In 1978, a little ahead of it becoming legal, Jim was attracted to home brewing. He was living in Belmont CA at the time. He was always into making foods that reached back into history, like sausage and pastrami, etc. Even as a twelve year old, he began distilling applejack. He built a still with some scrap material and it tasted awful. It ended up being used to light the barbeque. As it turns out, it was faulty gear and not the brew. Jim is just one of those real inquisitive people and fermentation became a fascination for him early.
About ten years after legally brewing, he gradually got more serious about beer. He was soon up to brewing ten-gallon batches, which he bottled in his home in Sebastopol CA. Brewers tend to find each other and Jim befriended a couple of guys. The combined efforts of this connection, along with access to more equipment moved him further along the production path.
Generally, home brewers fund their passion like a hobby, step by step and a reckless few decide to punish themselves by opening a microbrewery. Like everyone who graduates from the garage to the commercial brewery, there is always a progression, both personally and professionally.
Jim and his family moved to Kauai in 1998. He first visited the island in 1976 on a family vacation. He made sure to move all his brewing gear with him and set it up immediately in his garage. After a handful of years of low key brewing, he met another brewer who was the inspiration behind the first beer with a name, Black Limousine. His production levels increased, a direct reflection of his interest in always exploring new recipes. The beer became popular very quickly, with places like Island School ordering kegs for fundraisers and other events.
It was only a matter of time before Jim began thinking about going commercial. He secured the name Kauai Brewers, LLC. His initial idea was to find an industrial location to make beer. After visits to a number of buildings, he still came up empty. A building on Rice Street became available and it not only had room for production, there was a front of the house, perfect for a bar and restaurant.
On January 2012, the metamorphosis of 4265 Rice Street began. It was built in 1930 and current codes do not take this into consideration. This created unforeseen challenges that nearly scuttled the entire effort. Jim’s son Justin, now the head brewer, was living in Portland, OR when all of this began. They agreed that Justin would move back home to Kauai in September. Justin grew up on the island, so it was a homecoming.
Before Jim even secured the location, Justin began putting together all of the pieces needed to brew beer in quantity and that was a complicated affair because while it was all from one brewery, Roots Brewery, it was scattered in storage all over the city. Once the equipment arrived, they were faced with the impossible task of putting together tanks and pipes and pumps without any instructions at all, not to mention vital pieces that were missing. Justin had to become an expert welder in this do it yourself arrangement.
It was only fitting that Black Limousine be the first beer brewed and it turned out better than anyone expected. The date is etched in Jim’s memory, June 25, 2013. Over the next ninety days or so, things came together quickly. A second beer was born, Lihue Lager. This beer took advantage of Lihue’s soft water, combined with a recently developed yeast and Black Limousine now had a partner for the ride.
From its beginning, the Kauai Beer Company has defied convention, letting the beer lead the way. Hours of operation are slowly expanding, with the ultimate goal of six days a week from 11A to Midnight. The ambiance makes the brewery a unique experience. It’s the place between work and home.