Whether you're heading to the summit of Mount Haleakala or want a pleasant venture away from Maui's resort life, the island's quiet upcountry near Makawao and Kula is a compelling destination for libation lovers.
Maui Brewing Company
A longtime fixture in Lahaina, Maui Brewing's recently opened a spacious tasting room and brewing facility outside of Kihei in order to better showcase its signature brews: Bikini Blonde Lager, a filtered Munich Helles lager brewed with floral hops; Big Swell IPA, made with four different kinds of Northwestern hops, malted barley, and dry-hops; Coconut Porter, with a hint of, you guessed it, hand-toasted coconut; and Mana Wheat, unfiltered and infused with Maui Gold Pineapple. Yum.
Go for the daily 45-minute brewery tour ($15 per person) and get an up-close look at the making of Maui's only locally brewed craft beer. The tour ends with a tasting flight at the Brewhaus, and you'll also receive a token for a full beer (or root beer) as well as a souvenir glass. // Maui Brewing Company, 605 Lipoa Pkwy, Kihei, HI; mauibrewingco.com
Situated amid the vast commercial sugarcane plantations that rise from the slopes of the Haleakala above central Maui, Ocean Vodka's 80-acre farm and distillery on Omaopio Road is a hidden gem where organic sugarcane is transformed into fine vodka and rum. This family-owned venture is a state-of-the-art distilling and bottling facility tucked amid tall cane fields.
Like all 80 proof vodkas, Ocean's is comprised of 60 percent water. Only theirs is special ocean mineral water—originally from a Greenland glacier that began to melt and travel around the globe 2,000 years ago—sourced from a 3,000-foot-deep current off the Kona coast of Hawaii's Big Island. Full of naturally occurring minerals, the water is organically purified and desalinated through a proprietary, natural filtration process that removes sodium while retaining rich potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Pretty unique, right?
You can join a fascinating tour here that includes a native sugarcane exhibit, vodka and rum tasting ($10 per person, or $25 with lunch), and a stopover in the small shop that offers vodka (in decorative bottles designed after Japanese glass fishing floats), rum, and chocolate truffles made with cane sugar and rum. Don't miss the "martini garden," where you can cut fresh herbs and florals for your vodka martini. // Ocean Vodka, 4051 Omaopio Rd, Kula, HI; oceanvodka.com
The big Quonset huts in the tiny upcountry village of Hail'imaile are the domain of master distiller Mark Nigbur, a pirate-meets-Sammy-Hagar character—not coincidentally, the distillery brews Sammy's Beach Bar Rum. The setting is about as Hawaiian as they come, with vast MauiGold pineapple fields just across the street. Nearby you will also find Bev Gannon's renowned restaurant, Hali'imaile General Store.
Nigbur produces handcrafted, ultra-premium spirits with small batches of distilled MauiGold using a unique German-made glass still. His Hawaiian spirits include the company's flagship, Pau vodka, Paniolo (Hawaiian for "cowboy") whiskey, Sammy's Beach Bar Rum, ang flavored Maui Moon vodkas with tropical notes.
Tours operate Monday through Friday and last about an hour, including a tasting session ($10 per person.) // 883 Haliimaile Rd, Makawao, HI; haliimailedistilling.com
MauiWine Vineyards & Winery is one of the island's most popular upcountry attractions. It's a beautiful drive to the winery and the village of Ulupalakua, following a peaceful road that winds through rolling green hills with the ocean several thousand feet below. Just past the tiny town of Keokea on scenic Highway 37, you'll find yourself at the historic Rose Ranch. Hundred-year-old trees line the road, and the historic Ulupalakua Ranch Store is just across the street from the winery.
MauiWine offers complimentary samples of both its grape and pineapple wines, and there's three free tasting tours daily. You can watch the winemaking process in the property's historic ranch buildings.
Producing about eight varietals of white, rose, and red wines including Ulupalakua Estate Grown line, the winery's top sellers are pineapple wines: Maui Blanc, with its aroma of fresh-cut pineapple; sweet Maui Splash; and Hula O Maui sparkling wine. Yes, it's a bit kitschy. But you may still want a bottle to take home. // 14815 Piilani Highway, Kula, HI; mauiwine.com
This post was originally published in October 2015 on 7x7.com.