Hawaii craft beer culture with Maui Brewing Co.’s Garrett Marrero

It’s been about six months since Taste Terminal spoke to Maui Brewing Co.’s owner Garrett Marrero (pictured on the right) when we last caught up with him at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO. Maui Brewing Co. started in 2005 with 400 barrels of beer, now, seven years later, it’s officially the only Regional Craft Brewery in Hawaii brewing over 15,000 barrels of beer per year. “It’s amazing to see how much we have grown. The biggest thing attributing to our growth is being truly local, being who we say we are, being committed to making our beer in Hawaii, always,” Marrero says. Brewers Association, a group representing small brewers, recently released data stating that the small beer market is on the rise, representing 5.68% of the volume in the U.S. beer market, up from 4.97% in 2010. For Marrero, it’s the quality trumping the quantity, “I think fans of craft beer care about where the beer is from, what’s the story behind the beer and how are you different, what sets you apart from the rest.”

5 questions with Maui Brewing Co.’s Garrett Marrero

Congrats on the reaching the Regional Craft Brewery status! Where do you see Maui Brewing Co. in the next two years?

Within the two years, we expect to have a second brewpub location open on Maui along with being under construction with a new production brewery. We’re out of room here and need the room to expand and better meet our current orders, let alone develop new markets. Within five years we expect to be in the 40 – 50K barrel range and continue on brewing our authentic Hawaiian beer. Our limited release program just officially launched in March and has been extremely well-received. You’ll see new exciting beers from us each quarter from here on out.

What was your first craft beer experience?

I was born and raised in San Diego. Growing up, my grandpa had access to a bunch of beers from around the world that couldn’t be purchased locally at the time. I really developed an import taste before American craft was really taking off. Then Sierra, Pete’s (at that time), Pizza Port, Stone, etc. Then college at Davis opened me up to Sierra at the source, Sudwerks, Rubicon etc. I always wanted to experience where I was through its food and drink. That’s largely the reason I created Maui Brewing Co. On a trip here I found out what I thought was brewed locally was actually brewed in Portland and shipped back. It was good beer and Portland brewers rock, but lets be real – it wasn’t Hawaiian.

What’s the landscape of the craft beer culture right now in Hawaii? I know you guys bring in other craft beers to educate people about craft beer and not just your own.

Yeah, education is a huge component of how we sell beer. We talk about food and beer a lot. Brewing with unique ingredients. A ton of sampling and marketing events with the primary idea being “just try it dude”. This is due to the fact that Hawaii is largely what I refer to as a “Green Bottle State” (with way too much blue bottle as well). Ultimately the landscape is changing. We’re up over 40% locally again this year so we see the tastes of drinkers evolving. In the beginning it was (and in some respects continues to be) a lack of craft beer selections, then “why cans”, so we’ve always needed to teach people why drink better beer.

We truly believe that in craft beer a rising tide lifts all boats, this is a double edged sword as some boats are just marketing companies looking to cash in on craft beer’s success, but generally the consumer is learning the difference. We are the title sponsors behind the Maui Brewers Festival, this year we’ll have 32 breweries and more than 70% of them aren’t sold in Hawaii. The idea being that we expose the audience to a wide selection of craft beer and they learn that beer can be so much more than they ever knew. In the end, they may choose our beer, they may, instead, choose a killer beer from Pizza Port – either way the industry benefits and we all win. You’ll likely see us form a craft beverage distributor locally to bring more craft to Hawaii.

Can beers are the talk of the craft beer industry (it’s nothing new), with recently canning of L.A. based Golden Road to craft beer pioneers like Sierra Nevada. Do you have any comments on canning? Something you guys have done since the beginning.

Good beer in cans! You must be crazy. Or your beer is good, but do you do bottles? At least that’s what I was told when the local distributors laughed me away. Here we are years later and Hawaii’s largest craft brewery. Something worked. I’m a huge fan of Golden Road and I haven’t even had their beers yet (Meg… I’m calling you out now, nothing but love). As an organization, they’re well put together and have a clear vision of who they are. They’ve invested the time and money in making sure they’ve got the right people doing the right jobs in line with the vision. Good people.

We started as a can only brewery, few, if any, breweries start with a package, most are draft then package or a combination. We did cans only (except for our brewpub) for the first 18 months or so. Largely due to the barriers to earning a tap in Hawaii back then. Canning is certainly taking a strong hold on the market with more cans coming to market than new bottles even. Ultimately, though it should never be a discussion of bad beer = insert your choice of package here and good beer = the other. It should be about the beer, the integrity of the brand, the beer, what the company stands for and the beer, etc. Did you get that it’s really about the beer? Bad beer in bad beer out. Good beer in good beer out, generally. The package only protects and transports what you put in. A bad beer isn’t going to get better in a can or a bottle. I cringe to think of a market in which breweries may be jumping onto cans to enter the market instead of just focusing on the beer quality.

I think we were somewhere around number 11 or 13 or whatever to start canning. It made sense for us given our environment and the fact that even the can bodies themselves would be made in Hawaii as there is a local can plant. Plus with beaches, pools, etc, with the added level of protecting the beer better, it was a no-brainier. When we export to the mainland, we ship in full 40′ refrigerated containers to the West Coast, we can fit nearly 40% more cans than we could if they were bottles due to the weight. This significantly lowers shipping costs per unit as well as carbon footprint.

What’s coming up for Maui Brewing Co. in the immediate future? Events, future expansion, new beers coming out (We know about the La Perouse White)?

The limited release program is something I’m totally stoked on at the moment. Kim Lutz (lead brewer at the pub) knocked it outta the park on the La Perouse White and I’m sure John (lead brewer production facility) will do the same with our Jolly Pumpkin Collab. I’m excited to brew with Sam Calagione in April for our Dogfish collaboration. Plus I’m pretty sure I just bought some land today so future plans will soon be taking shape.

A lot of events in the markets we’re in, our next local festival is May 19th at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. Gonna be a blast!

The video interview

See host Jace Milstead with Maui Brewing Co.’s Garrett Marrero at last year’s GABF.


  1. And *FOR* the argument for cans…What do you think the beer comes in when you order a “Draft” at a pub? … a can!

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