Hawai‘i Nui Brewing

Hapa Brown Ale

Hilo, HI


(pdf version)

    Hawai‘i Nui Brewing blends both British and island-style American brewing techniques when making their Hapa Brown Ale, a tasty brew that pays tribute to the many blended cultures found in Hawai‘i today.  The term “Hapa” is taken from the Hawaiian language and literally translates to “part” or “mix”.  It is most commonly used to describe people of mixed ethnic backgrounds but is found in many other places on the islands as well.  Technically, the term can be applied to anyone of mixed race but it is most often used in reference to people of blended Anglo and Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry.  If anyone were to use “Hapa” in an offensive or derogatory sense, they would actually be using it incorrectly.  The word was never intended to be negative and was simply a way for early Hawaiians to point out that someone’s heritage was different from their own.
    In the early 1800s, Christian missionaries developed a language for the native Hawaiians based on the English alphabet.  Prior to this, Hawaiian culture survived for thousands of years entirely as an oral tradition.  The missionaries established a Hawaiian alphabet that consisted of five vowels and eight consonants including a, e, i, o, u, h, k, l, m, n, p, w and the ‘okina which is indicated by a backwards-shaped apostrophe and is spoken like a glottal stop or a break in a word.  The ‘okina is considered a consonant and the word “‘okina” actually has an ‘okina at the beginning of the word.  The missionaries also established a few rules for the alphabet.  For example, all Hawaiian words must end in a vowel and every consonant must be followed by a vowel.  Also, markings known as diacritics are sometimes used above the letters to indicate a particular pronunciation.
    The Hawaiian alphabet was created by Europeans because they were having a difficult time capturing what the native Hawaiians were saying.  This alphabet inevitably put restrictions on how words were expressed and many of the intricacies of the dialect have since been lost over time.  For example, Captain Cook originally spelled “Hawai‘i” as “Owhyhee” or “Owyhee”, as this is likely a closer phonetic spelling of how Hawaii’s indigenous inhabitants actually said the term.  (Note: the Owyhee Mountains that straddle the border between Oregon and Idaho were named after some of the first Hawaiians to live on America’s mainland.)  The use of the new alphabet in the Hawaiian language as well as the blending of Hawaiian and European cultures eventually led to the blending of Hawaiian and English words as well.  “Hapa” is one of those words.  Its root actually comes from the English word “half”.
    “Hapa-haole” is another commonly used phrase in Hawai‘i.  “Haole” has historically been used by Hawaiians to describe anything foreign to the island and actually predates Captain Cook’s arrival in 1778.  “Hapa-haole” is used to describe just about anything that is part-foreign and part-Hawaiian including books, language and the entire hapa-haole music genre.  Hapa-haole music was much more popular in the early 20th century and often sounded much like Hawaiian music but had lyrics from both the Hawaiian and English languages.  One famous example is the song “My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua, Hawai‘i” (often shortened to “My Little Grass Shack”), released in 1933.  Today, however, “hapa-haole” is more commonly used to describe people of mixed-European ancestry.
    “Hapa” has not only been embraced by Hawaiians but by other mixed-race peoples around the world too.  It is difficult for most people of mixed ancestry to find a term they can identify with that doesn’t come from degrading or racist roots, and “Hapa” is now used as a point of celebration not only on the islands of Hawai‘i but across many of the world’s ethnically diverse cultures.

From the Brewer:  Hapa Ale, an island-style American Brown Ale, originated in the British style of blending different beers to create a single unique brew.  The resulting beer is considered an American Brown Ale. Dark Mahogany-colored, bold, malty backbone with balanced hop bitterness.  Winner of the silver medal in the American-Style Brown Ale beer style category of the Brewers Association World Beer Cup.  ABV 6.4%, IBU 18
Scott Thompson - COO & Management, Marcus Bender - Managing Member

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Hapa Haole by Grace Hudson, oil on canvas, 1901