BY LISA MARIE DAHM
NORTH HAWAII NEWS
Competing against 1,650 entrants in the U.S. Open Beer Championship in Atlanta, Big Island Brewhaus in Waimea won three awards — a silver medal for their Golden Sabbath brew in the “Specialty and Anything Goes” category, a bronze medal for their White Mountain porter in the “Herb and Spice” category and another bronze medal for their Mandarin Gold brew in the “Fruit and Vegetable” category.
The competition is open to international entrants and includes award-winning home brews. According to Thomas Kerns, owner of Big Island Brewhaus, the beer is tested through a blind tasting by a qualified judging panel. He said they ship bottles of their entry samples inside a cooler with ice packs. It arrives still chilled.
“For us, it represents a little validation as to the quality of what we are doing,” Kerns said of the medals.
Big Island Brewhaus also won three awards last year in their first year of entry – a gold medal in the “American IPA” category for Overboard IPA, a silver medal in the “Experimental” category for White Mountain Porter and a silver medal in the “American Amber or Red” category for their Big Island Red Giant.
Tom and his wife, Jayne, opened the restaurant two years ago and first started serving beer on March 4, 2011. Kerns has been brewing specialty beer since the early 90s and was the original brewer at Maui Brewing Company, where he worked for 10 years, starting in 1998.
He found the opportunity to buy the Waimea restaurant and has been in the location ever since. Kerns said he works with his team, Daniel Russell and Kaiao Archer, to create the final products.
“It has been fun to tackle and take on the challenges and to be creative at the same time,” Kerns said.
According to Kerns of his winners, the Golden Sabbath brew is a Belgian-style, strong golden ale. He said, though it is Belgian-style, they use local honey that adds a specific style that doesn’t fit into competition categories.
“It is a wonderful beer, so I knew it could do well,” Kerns said. “It is satisfying and robust. And obviously the judges like it.”
The White Mountain Porter is spiced with locally grown coffee and coconut.
“There are special nuances of flavor to pick out,” he said. “I think the White Mountain Porter is good with food but is especially good with dessert, like vanilla ice cream.”
For the Mandarin Gold, Kerns said they use fresh, locally grown mandarin oranges and puree them, including the skin, and put them in the beer.
Big Island Brewhaus beer is not sold in bottles, but can be purchased on tap at a few local locations such as: the Lava Lava Beach Club in Waikoloa, Humpy’s Big Island Ale House in Kailua-Kona, the Blue Dragon in Kawaihae and the Fish and the Hog in Waimea.
Kerns said he eventually hopes to bottle some of the brews and expand throughout the island and state, though they plan to remain small.
“Craft beer is best served closer to the source,” Kerns said. “ … We don’t plan on sending it too far away. “
Kerns said he enjoys his business in Waimea and being a part of the neighborhood.
“That is why we do it,” Kerns said. “It is about being creative and sharing that with our community.”