The northern route between Hilo and Kailua-Kona is a vastly different experience than its sibling down south. The Mamalahoa Highway (HI-19) follows the coastline out of Hilo, taking travelers along a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean, in and out of valleys, and atop cliffs overlooking smaller towns and rocky shores. Near the town of Honokaa, the Hawaiian Belt Road turns inland and begins to climb over three thousand feet above sea level. Tall trees, wide open green pastures, and the imposing sight of Mauna Kea to the south make for a stunning scene.
Waimea is the largest inland town on the Big Island with a resident population of over seven thousand. It is also the home of headquarters for two of the astronomical observatories located on Mauna Kea, the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. Right on the highway that runs through the middle of town is a great restaurant and soon-to-be brewpub formerly known as Tako Taco and being transitioned to a new identity as Big Island Brewhaus and Taqueria. Confused? Don’t be! You see, not to long ago Thomas Kerns (former head brewer at Maui Brewing Company) moved to the Big Island and bought Tako Taco in 2008 with the idea to open a small craft brewery. He changed the name to Big Island Brewhaus (although they still answer the phone as Big Island Brewhause and Tako Taco Tacqueria) and brought in a great selection of craft beer. Kona Brewing, Mehana, and Hawai’i Nui have multiple taps available, as well as several from Maui Brewing – Bikini Blonde, Big Swell IPA, and the award winning CoCoNut Porter. Several other craft beers are tapped, including offerings from Sierra Nevada, Widmer Brothers, and Rogue.
Sometimes change of ownership and direction of a well-loved local establishment can have a negative impact on the place. But the food that made Tako Taco so popular in the first place with locals has remained largely unchanged, and as Big Island Brewhaus continues to be excellent by all accounts. It is a family-friendly atmosphere with a large menu, and everything we had was excellent. Like most other great places we visited, everything was fresh and bursting with flavor and our very friendly server was not only knowledgeable about the history of the place, but easily answered questions about the food and beer. Anyone travelling through Waimea needs to make a stop at Big Island Brewhaus, even if they are not a craft beer love. The food alone is worth stopping for.
Construction of the brewery finally and officially started on July 28th of this year (about a month after we left the island, unfortunately), after all the business aspects were taken care of. The progress has been impressive, and the day-by-day activity is being faithfully documented on their Facebook page. The expected opening of the brewery is Halloween of this year.
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