Event season is ON! What with this year’s CBC and SAVOR, having recently taken place – and everything going on overseas – brewers are pretty busy getting out and about. Garrett Marrero is no different as he has been travelling from Maui to Portland to Maui to Washington, DC. Still, when you take a trip to Maui you have to reach out and at least TRY to talk to him, right?
Garrett took some time out of his extremely busy schedule to talk to us about Maui Brewing, the craft beer industry in Hawaii, and some of the issues he faces on an island. So naturally we had to turn it into a…. 5 STUPID QUESTIONS.
Garrett, you are running a 40,000 square foot brewery, traveling to the mainland for conferences, sitting on the Governmental Affairs committee for the Brewers Association, and a member of the Hawaiian Brewers Guild. Why would you ever take time out of your busy schedule to talk to us?
GM: I believe we met at SAVOR a few years back right? I do keep a pretty busy schedule but I’m always happy to talk craft beer. Maui Brewing was built without advertising and our focus has always been word of mouth and working with journalists, bloggers, and generally anyone who would listen to us chat about the beer we love so much. Festivals, tastings, etc. and spreading aloha via our craft beers has been our mission. So in short, it’s my pleasure to chat beer with you anytime!
You left San Francisco and a (what I would assume) was a pretty lucrative job as an investment consultant. Did your wife think you were a little crazy to be opening a brewery in the middle of the ocean?
GM: Fortunately I wasn’t married at the time I dreamt up the idea, so I was free to be a bit crazy. We were dating when I really started to pick up speed before making the move, and after a few discussions she was supportive. We were both in jobs we liked but at the end of the day they were largely void of spirit, and spending a lifetime at either of our jobs wasn’t looking grand. We decided to take the risk together and it’s worked out pretty well…but yes you can say we were a bit crazy….
When it comes to local competition, you seem to be on an island of your own (see what I did there?). What is your take on craft beer in Hawaii? Do expect more to crop up? What is the market like for craft?
GM: Yup, you got it…literally! Although soon there will be a second brewery opening in our old brewery location so it’ll be cool to have some other brewers to chill with. Craft in Hawaii has always been behind the times compared to the West Coast. We really worked hard to build it and I think that with our efforts we’ve really helped drive Craft forward. Once we got some momentum it was nonstop, so we’ve seen the market change from primarily “green bottles” to authentic craft beers. We started because when I was vacationing here years ago you couldn’t by a bottle or can or actual local beer, what looked local was actually from the mainland. We started brewing for Maui only, then rapidly expanded to the rest of Hawaii, and then beyond.
We formed the Hawaiian Craft Brewers Guild with a couple of the local guys (Big Island Brewhaus and Kauai Island Beer Co.) and we try and keep up with new breweries. There are currently 9 breweries here (not including CBA and GB guys) and there are 4-5 in planning with a high likelihood of opening. There are more if you count in planning but farther out.
The market for craft is good here, and it’s finally getting better. We recently formed a distribution company called Maui Stone Craft Beverages to distribute our brand along with 20 new entrants to the market. Greg Koch, Steve Wagner (Stone Brewing Co.) and I put the company together to create a distributor that is 100% focused on craft beer. Think of it as a distributor by Craft Brewers for Craft Brewers.
Sustainability, sustainability, sustainability. You guys do a lot of talking of sustainability; from your site, to your cans, to the brewery tour. Can you explain a bit about what sustainability means to you and to the brewery?
GM: Absolutely, this is a huge issue, especially when we face some of, if not, the highest utility costs, taxes, and costs of production in the country. We like to leave as minimal a manufacturing footprint as possible as well as being fiscally responsible. We invest in solar to draw power from the sun for both Electricity and Thermal Energy, we use appropriate processes and equipment to minimize water usage, we recycle anything we can, and as usual our spent grain is going to local farmers for cattle feed and composting. This also helps us meet our local sourcing expectations for the brewpub, where many of the local producers are represented on our menu.
Follow up: This isn’t the first I have heard the word from brewers. What do you see it meaning to the beer industry?
GM: For beer specifically, I think it is really a return to how things used to be centuries ago. Towns were built around bakeries, breweries and farmers. We like the idea that what we do can be so impactful in a positive way to the community. Sustainability in terms of energy and footprint is one thing, but in terms of longevity it’s another. We provide family level wage jobs, medical insurance, retirement plans, and etc. as well as give back heavily to the community. I think that’s our responsibility within our Craft Beer communities.
Craft beer loves seasonal releases (or as you call them, limited releases). Can you tell me some more about the difficulty involved with seasonals when you are on an island in the middle of the ocean?
GM: Yeah, first off you got it, we don’t do “Seasonal” beers since our seasons don’t change much; it’s shorts and a t-shirt most every day on the island. As such, we do “Limited Releases” like Liquid Breadfruit, La Perouse White, Black Pearl, Father Damien, and Milk of Amnesia, which come out from time to time.
We brewed about 60 different beers last year mainly for draft. We always have our 4 core flagship beers in the market along with our limited release cans. We just finished with Lorenzini Double IPA (a blood orange double IPA with Azacca and El Dorado hops) and have just launched the “Summer” limited release, Kihei Kölsch, a fantastic representation of the Kölsch style.
Aside from the normal difficulties, it’s just remembering that y’all have seasons that get quite cold on the mainland, so we try to bring you “cold weather” styles in the fall/winter. This fall for example it’ll be our Doppelshot Double Bock a nice pale Doppelbock brewed with local Maui Yellow Caturra coffee.
As you mentioned, one of your limited releases is Lorenzini Double IPA – one of my favorite beers ever. You partnered with the Shark Research Program at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology to brew Lorenzini. Can you tell us a little about that? Did you do this to raise awareness or is it because you have a deep dark fear you need to get over?
GM: My good friend Dr. Melanie Hutchinson is over on Oahu at the University of Hawaii SharkLab. Her sister is married to one of my best friends, and we started talking about how maybe we could help with their program. Hawaii had a real rough year with sharks, and we felt we needed to help show them in the positive light that often gets overlooked. They really are an amazing animal and I’m proud to brew good beer for a good cause! It was a fun brew, we used local citrus to augment the blood orange and used some cool hops too, El Dorado and Azacca for a unique dry-hop profile.
Also, Lorenzini draws its name from the Ampullae of Lorenzini, a shark’s electroreceptors that allow it to sense electrical pulses in the water.
Bonus Question II – (C’mon…we’re on a roll).
What is your go-to-beer, be it from Hawaii or elsewhere?
GM: That’s probably the hardest question you could ask me. If I’m in Hawaii I’ve been on a real Ono Grun kick, it’s our dry-hopped pilsner and is fantastic. If I’m on the mainland it’s a very regional selection, I love local and I love trying what everyone is doing out there!