WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
COURTESY HONOLULU BREWING CO.
Isles’ suds history dates back to 1898
The isle brewing industry got its start with the Honolulu Brewing Co., which opened in 1898 with the brewing of the recently resurrected Primo beer. Since then more than 20 breweries have come and gone. Some of the most recent closures include:
Alii Brewing Co. 1994-2001 (Oahu)
Began in 1994 with draft beer. Had a change of ownership in 1996 and started bottling that year.
Known for its Pau Hana Porter and specialty ales, such as the Macadamia Nut Brown Ale and Kona Coffee Stout, which were among its half-dozen brews.
"Part of their mission at that time was to do a lot of education of the consumer and the retailer, and maybe they couldn't sustain that," said Andy Baker, of Keoki Brewing Co. in Lihue, which purchased much of the brewery's old equipment last year.
Trade Winds Brewing Co. 1995-2000 (Maui)
Trade Winds, which operated as Maui's only brewery, opened with five beers: Pani-olo Ale, Gingerwheat, Sunset Ale, Hulaberry and Kuaipa. It also expanded sales to the mainland. Purchased by Kona Brewing Co.
Whalers Brew Pub 1997-2005 (Kauai)
Overlooked the entrance to Kalapaki Bay, and came under new ownership in 2003 for operation as a music venue.
Honolulu Brewing Co. 1898-1998, 2007-today (Oahu)
Although falling sales led Detroit-based Stroh Brewery Co. to stop brewing Honolulu Brewing Co.'s Primo beer in November 1998, the beer made a comeback late last year and debuted in bottles in March.
Primo's logo, which depicts a warrior head, is almost a replica of the one used in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, company spokesman Kyle Wortham said.
Primo was in production from 1898 until Prohibition by Honolulu Brewing & Malting Co. Renamed Hawaii Brewing Co., the company resumed making Primo in 1934 until closing in 1979. Stroh, which has since been purchased by Woodridge, Ill.-based Pabst Brewing Co., acquired the Primo brand in 1982 and tried to improve the formula.
Primo’s return a welcome taste for isle drinkers
After 12 years of managing spirits and craft brew distribution at Paradise Beverages Inc. in Waipahu, Sal Bruno knows the isle beer market.
So when Woodridge, Ill.-based Pabst Brewing Co. reintroduced bottled Primo beer in March, he ordered a couple of thousand cases.
He sold that in eight days and was out of stock for almost two months.
"When Primo hit the market, guys were pounding my door down to get it," he said. "I tried to be judicious in my order, and it has totally taken me off guard."
Pabst launched draft Primo in December at 40 Oahu restaurants and pubs totaling 400 barrels a month. By next spring the company plans to produce 25,000 barrels, the sum of its draft production at Lihue's Keoki Brewing Co. and bottling operations in Irwindale, Calif. That will give Primo a 2.5 percent share in the isle beer market, said spokesman Kyle Wortham.
STAR-BULLETIN / 1974
Primo plant manager Otto Wiesneth adjusts brewing instruments at the old Hawaii Brewing Co. location in Aiea.
The beer is now offered at 400 restaurants and pubs statewide. Late last month, Pabst began distributing Primo 24-pack cases for more than $26 in Costco Wholesale Corp.'s isle stores.
"We wanted to bring it back to the people who would appreciate it the most," Wortham said. "The people who carried the beer back in the day, and the watermen and local Hawaiian audience -- it was their beer."
The Primo brand was launched in 1898 by Honolulu Brewing & Malting Co. and was last made in 1998 by Detroit-based Stroh Brewery Co., which Pabst now owns. It is one of about four craft beers owned by Pabst, along with Chicago's Old Style and Lone Star Beer in San Antonio.
In March, Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Primo Water Corp. dropped a lawsuit challenging the Primo beer trademark held by Pabst, which had asked in November that a North Carolina U.S. District Court rule that its use of the name does not infringe on Pabst's claims to the Primo beer trademarks.
"The case has been settled amicably," Wortham said, declining to comment further.