4th Saturday of the month between 5-7. We feature 6 brews and it usually costs $12 for non-wine club members and $9 for members.
Hawaii is known primarily as a Bud Light and Heineken type of place. What style of beers are you surprised to see people trying and enjoying?
Hawaii is different than a lot of other places in that residents have very diverse histories. Many of our customers have traveled all over the world in the military, on business, as pro surfers, and on vacations, so they have pretty sophisticated palates. They follow the trends to find the hoppiest double IPAs or the best Belgian style ales. The beer consumer is becoming more well educated and more demanding. We do everything we can to match them with the beers they love.
Can people purchase beers to go?
We are a retail store that has permitted tasting events, so every beer is bought and taken away to be opened at home.
Any plans to add a bar with draft beers?
No we don’t have any plans of opening a bar. Luckily I have Café Haleiwa next door where their customer patronize our shop and then open their wine or beer at the restaurant. That way customers benefit by not paying the high bar prices and having the best beer and wine list in town!
What’s your current favorite weekend beer?
My favorite weekend beer is Traquair House Ale, out of Scotland.
How do you choose the selection of beers that you have in store?
I base it on my own beer preferences and also having Ratebeer.com scores gives my customer assurance that they are purchasing a quality product.
Any beers or breweries you wish you could get to Hawaii that are not currently here?
About a million that I can think of! It is getting better all the time, but since many of the great American craft breweries are barely producing enough beer to supply their regional markets, it seems like Hawaii is on the very bottom of the priority list. The nature of craft beer is that it is small production and rare, so it will be an ongoing problem. When craft beer gets too big it ceases to be craft beer. What I would love to see is more good local breweries like Maui Brewing. We need our own Hawaii craft beer and then we can tell all the people on the mainland that they have to fly here to get it.