LAHAINA - A taste for craft beer, a love of locally made products and experience in finance is not the typical background to build a brewery, but Garrett Marrero and Melanie, his wife and business partner, seem to make it work.
Maui Brewing Co., founded in 2005, presently operates a brew pub in Kahana and a production facility in Lahaina. It recently announced the acquisition of a five-acre site in the Kihei Research & Technology Park.
Marrero said the company plans to build an expanded brewery there that will include an ancillary brew pub. The facility will cover 41,000 square feet; of that, about 8,000 square feet will be devoted to the brew pub.
While the existing brew pub will continue in Kahana, the company's brewery will move out of a leased production facility on the West Side into their own plant in Kihei. Marrero said he is using HEADCO small business financing in cooperation with First Hawaiian Bank and the company's own funds.
The construction timetable is estimated at about 30 months, with the brewery scheduled to come online in January 2014 and the brew pub to follow at a somewhat later date.
The whole package pencils out around $15 million, a figure that includes the cost of the land and construction of the building, but does not include the build-out of the pub. The new quarters will allow the company to more than double its production capacity from just over 20,000 barrels annually to an estimated capacity of 45,000 to 50,000 barrels per year.
The names Bikini Blonde Lager, Big Swell IPA and Coconut Porter may already have a familiar ring. But, if you're not familiar with the product line, Marrero thinks you'll be hearing more about them soon. These are some of the local craft beers made by the Maui Brewing Company and produced here on the Valley Isle. Many of the company's products have received medals and awards of excellence.
On Maui, the company distributes its own line. In other parts of the state, distribution is handled by Paradise Beverage. Stone Brewing does the honors in Southern California and other beer wholesalers carry the line to the rest of the Mainland and abroad. To date, Marrero said, sales are about 60 percent in Hawaii, with the rest exported to the Mainland and international markets.
You may also be hearing more about the company's root beer, now strictly a boutique offering using local honey and local cane sugar, but perhaps to expand and find its own niche on the soft drinks side of the product line.
As for staffing the bigger operation, Marrero said he and his wife will continue to work as a team with their 62 existing employees. They hope to grow that number to around 130 by the time the expansion is completed.
Maui Brewing Co. is already the largest brewery in the state and hopes to accelerate that trend by continuing "to use real local products and really making the beer here," Marrero said.
He stressed that success of a Maui beer is directly proportional to making it here. "You can't give it a local name and make it in Portland."
Marrero was enthusiastic about cooperation that the project has received at the local level. He had only praise for Maui officials and the Office of the Mayor.
"Everyone has been extremely supportive," he said.
One of the reasons he thinks they have warmed to the venture is "it can demonstrate that manufacturing in Hawaii can be successful."
The 34-year-old UC Davis Class of 2000 graduate took an unconventional route to the beer business. After graduating, he spent "four or five years" as "an investment consultant" in San Francisco. But like so many before him, he came to the island on vacation in 2001 and was taken by the charm and possibilities here.
It didn't hurt that he met his wife, a Maine native and alumni of Cal State, at the wedding of a mutual friend on Maui. The couple has been married for seven years as of last August. They continue to work together in the company.
"It's 50-50," he said. "She's here every day."
Marrero identified his own strength as "knowing how to manage and put together a team. Having the vision is what's important - everything else can be sourced," he said.
Speaking of sourced, most of the new equipment for the brewery has been identified.
"We're going with certain vendors we trust and adding to the list because we're bigger now," he said.
Yes, he acknowledged, "It's a very busy time. Now that the word is out about the planned expansion, everybody wants to sell us something."
Marrero reiterated the firm's commitment to the local economy and local agriculture. Maui Brewing Co. is a founder of the Maui Brewer's Fest. This year, the event will be held on May 18 in support of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
For more information on the company, visit www.mauibrewingco.com.