REAL a Gastropub in Honolulu, Hawaii

Barkeep by | Dec 2013 | Issue #83

When Troy Terorotura moved from Florida to Hawaii in 1997, the latter’s beer scene was, in a word, “dismal.” There was the still-young Kona Brewing Co. (established in 1994), and Terorotura remembers a single liquor store making an effort, but as far as the mainland fare he’d come to know and love, he’d only occasionally find selections from Sierra Nevada, Deschutes and Anchor. Mostly, he was drowning in a sea of Bud Light and Heineken.

All that started to change when Whole Foods opened its first store in the state. He quickly joined their team as a beer buyer. “Whole Foods opened the door in many ways to offering small craft importers a place in Hawaii,” Terorotura remembers. “The immediate return was tremendous. With the mixed diversity of the state and traveled residents, they were aware of the beers they liked during their travels, and they begged for a change.”

By 2012, Terorotura was ready for a change of his own, so he opened REAL a Gastropub in Honolulu. Included in the establishment’s 24 taps and more than 200 bottles are beers from mainland breweries like Coronado, Ballast Point and Clown Shoes. Unusual imports from De Dolle, Aecht Schlenkerla and Hitachino are on the menu right beside locals like Kona, Maui Brewing and Big Island. High-end pub grub, like Porter-barbecued pulled pork sliders, rounds things out.

REAL has moved quickly, too, hosting the inaugural REAL beer festival this past summer. “We showcased 60-plus craft beers from Hawaii, mainland US and international breweries,” REAL beverage director Anthony Messina says. “We’re constantly working with our distributors and trying to team up with other local bars to show there’s a demand from craft brews in Hawaii.”

Regular Doug Lamerson, a 65-year-old nonprofit administrator who lives 3 miles away from REAL and moved to Hawaii in 1978, remembers even darker times than Terorotura does. He can’t say enough about the impact REAL has had on his state.

“REAL has emerged as something of a proselytizer and educator for good beer in this city,” Lamerson says. “They have elevated the awareness of beer in the community consciousness, and in doing so, have imbued beer with a legitimacy previously unimagined in the minds of many. Equally important is the impact and influence they’ve had on distributors here. REAL and a handful of other bars have forced them to acknowledge and respond to a significant and growing demand for small-production beers that put quality ahead of quantity.”