KONA, Hawaii (AP) — It's official. Kailua-Kona's signature brewery is here to stay — and increase its production nearly 10-fold.
Kona Brewing Co. will expand into a new 30,000-square foot brewery and canning operation on a 2.6-acre parcel just down the street from its current location on Pawai Place, the company announced Jan. 20. The $20 million facility will produce 100,000 barrels a year of island-inspired brew — up from 11,000 barrels currently — with groundbreaking set for this spring and full operation expected by early 2018.
The brewery, currently employing 12 people, will add another 15 to 20 workers, said brewery operations manager Sandi Shriver.
The new facility will be located on land leased from the Queen Liliuokalani Trust. The announcement lays to rest concerns that the state's largest craft brewery might leave the island after spending the past year scouting for sites as far afield as Oahu and Maui.
"Kona has always been our first choice," Shriver said.
The company had looked to other sites because it couldn't get as much water at the proposed Kona location as it needed, she said. In the end, a wastewater recycling system, more efficient brewing and other green initiatives made it possible to expand within downtown.
"That was really what we all wanted," Shriver said. "We wanted to give back to a community that has supported us for 22 years."
Debbie Baker, executive director of the Kailua Village Business Improvement District, said the company's decision to stay is welcomed news.
"Kona Brew's decision to expand here — along with several other recent business openings — confirms an improved economy and community vibrancy," she said.
All brewing operations housed in the current 3,000-square-foot facility will move to the new location, leaving a shell into which Kona Pub will be able to expand, Shriver said. Originally planned as a $15 million project, the brewery will incorporate another $5 million in new renewable energy and water conservation technology into its design. The company plans to partner with PurposeEnergy to design and build a resource recovery center, where organic byproducts of the brewing process will be used to create electricity, heat and clean water.
The technology will generate 50 percent of the energy needed to run the brewery and, combined with a new high-efficiency craft brew system, will cut in half the water used by a typical craft brewery.
"It's amazing to see how far Kona Brewing Co. has come in just over two decades," said Cameron Healy, brewery co-founder, in a press release. "Having the opportunity to build the new Kona Brewery in the same neighborhood where we started is a privilege.
"When we first decided on Kailua-Kona for our original Kona Brewery 22 years ago, we did it as a result of our respect for the rich culture and spirit of the community," said Healy, who founded Kona Brewing Co. with his son Spoon Khalsa in 1994. "Kona and the Big Island of Hawaii are special, and we are grateful to the community for all of their support over these many years."
Kirsten Kahaloa, executive director of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, applauded Kona Brewing's emphasis on sustainability in its plans.
"The Chamber is thrilled that Kona Brewing Co. is expanding their business here in Kona," Kahaloa said. "I had heard about the search to find other locations for canning, and the business community was hoping that they could make it work here in Kona. Our community always applauds business growth that not only supports the local economy but creates much needed jobs on the Big Island."
Kona Brewing Co.'s sales increased by 18 percent in 2015. The equivalent of more than 1 million cases were sold in Hawaii. The new facility will allow the company to ramp up production of such flagship brews as Kona Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, Castaway IPA and smaller batch series, as well.
Because glass is expensive to import, the company doesn't plan to start bottling at the new plant, Shriver said. But the increased capacity will make multiple varieties of brew available in cans.
All of the beer is expected to be consumed here in the islands. Shriver said that tours of the facility will be better too, with a dedicated tasting room.
"It's going to be really neat," she said. "We're talking about a catwalk that goes up above so we can look down."
Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com