Nā Pali Brewing Company opens on Kauaʻi with two more craft breweries on the way
August 8, 2023, 2:30 AM HST
Jim Guerber distilled his first batch of applejack when he was 12 years old.
The youngster’s experiment resulted in awful-tasting homemade liquor, but on a successful note it worked great to light the backyard barbecue.
“We had an apple tree and I knew we could make something out of it,” Geurber, now 79, said. “I’m just fascinated with processes.”
Following the applejack episode, Geurber became attracted to the burgeoning field of computer science and grew up to create a commercial computer system that is still on the market today. But his interest in distilling and brewing never waned.
Now, Geurber and his 40-year-old son Justin own and operate Kaua‘i Beer Company, a popular restaurant and craft brewery in downtown Līhu‘e. They’re getting ready to mark its 10th anniversary.
But the Geurbers have more to celebrate than just their own success. They’ve been good neighbors and mentors to the island’s community of at-home brewers. Some – with the Geurbers’ guidance – have taken steps to open craft breweries of their own.
The number of Kaua‘i-based craft breweries will double this year, with the recent opening of Nā Pali Brewing Company in Wailuā and the planned opening in November of Mucho Aloha in Kōloa.
Another brewery – Hawai‘i Standard Time – is also in the works on Kress Street in Līhu‘e, although its owners have yet to name an opening date. And to cap it all off, the island’s oldest brewery, Kaua‘i Island Brewing Company, recently launched a taproom in Kōloa Village.
Kaua‘i’s burgeoning supply of locally-made beer calls for a tour of its current craft breweries. Continue reading to plan your pub crawl across the Garden Isle.
Kaua‘i Island Brewing Company, Kōloa & ʻEleʻele
A good place to start is at the beginning of craft beer on Kaua‘i. Dubbing itself “The World’s Westernmost Brewery,” Kaua‘i Island Brewing Company has been in business for more than 23 years and now has two locations.
“We’re known for IPAs and ales, but we’re beginning to be known as more of a lager house,” head brewer Zach Lynch said from the brewery’s barroom floor, located in Port Allen. “My personal favorite is our lager, because over here on the West Side, it’s so darn hot. It’s nice to have a nice, light, crisp beer.”
Kaua‘i Island Brewing Company has garnered many accolades. Most recently, its Mistress of Madagascar won an award at the 2023 Hulō Awards on O‘ahu.
“Mistress of Madagascar is our barrel-aged pastry stout,” Lynch said. “We brewed a pretty strong beer and aged it in Kōloa Rum barrels for about six months. It came out to about 13% ABV.”
The Brewing Company has more to offer than acclaimed beer. Its Port Allen (ʻEleʻele) location boasts outdoor dining and a high-ceiling barroom, with electronic dartboards and pinball machines on the second floor. Flags dedicated to various sports franchises hang from the bannisters, while other décor gives the space a piratical air.
“It’s the local ‘Cheers’ bar,” Lynch said. “We get a lot of regulars, as well as tourists.”
Kauaʻi Beer Company, Līhuʻe
The tropical beer enthusiast’s next stop is in Līhu‘e, where the warm lights of Kaua‘i Beer Company beckon after a long day of work or play.
“I wanted it to be a cozy place,” Jim Guerber said. “Cozy, nice and early on in my mind, food became important.”
The Guerbers and Justin’s girlfriend Kimberly Wright started by giving away pretzels, Costco pub mix and other grocery store snacks. That all changed, once they installed a kitchen.
“Our employees are really great,” Jim Guerber said. “Back of the house, people are really concerned about making products and making it taste the best and making it look good and be consistent.”
Kaua‘i Beer Company’s menu now features burgers, beer-battered fries and much more. Jim’s favorite item is the “World Famous Reuben,” although the “Not in Philly Cheesesteak” holds a special place in his heart as well.
“It’s the way we used to eat it,” he said. “That’s what it’s about. It’s about remembering the taste and getting the right ingredients.”
But what about the beer? Does Kaua‘i Beer Company have a signature brew?
“It’s hard to say anymore these days,” Justin Guerber said. “There are a lot of favorites. But the Līhu‘e Lager and the Black Limousine are our original flagships.”
Indeed, there’s almost always something new to drink at Kaua‘i Beer Company, as the Guerbers constantly bring back seasonal favorites while debuting new creations.
“We’re always rotating stuff,” Justin Guerber said.
Nā Pali Brewing Company, Kapaʻa
Nā Pali Brewing Company, located adjacent to the ruins of the iconic Coco Palms Resort in Wailuā, is the latest craft brewery to open its doors on Kaua‘i.
“Jim and Justin Guerber are dear friends of ours,” said Blake Conant, who owns and operates Nā Pali with his wife Kati Conant. “They have been significant in our startup with advice … This is not really a competitive industry.”
Nā Pali Brewing Company is a German lager house with deep Hawaiian roots. In their spacious barroom, the Conants have created an indoor Polynesian beer garden, filled with potted plants of all sizes, and live music from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
“For the interior design, I wanted to transport our guests to the Nā Pali Coast,” Kati Conant said. “The tables are monkey pod, the plants envelope you to the lush jungle aesthetic and the bar pendants give the feeling of the rain. Most importantly, I wanted to create a positive and beautiful space where people feel good and can come together as a community.”
Blake Conant shares his wife’s focus on community. To that end, Nā Pali Brewing eschews the distracting blast of sports television, and its tables are sized to accommodate multiple parties.
“People have a word, wala‘au … it means to talk story, and I think here in Hawai‘i, we could use more of that,” Blake Conant said. “That’s that interaction between local people and visitors that has been talked about. But I’m trying to create a place here where we practice that.
“So the benches and tables are set up so that you literally could have somebody from Arkansas on one end of the bench and somebody from Wainiha on the other end, and hopefully the twain shall meet.”