I love hard cider. And hard seltzer. And hard tea. Beer- not so much, but I do appreciate a well-crafted brew. Imagine my delight when I heard an advertisement on KAPA FM that our Big Island Ola Brew Company had just opened a location in Hilo (their other location is on the Kona side in the industrial district). Even better, I was told that the food was exceptionally good. So of course I had to try it. But first, I had to find it. It’s located in the former Wiki Fresh building, on the corner of Kilauea Avenue and Kekuanaoa Street. Their signage isn’t up yet, but trust me, they are there and they are worth your time and visit.
Dragonfruit Lemonade It Is...
I arrived for an early lunch after a meeting downtown. Ample parking can be found on the east side of the building. The remodeled interior is bright and welcoming, with a long dining counter as well as plenty of tables and high tops appropriately distanced. While I would have loved to have done a cider flight, I was driving, so I ordered the lemonade with dragonfruit. It was delightfully refreshing and had just the right amount of sweetness. I swooned over the number of beers, ciders, teas, seltzers available, both on tap and in the refrigerators. The prices for the flights are very reasonable, as are the prices per glass. For those, I’ll be sure to go back with my favorite designated driver.
Bao Bun Heaven
Now, the food. Many brew houses, cideries, and other distilleries spend a great deal of time and effort perfecting their primary product, but less time on the foods to accompany them. That is not the case with Ola Brew. The number and variety of food options was a pleasure to peruse. I had been advised before going that the bao buns were especially keen, so I ordered the Crispy Shrimp Bao and the Maitake Mushroom Bao. The crispy shrimp one was like having my favorite honey-walnut-shrimp dish in crispy format tucked inside a pillowy bun. I probably could have eaten several more of them. The maitake bao was incredible both for texture and flavor- the mushroom was meaty, smoky, and crispy all at the same time. Definite winners.
And then I had the Crispy Tako. I love tako, especially when it’s local, sustainably harvested, and tender. These tentacles checked all of those boxes. The potato puree and herbed aioli were a perfect complement to the slightly charred tako and the spicy sausage. There were so many other great sounding dishes on the menu that I am certain I will be back soon (hopefully with my driver) to enjoy more of the wonderful treats. What a great addition to our downtown Hilo food scene.
Welcome to the East Side, Ola Brew Co.!