Story by Jesse Katz
Photos by Robert Caplin
On the shores of the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, as three thousand thirsty men and women awaited the opening of the spigots, kumu Keala Ching raised a ho‘okupu of breadfruit, taro, sweet potato and coconut before the ancient Ahu‘ena heiau. He chanted of compassion and healing, of love’s dominion over anger, then walked barefoot across the lu‘au grounds to the sands of Kamakahonu Beach, where he beat the pa ipo while a school of yellow-skirted dancers consecrated the seventeenth annual Kona Brewer’s Festival with hula. “They always ask me to make sure that what is done here is culturally appropriate—that whatever happens, it goes in its rightful way,” says Ching, a spiritual adviser with the Na Wai Iwi Ola Foundation.
It was a hazy Saturday afternoon in March, exactly a year after the Japanese tsunami left this stretch of seaboard in ruins, and for the next four hours the bighearted spirit of craft beer people—joyous, tolerant, spontaneous, green—filled the Kona Coast. At $60 a head, celebrants hoisted four-ounce pours of piquant IPAs and herbal Belgians, nutty ambers and cloudy witbiers served up by half a dozen local brewers and another thirty out-of-state participants. They snapped pictures and slapped palms, sporting the latest in beer couture: “Beer today, gone tomorrow,” “Abs of ale,” “I love my water with barley and hops” and the timeless Ben Franklin adage, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
“Look around, everyone is happy,” said Joe Crawford, a commercial pilot who happens to fly 767s for Hawaiian Airlines, hastening to add that he was not due back in a cockpit for several days. “This is not some ‘special’ group. This is normal America here.”