By Kawehi Haug
When we hear that a bar doubles as a museum, we think: room temperature Natty Light in some old guy’s basement. We think dusty piles of … stuff. A hoarder’s hang out. And honestly, that’s what we expected when we rolled up to the Brewseum on Waimanu Street in Kakaako—an old warehouse space that’s been converted to a drinking hole that we had heard was either a tiki bar or a brauhaus-style bar. It is neither. Not even close. But it’s not a dumping ground for rickety knick-knacks either. Just the opposite.
The Brewseum door opens to what could be Honolulu’s most delightful (weird word, but it’s the right one) hole in the wall. It’s every bit a museum, with every part of it outfitted in some kind of World War II era memorabilia, but it’s just the most charming museum ever. Overhead, model bomber planes circle the room on an old-fashioned brass and wood pulley system, while a model freight train chugs around the perimeter of the space. The walls are all but papered with old war-time photographs, and where there are no photos, 1940’s style telephones hang at the ready, real archival radio transmissions pumping through the receivers. The back of the bar is framed by what was once the entry to a Quonset hut barracks and under the tin arch sits a tiny stage, complete with a Shure Classic old-timey microphone. The vintage digs get the 21st century treatment with an actual Army jeep parked near the bar that doubles as a photo booth—selfies are strongly encouraged. Everywhere you look, there is some new piece of history to discover.
The Brewseum, which is owned by the Tomlinson family who also founded the Home of the Brave Tour company that is headquartered next door, is a little bit Smithsonian (history/war geeks unite!) and a little bit Disneyland (whimsical and cute in spades), and it’s way cooler than you would ever think it could be. Everything in the space is very purposefully placed, and though we wouldn’t mind if it was, there’s nothing kitschy about it. The Tomlinson family, whose war memorabilia collection is the largest in the Pacific, has been operating its tour company for 23 years, and is hoping that the bar adds a component to the family business that will draw in long-term fans who will make the Brewseum their go-to hang out.
The bar has six domestic microbrews on tap, a few bottled beers and their own proprietary brew, Home of the Brave beer, brewed for the Brewseum by Sprecher Brewing Company in Wisconsin. The beers are on the pricey side—$5 for a Coors Light, $7 for a Sierra Nevada hefeweizen—but we didn’t really notice because everything else about the place was so captivating. Just think of the beer prices as including the museum entrance fee. The menu consists of soft pretzels ($4) with a trio of mustard dipping sauces, and complimentary popcorn, hard pretzels and cheese balls. The snacks gets passed around at regular intervals by the Tomlinson kids who run the place, and do it with so much hospitality and warmth, it’s like you’re visiting them at home.
The Brewseum, 901 Waimanu St., www.brewseums.com, 799-2796