New Kona Brewing ale uses desalinated seawater

Light, bright and originating 3,000 feet below the ocean’s surface.


Light, bright and originating 3,000 feet below the ocean’s surface.

That’s how Kai Golden Ale, the latest offering from Kona Brewing Co., is being billed. A small-batch beer set to be sampled by the public Friday, the ale is made with desalinated seawater sourced at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in North Kona.

The 85 barrels now being kegged at the brewery are the third part of a quartet called the Makana Series, a limited line of small-batch beers whose proceeds benefit nonprofits. Each beer represents one of Hawaii’s natural elements, said brewmaster Ryan McVeigh.

The Kai ale has notes of banana and cloves, said McVeigh. The minerals in the desalinated water aid in the fermentation process and give the ale a light, crisp finish.

For every pint of the beer sold, $1 will be donated to the Maui Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, an organization dedicated to keeping Maui’s oceans clean and healthy. The brew will be available at about 30 bars, restaurants and pubs around the state.

The first beer in the series, Aina, was brewed with taro root, generating $15,000 to benefit Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. The last of the series, set to be released in the fall, will be a wheat ale named Makani, made with koa blossom honey and a strain of yeast discovered in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The yeast, unique to the park, was gathered and cultivated for brewing, McVeigh said.

Proceeds from that beer will go to a koa reforestation effort by the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative.

Kona Brewing remains mum on a key aspect of its expansion plan.

Earlier this year, the brewery announced a $15 million plan to build a new 30,000-square-foot brew facility.

General manager Shane Johnson said recently the company is not yet ready to announce where the brewery will move. Kona Brewing Co. has scoped potential sites on Maui and Oahu as well as Kona.

The new facility will increase annual production to 100,000 barrels and restaurant seating by 50 percent. A groundbreaking is planned for later this year, and construction is expected to be complete in 2017.


The company is expanding to meet increased local demand for flagship beers Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale and Castaway IPA.

Email Bret Yager at

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