Honolulu Beerworks Keeps Finding Ways to Grow

Bootstrapping as much as he can, Geoff Seideman feels that even after 10 years since opening, Honolulu Beerworks has yet to scratch the surface of the brewery’s potential.

“I just can’t wait until we actually have that capacity where I can just go, ‘Hey, whoever wants us, you can have it,’” he said. Maxing out his 5,000-square-foot facility by pumping out about 6,000 barrels of product from his brewpub location, Honolulu Beerworks is taking that next step toward being a major player for the entire state of Hawai’i along with becoming more entrenched into the Japanese and other Asian markets.

“People won’t wait forever, but at the same time, I think unless you’re Maui or Kona, no one really has the ability to produce a lot of beer,” he said of local beer producers across all of the Hawaiian islands. “Waikiki has a has a 20-barrel system, but that’s that’s the biggest system on Oahu until we open our new facility, which will be a 30-barrel, four-vessel system.”

With sights set on opening down the road with a new production space and taproom that could house up to 20,000 barrels of product, Seideman says it’s good to see where the brand could be in the future.

“That brewery will be more suited for giving people brewery tours, more education, doing a lot more one-off stuff like what we’re doing here for charity and different causes,” he said. Back in May of 2023, Honolulu made Kāhuli Brewli, a Saison in which a portion of sales is donated to the Snail Extinction Prevention Program. The brewery recently teamed up with the Plant Extinction Prevention Program, the Lyon Arboretum, and the United States Botanical Garden Association to shine a spotlight on plant extinction prevention efforts in Hawaii with a new release called HāHā-Loha, a Grape Sour.

Although Seideman said they enjoy doing outreach and small batch programs like the recent releases, that has faded because of increased production demands for wholesale, with up to 5,500 of the 6,000 barrels going out the door for distro.

“We’ll bring that back when we go to the new facility,” he said.

Red tape and other restrictions have slowed the progress of the facility, which has even had to switch locations since Seideman started the idea of a new spot in 2018. Getting proper power to the new spot was the biggest snag at the time Brewer spoke with him in late 2023.

But, Hawaii is hard for small businesses, he said.

“It’s not just us, it’s everybody here,” Seideman said. “We’ve been planning for a while and not just aspirations for the Hawaii market, but the Japan market as well, and overseas.

Seideman was invited to judge a beer competition and festival in Japan in 2015. And he’s done it every year since.

“We won a few medals over there and after the first year, I asked if I could bring beer to support the festival,” he said. “So we’ve been pouring our beers over there at this festival since 2016. The clientele in Hawaii has created a huge Japanese following and he feels it’s a more natural direction than heading to the US mainland which Seiderman feels is oversaturated.

READ MORE: These Collab Beers Mean More to Honolulu Beerworks

“I’m not saying that we couldn’t do well,” he said. “I just think with the relationship that Hawaii has with Japan — and even Asia in general — I think that for me, it was a more natural progression to go that way first and see what we can do.”

Another thing helping prompt the move to a different facility is that the  Kaka’ako area that Honolulu is located in has been built up around the brewery. Much like many breweries across the country that have started in a location that wasn’t seeing a lot of traffic at the start and now is a thriving part of a community means that rent prices increase and Seiderman doesn’t want to play that game.

“I think it will be a better situation (at the new location) even though I like this area, and I love being here for 10 years,” he said. “But, it’s changed. People change … so we’re gonna do the taproom down there. We’ll have some food but we’re focusing more on production and trying to get our brand out there.”

He said that Honolulu is trying to find that sweet spot.

“I’ve talked to a bunch of brewers and there is a spot where we’re not running around with our heads cut off,” he said. “You can make some money, but you’re also not stretching yourself or your team out. I kind of think I know where that is. That’s where we want to get to and kind of take a pause.

“Since 2014, we’ve just been going. It’s all about expand, expand… how much can be pushed out. It’d be nice to open the new brewery and be able to brew in one day what we can brew here in a week and a half. We then have time to focus on this or that.”

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