A beer drinker’s paradise? Or, beer drinking in Paradise?
Either one fits the Kona Brewers Festival, an annual craft beer celebration on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kevin and I got the chance to check out the event last weekend as we wrapped up our whirlwind tour of Hawaii Island.
This year marked the BrewFest’s 20th anniversary. The event was started by one of the co-founders of the Kona Brewing Company as a way to promote the island’s budding craft beer movement. This year, 53 brewers attended, including 10 breweries based on the Hawaiian Islands–all but one of the craft brewers in the state (what the hell, Kauai Brewing Company!?!). The fundraising event raised over $100K this year for a number of great local charities.
In addition to offering the chance to sample hard-to-find, seasonal, and custom-brewed beers from across the U.S., the festival featured live music, culinary exhibits, a homebrew contest, and interesting sustainability/zero waste initiatives like the popular “trash fashion show,” featuring garbage repurposed into some amazing outfits (we had to miss this, which is too bad–it looked fabulous!)
But to me, the most interesting part of the Kona Brewer’s Festival was the celebration’s moving opening blessing. A traditionally dressed kumu (Hawaiian for “teacher”, or “shaman”) offered a chant and ritual blessing of the event and organizing leaders (video below…)
The backdrop of all of this was a curious, thatched roof structure that seemed to float on the edge of Kailua Bay. I was surprised to find out that this building is one of the island’s most important historic sites, Ahu’ena Heiau. This heiau (or temple) was built by King Kamehameha the Great, the warrior leader who (albeit, forcefully) unified the Hawaiian Islands in 1810. The King used this heiau as his retreat to oversee the land and the ocean. Members of the King’s council met with him there for ritual prayers and government training.
But, (getting back to 2015) our modern-day teacher ended his chant by breaking a coconut and letting the juice spill onto the beach and toward the temple.
He then held up a green leafy offering that he carefully displayed on a ceremonial stand right next to the temple.
After the kumu finished his ritual chanting, a hula drum group joined him on the edge of the water for a musical performance (video below…)
These women, dressed in scarlet robes, drummed and chanted in unison as the kumu moved the ceremony over to the beach to the surprise (and delight!) of local beachgoers.
The ceremony was beautiful, and it was a highlight of this hop-fueled event.
More photos of the 2015 Kona Brewers Festival:
More than 3,000 people attended the celebration.
There were lots of creative and island-inspired brews like this Pina Colada-infused IPA from North County San Diego‘s Belching Beaver Brewery.
There was plenty of good food like this pork belly musubi from local Hawaii Island restaurant, Blue Dragon.
Hawaiian for “cheers”.
A bluegrass band performing for the crowd.
Not all of the brews were beer: HI Kombucha, a local kombucha (fermented tea) brewer
Big Island Organics’ Hawaiian gingerade and ginger yerba mate tea.
Everything was compostable or reusable at this zero-waste event. Photo source: Kona BrewFest.
Local food and community festivals are always a great way to experience local culture, this one is particularly interesting for its historic setting and unique cultural rituals. For craft beer lovers thinking of heading to Hawaii’s Big Island, this event is worth checking out.
You can find some more great photos of the event over at the local craft beer blog, Beer In Hawaii. Thanks to the Kona Brewers Festival for inviting us to join in this event!