Tucked away on a side street in Kakaako is one of Hawaii’s most interesting museums and smallest breweries. Home of The Brave Tours and Brewing Company is home to an incredible collection of World War II memorabilia and artifacts. Owner Glen Tomlinson and his family run the museum along with daily tours of Hawaii’s World War II military sites. Over the past 2 years Home of the Brave has expanded into the brewing business with a unique concept, a brewseum. The recently opened beer hall is filled with historical items and will soon include a small brewing system to provide customers with fresh beer. I caught up with Glen to find out more about the new tour and brewery.
Where are you originally from and how did you end up in Hawaii?
Originally from Southern California, my folks worked for Pan American Airways for over 40 years and took our family around the world, frequently visiting Hawaii as I grew up. I fell in love with the islands and attended the University of Hawaii where I met my wife. We have lived here ever since and have raised our three kids in Honolulu where we all work together in the tour and brewing business.
Tell me about Home of the Brave.
Home of the Brave was started in 1991 in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and surrounding military bases on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. For over 22 years, we have worked closely with and supported the United States Military— Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard in numerous service venues, including historical and educational programs for our military, island visitors, schools, and veteran groups. Our family owns the Home of the Brave historical WWII museum which features one of the largest and most unique collections of WWII memorabilia in the Pacific – all donated from Veterans and their families.
The latest addition to Home of The Brave is the Brewseum and evening tours. Can you describe the new wing to your museum and the new tour?
For the past year we have been building our Home of the Brave Brewseum, a military style, mini version of a German Beer Hall. Our Home of the Brave “Night at the Brewseum tour” will include a visit to the Home of the Brave Museum and a nostalgic downtown Honolulu evening tour where the Pride of the Pacific blew off steam before shipping out to the South Pacific during WWII. Guests will learn about the history of BEER in Hawaii and enjoy a canteen dinner with fresh island brews and entertainment at the Brewseum.
How did Home of The Brave Beverage Company start? Why did you decide to start a brewery?
Home of the Brave Brewing & Beverage Company and R&R Soda Works was founded on the principle of “Serving America’s Finest”. While Remembering, Honoring, and Saluting the United States Military, we are now producing the finest handcrafted beer and non-alcoholic beverages for our troops and patriotic Americans across the globe.
My two sons moved from the islands to Colorado to go to College. Duke went to school in Ft. Collins and Baron went to Ft. Lewis in Durango, CO. Both boys fell in love with craft beer and started home brewing with their friends. Prior to graduation, they were determined to get into the craft beer business and proposed that we create quality beverages for the U.S. Military. Duke’s favorite craft beer was O’Dells 5 Barrel Pale Ale so he contacted one of the O’Dells brewers – Jeff Doyle, who enthusiastically agreed to design our flagship “Pilot Pale Ale” and our “Remember Pearl Harbor Dark Lager”. Duke is our Home of the Brave historian guide and marketing genius, Baron handles beer delivery and has been key in the build-out of the Brewseum, and our daughter Brittany manages reservations and runs the Wiki Waki Woo Tropical Bar and lounge in the museum.
Where is your beer currently brewed? Why did you decide to start off with contract brewing?
We got started brewing with Maui Brewing Company. Garrett Marrero took us under his wing and in the true spirit of craft brewing, agreed to contract brew our Pilot Pale Ale. This allowed us to test market our pale ale recipe and introduce our draft beer to the Military Market.
We then partnered with Sprechers Brewing in Wisconsin to brew our bottled beer, which allowed us to distribute into all the Military Exchanges on island.
The reason we started off with contract brewing was it allowed us to validate our concept and learn the business without the huge investment of building our own brewery. Without the experience and background in the beer business, I felt it made sense to partner with companies that had a great track record and who agreed to support us.
Do you have plans to build a brewery in the Brewseum to brew your own beer locally?
Our Brewseum is a licensed Brewpub where we will entertain and serve great island fare and brew our own beer on a small 1-3 barrel system. Due to space constraints in our present location, we will brew just enough beer to serve our guests and perhaps supply some of our key Military accounts. Seasonal’s and new Home of the Brave recipes will be developed and tested here.
Will your bottled and draft beer still be contract brewed?
Sprechers Brewing Company continues to contract brew our packaged bottled Beers. Our draft beer will be brewed in the Brewseum.
Why was it important for you to open your own brewery versus contract brewing elsewhere?
We want our customers to know that we create and develop our own recipes. Garrett Marrero made it possible for our family to get started in the beer business by coaching and brewing our Pilot Pale Ale recipe. My cousin Brain Clarke, a former Marine and founder of Product Ventures has designed our HOTBBC logos, branding, and packaging. He is helping to build our brand and Brewseum concept.
Do you have a brewer?
Our Brewer Jeff Doyle designed our signature Pale Ale, Dark Lager, and Landing Zone Lager. We are collaborating with Jeff to create new brews and perhaps some ciders in the future. Colin Lockhart, a great friend and fellow local brewer, is also helping design our small scale system and will brew and collaborate with Bear at the Brewseum.
What type of beers do you plan on brewing? What can people expect from HOTBBC?
Initially we will brew our flagship Pilot Pale Ale. Seasonal’s and HOTBBC unique brews will be added to our taps and we plan on supporting our local brewing community with their fresh island craft beer.
Is the Brewseum open to the public? How can people try your beers and experience the Brewseum?
Due to parking constraints in historic Kakaako, we will begin operation with our tour programs only. Private and corporate parties can be booked in our Brewseum. Special consideration for our local military will include hail/farewells, promotions, dining in’s, and more.
What are some of the challenges and advantages of opening a brewery in Hawaii?
Since the first documented “Hawaiian” barrel of beer was brewed in 1812, there have been numerous breweries that have tried to make a go of it in the islands. For over 200 years, Hawaii’s historical brewing statistics reflect the disappointing success rate of entrepreneurs that have tried to brew locally. Shipping costs, utility costs, competition/control by mainland beer giants and distributors make it extremely hard to compete in Hawaii. It is difficult to maintain a successful brewery operation here when great craft beer is being brought into the state at prices that are well below the cost of brewing locally.
With so many “challenges” we decided to do what we have done phenomenally well for over 22 years. Remember, Honor, and Salute our American fighting men and women in a unique setting that entertains and quenches our guests thirst for history, great memories, and fresh brewed beer! We are lucky that we have a supportive local, military, and tour trade that share our passion.
What are your future plans for Home of The Brave and the Brewseum?
Our present goal is to grow our Home of the Brave Brewseum concept and perhaps expand locally into a larger facility. Mainland and International Brewseums will follow. Our exclusive BREWSEUM concept will support and enhance our VFW’s, American Legion Halls, and USO operations by allowing families to visit and REMEMBER, HONOR, SALUTE their Fathers, Grandfathers, Mothers, Grandmothers, Sons and Daughters that have protected us and made America Great!