The Garden Isle of Kauai is getting ready for it’s second brewery. Kauai Beer Company, located in Lihue, is currently in the building and permitting process, but has plans to open in 2013. The long and difficult road to opening a brewery is almost complete for the team at KBC. Fermentors are in place, brew system installed and work is being done on the brew pub. I caught up with Kauai Beer Company’s head brewer, Justin Guerber, to get a sneak peek at what we can expect from Hawaii’s next craft brewery.
How large of a brew system will Kauai Beer Company have?
We have a 10 bbl brewhouse with three 20 bbl fermenters. We have four 10 bbl serving/brite tanks and lots of cold room space for kegs. I think we have some pretty good capacity and plenty of space to grow if we need it!
Will KBC be a full brew pub or a tap room?
Primarily a brew pub. We are brewing our own beer after all, but I would really love to have guest taps – and plenty of them! I think especially as we start out it would be nice to have a selection of good guest beers that we can also serve.
What will your flagship beer be?
Our flagship beer is called Black Limousine, or Black Limo. It’s a dark lager that’s perfect for Kauai! Think of a mix between stein lager and Guinness. A green bottle beer with some extra zing! We have also been brewing some ambers and we’re putting together a pale ale at the moment. Toying around with some fruit beer ideas too.
What type of beers do you plan on brewing? What can people expect at KBC?
Our brewing has roots in the German style, but I think our ultimate goal is to brew good drinkable beer. Not every beer appeals to every person, but I think especially in a location like ours, having approachable beers is key. Which is not to say we won’t be experimenting all the time with new recipes and ideas.
Will you be serving food?
Food is a must. We will be serving simple good food that goes well with our (hopefully!) good simple beer :). We haven’t nailed down our menu yet, but we have a number of recipes we’ve been working on and will probably be using when we open.
How many people will the space hold?
Still playing around with the layout a bit, but maybe 50?
Will you be doing growler fills?
Absolutely. We are hoping that we can do growler refills even before we get our bar open. Something along the line of a “growler refill station” next to the bar. We have some great looking stainless steel growlers (the same brand as Kona, if you’ve seen those), and a major part of our marketing/sales plan includes growlers. In fact, we are hoping to market growlers to restaurants that don’t have tap systems. We would supply them the growlers, and they could sell them like a bottle of wine. The customer could buy the growler from the restaurant, or the restaurant could bring it back to us for a refill as well.
That’s an interesting concept for off-premise sales.
Yes, a lot of restaurants and bars on Kauai don’t have tap systems, and we feel this is a great way they can still sell our beer without going through the expense of installing one. We would sell them full growlers (maybe with a deposit on the growler container itself), then they would market it like a bottle of wine or a pitcher of beer for the table. The restaurant is free to sell the growler as well (they make great souvenirs), or they can return it to us for a refill. We think this could work great for getting our product to retail outlets that want it, without the added expense of setting up a bottling/canning line from the get-go.
How did you come up with the logo? What is the significance of the rooster?
The rooster is Kauai! State bird, as it were, considering how many chickens we get running around everywhere. The rooster has a noble quality to him, so the shield represents that. The “skewer” through him is actually the alchemy symbol for fermentation – sort of a nod to our brewing forbearers as well as a fun little trivia bit for those who know.
How did you get into brewing?
My dad has been homebrewing since before I was born, and hence I’ve been around it all my life. When I moved to New York after college, I got more into doing regular extract brewing because of our tiny apartment. We’ve been brewing here on a 1bbl system for a while now, testing and perfecting our recipes. Prior to (and currently/still), my dad and I run a software company that has a product for business application software. It’s still alive and well, but we decided it would be nice to branch out a little =)
What are your favorite styles to drink?
Whew! You mean besides our own?? I love all kinds of beers, and all styles. Lately I’ve been digging on the sour/fruit beers that have been popping up more and more. I’ve also been enjoying some good wheat IPAs and we are getting ready to try out our own. Ultimately, I would say that I always come back to a good amber ale at the end of the day. I’m a huge fan of drinkable session beers – something I can drink day after day and which still has some flavor to it.
Oh man there are so many good ones coming out! I’m not a hop head, but I am definitely looking forward to trying out some of the newer experimental strains. Black Limo, our flagship beer, is based on Liberty and Mt. Hood hops. Lately we have been using some Motueka from New Zealand, and we would really like to get our hands on some Citra, but it’s just too popular! We just got a bunch of samples that we are going to brew up as well. Looking forward to it!
What breweries inspire you?
Maui Brewing Company has been a great inspiration on how to brew a good beer for Hawaii, while still remaining local and maintaining quality. I lived in Portland for a couple years, and I’d say the fresh local beer culture there has inspired me. Some of the breweries there I really enjoyed would include Cascade, Upright, and even Deschutes. Allagash from Maine has been doing some phenomenal Belgian style beers for a long time, and Ommegang in upstate New York is another quality brewery. I could actually go on forever, but in the end, it’s the breweries that produce a quality beer, without too much fanfare or attitude that I love most.