COURTESY KONA BREWING CO.
Kona Brewing Co. unloaded a new fermenter last month as part of its Big Island brewery expansion. CLICK FOR LARGE
Kona Brewery expands as sales jump
Mainland sales for the Big Island brewer are up 58 percent this year
Kona Brewing Co. is expanding its Big Island brewery, one fermenter at a time.
In its latest expansion, Hawaii's biggest brewer has revved up an 80-barrel, 3,500-pound fermenter installed late last month at its Kailua-Kona brewery headquarters, allowing it to increase isle brewing capacity by 18 percent.
The Big Island brewer is working to keep up with rising sales, which have jumped 30.6 percent overall this year over 2006 to 44,777 barrels. Hawaii beer sales have climbed 20 percent, while mainland sales are up 58 percent, without the addition of new markets, the company said yesterday.
"People on the mainland, they want to come to Hawaii, and I think it's a lot easier for people to afford a six pack than a plane ticket," said Rich Tucciarone, vice president of brewery operations at Kona.
Mainland growth is expected to remain at the current level through the year, Tucciarone said, with plans to expand in Florida, where the company has four distributors. Kona's primary market is along the mainland West Coast, he said.
Tucciarone said Kona's limited-release Wailua Wheat ale, which hit stores May 1 for the first time in bottles, has sold nearly double Kona's initial projections, while the company has also seen a spike in repeat buyers on the mainland. He declined to give specific figures on the Wailua beer's sales or overall profit for the company.
"When you think of the mainland, there's just so many people that haven't been exposed to Kona Brewing Company," he said. "They've bought it once and they are buying it again and again."
The brewery's year-long expansion project, which started last summer, includes a new chiller that nearly doubles the size of the brewer's refrigeration system, a drive-in keg storage cooler and a three-bay loading dock with dock leveling devices. A new cooler to store bottled brew will be installed in the next few weeks, along with the completion of a larger parking lot for the brewery's restaurant, bringing total building and parking space to 95,000 square feet. The brewery now operates 11 fermenters, Tucciarone said.
Kona's Big Island facility brews kegs for Hawaii. The brewery imports its bottled beer from Oregon, where Kona has a brewing partnership with Anheuser-Busch's Widmer.
Kona, which opened in February 1995 with the Pacific Golden and Fire Rock Pale ales, has distribution reaching 17 states and Japan. In December 2003, the brewery opened its second restaurant on the Koko Marina Center in Hawaii Kai.