The brewery began brewing and packaging beer in February 1995. Since that first year, beer production at the Kona facility has increased every year by a total of 585 percent. Several tanks and other brewing equipment have been added through the years to enable increased production. Today, the brewery consists of a mash tun, brew kettle, whirlpool, 10 fermenters, five conditioning tanks and two grain silos. A staff of six pumps 310,000 gallons of beer each year, filling the 4,000 kegs kept in circulation throughout Hawaii.
Brewery tours are available at the Kona brewery at 10:30 am and 3:00 pm seven days a week. Tours are limited to 15 people per tour and guests must be at least 15 years of age to participate. Due to space constraints and limited availability, we have a sign-in sheet at the Kona Pub and guests must be present to sign-up for the tour.
Water makes up the largest percentage of beer. We are fortunate to have an excellent source of pure Hawaiian water that lends a distinctive, full flavor to our beers. The rainwater is naturally filtered through Hawaii's volcanic rock and accumulates in underground aquifers from where it is pumped to the brewery. Quality water is essential to getting the most out of the other three ingredients that comprise beer - malted barley, hops and yeast.
Barley is steeped in water until it germinates. Then it is slowly dried and can be roasted to varying degrees from light to very dark. By using different malt varieties and in different percentages we can create a diverse variety of beer styles. Malt primarily is responsible for the color and body of the finished beer. It also provides a source of fermentable sugar for our yeast.
Hops are soft pinecone-like flowers that grow on tall vines. Usually hops are added to the wort during the boil and are responsible for the bitterness and aroma characteristics of the finished beer. Some of our ales also incorporate a process called "dry hopping." This is the process of adding whole dry hops to the beer, after fermentation, while it is aging to give additional aroma and a dry, hoppy finish. Kona Brewing Company uses more than a dozen varieties of hops in its beer, primarily grown in the Pacific Northwest.
Yeast is a living organism that is handled very carefully and used to convert the fermentable sugars from the wort into alcohol and CO2, making beer. Kona Brewing Company uses several different types of yeast – an ale strain, a lager strain, a weissbier strain and others periodically for seasonal beers. Ales ferment best at warm temperatures for shorter periods of time and are often referred to as "top fermenting." Lagers ferment best at cool temperatures for longer periods of time and are often referred to as "bottom fermenting." We maintain an on-site laboratory for quality control and consistency of our beer.
Step One - 60 Minutes
Grain from the silo is augured into a malt hopper — a funnel-shaped bin — and weighed. The augur is fully automated so that it can be programmed to transport the correct weight of grain for each specific beer recipe. A slide gate on the hopper is opened and the grain flows by gravity from the hopper into the mill, where it is cracked for optimal starch conversion. The milled grain feeds a chain disc conveyor that moves it into the grist case, a holding vessel for the cracked malt. Specialty roasted malts are added manually.
Step Two - 60 Minutes
The grist is mixed into Kona Brewing Company’s 25-barrel mash tun with hot water to create a porridge like mixture called mash. Heat and agitation facilitate the conversion of the natural starch in the grain into fermentable sugars for the brewing process.
Step Three - 120 Minutes
This is the separation of sweet, nutrient rich wort from the spent grain. Once the starch is converted into fermentable sugars it becomes a liquid that is pumped from the mash tun to the brew kettle leaving the grain husks behind. While lautering, the grains are sparged. Sparging is the rinsing of the grains with additional hot water to extract as much fermentable sugar as possible. When finished lautering the leftover grain husk, or “spent” grain, is removed from the mash tun. Some of the spent grain is incorporated into Kona Brewing Company’s pizza dough and fresh baked breads. The majority of the remaining spent grain is picked up by a cattle rancher and used as feed. Occasionally, mushroom, basil and tomato growers also utilize the grain as compost or mulch.
Step Four - 90 Minutes
The resulting sweet liquid wort, now in the brew kettle, is brought to a vigorous rolling boil. Hops are added at specific stages throughout the boil to give beers their desired bitterness and aroma characteristics.
Step Five - 45 Minutes
After boiling, the wort is transferred to the whirlpool vessel for additional clarification from the settling of proteins and hop particles.
Step Six - 30 Minutes
The boiled wort from the whirlpool is pumped through a heat exchanger to rapidly reduce the temperature from boiling down to specific fermentation temperatures. Kona Brewing Company’s ales ferment at 68 F (20 deg. C) and lagers at 54 degrees F (12 deg. C).
Fermentation & Conditioning
Step Seven - 2 to 6 weeks
The cooled wort is mixed with yeast upon entering the stainless steel fermenter. Adding the yeast to the cooled wort is called pitching. The yeast naturally converts the nutrient rich wort into alcohol and CO2, and ultimately, fresh beer! Tanks are all temperature controlled and carefully monitored throughout the entire brewing process. Yes, in addition to temperature, specific gravity and other QC control checks, our brewstaff has to taste each batch every day. It’s a rough job, but someone has to do it. After fermentation is complete, the beer is chilled to 36 degrees and stored at that temperature for additional flavor maturation, clarification (yeast and protein settling) and long-term stability of the beer. Kona Brewing Company uses 10 fermenters and five conditioning tanks ranging in size from 20 barrels to 100 barrels. While most of our beers are ready in two to six weeks, a few of our specialties can take six months or longer to mature!
After conditioning, the beer is transferred to bright beer tanks. This facilitates further flavor maturation and natural clarification of our ales and lagers. All of Kona Brewing Company’s beers are served unfiltered to retain every nuance of their flavor.
Kona Brewing Company’s beers are packaged directly from the bright beer tanks into kegs or bottles, ready for your enjoyment. You can find Kona Brewing Company beer throughout the Hawaiian Islands, in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Japan.