Drinking Beer for the Homeless in Kailua

You’ll feel good about yourself at Kailua’s newest craft beer tasting room — until you meet the owners.

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Tim and Holly Veling, Owners of Grace in Growlers in Kailua

Holly Veling feeds a worn twenty-dollar bill into the change machine, and I can hear the clinking as the quarters start to come out. It sounds like a casino, and in that moment, it makes a lot of sense to me, because for those that have come here seeking help, it is indeed the sound of a jackpot.

Holly and her husband Tim, along with a few other volunteers, are hanging out at a Kāne‘ohe laundromat for a few hours on a Saturday, paying for anyone who walks through the door. The outreach is an arm of the Veling’s Windwardside nonprofit, the ONEninetynine Initiative.

But to say it like that is a little bit misleading, because it insinuates that there’s something behind the curtain, that it’s not just Holly and Tim, choosing to spend their time at a laundromat, trying to help people who might not be able to afford to wash their clothes.

Most who show up are homeless. I can see clearly that Holly knows them all as she greets many of them with a hug. I take a bag of quarters and begin to load them into one of the washing machines. Having not been to a laundromat here, I was surprised at how expensive it was: Three bucks for a single load, then another three for the dryer. For someone struggling, I can understand why the stream or a public sink might start to seem like a more practical option.

Though their philanthropic efforts began well before, the Velings made them official three years ago when they registered as the ONEninetynine Initiative. At first, they raised funds by driving around the island and picking up large quantities of recycling from bars and restaurants, which they would then cash in. It was a good way to do double duty, to raise money and to recycle at the same time.

But the Velings always had their sights set on something bigger, something that could cement itself as part of the Kailua community and become a solid source of continuous funding for their nonprofit programs, like “Laundry Love” here today.

Something like a craft beer tasting room.

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Here, Grace Comes in a Growler

Tim and Holly’s idea was to pair the nonprofit efforts of their ONEninetynine Initiative with a for-profit business that would in turn fund the nonprofit (essentially rendering the for-profit a nonprofit itself, at least in theory if not by law).

“We didn’t want to be that nonprofit that’s asking for money all the time,” Tim said. “We wanted to be self-sustaining.”

While sitting at a packed bar one afternoon, the couple realized that the craft beer craze could be a bridge between their organization and the community. They envisioned a tasting room where local beers could be tried, where you were free to bring food and sit around and play games.

That was 2013. Last fall in October, Grace in Growlers opened on Hekili Street. The Velings’ decision and timing to open a tasting room was impeccable from a craft beer perspective, as O‘ahu is currently in the midst of a renaissance. In 2013, there were no functioning craft breweries on the island. Today, the number is approaching ten, and interest is booming.

The Grace in Growlers tasting room has 13 craft beers on tap that are constantly rotated as well as wine and local Sky Kombucha (Waimānalo) for a non-alcoholic option. It is decked out with recycled materials and carries what Tim describes as an “accidental school feel,” with wooden doors repurposed as tables, used lockers for coat and game storage, and old classroom desks and milk crates as seats.

The complete blueprint for Grace in Growlers, in addition to selling pints, is to also sell growlers of beer to-go, hence the (great) name. But selling beer for takeaway requires a separate liquor license, and Tim said it will be a few months until they receive the permit.

I’m sure it’s frustrating for the Velings, but to me, it’s a blessing in disguise. With the option for carryout absent, there’s no trace of transience. Instead, the place feels like a neighborhood pub, with people enjoying pints of beer, bringing their own food, sitting down with friends around a board game. There’s a sense of community. Tim said that several patrons have already volunteered their time to the ONEninetynine Initiative after chatting with him and hearing the story behind the tasting room.

“Sometimes people [we meet here at the tasting room] will come on a Saturday to help with our laundry service [Laundry Love], and then they’re back in here drinking beer again the next night,” Tim said. “Which is the most amazing thing. It’s exactly what we’re trying to do here.”

Text Message to the Homeless

For the sake of transparency and good faith in its efforts, there is a 36-ounce limit per visit per customer at Grace in Growlers. It is also one of the 100+ establishments statewide to operate without foam and plastic as part of the Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants program.

“We don’t want to be that business that gets everyone drunk in the name of supporting a good cause,” Tim said.

During the days leading up to each Laundry Love event, Tim and Holly send out a text message to the homeless community with the location and time of the service, and their generosity has developed a regular following. Holly hugs another woman as she walks in, then brings out a chart and makes a note to order new shoes for her. As I watch them work, I begin to question my own path. Tim and Holly are the kind of people who can do that to you, make you stop in your tracks and wonder, am I doing enough good with my own life?

For me, the answer is probably not. But thanks to them, I at least now have a place to go for a beer, a place to go when I’m looking to feel better about myself.

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A Mimosa-Replacing, Hawaiian Beer for Breakfast

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Beer drinkers get the short end of the stick when it comes to breakfast and brunch. The other weekend, I cracked a beer at 10 a.m. and my friend, wielding a mimosa, looked at me funny. Apparently it’s okay to drink champagne or vodka in the morning, but not beer?

If that’s true, then why do they make coffee and fruit beers? Seriously, many beers taste great in the morning, and people hung up on what time the clock tells are missing out on a chance to expand their horizons.

My current favorite Hawai‘i-brewed choice is one you can find in most major grocery stores on O‘ahu: the Pineapple Mana Wheat from Maui Brewing Co. It explodes with pineapple and fruit flavor and is refreshing like a tropical juice blend, going down smooth and offering the kind of thirst-quenching power you want first thing in the morning.

In terms of taste and style, it’s basically the beer-drinker’s mimosa. The flavor of the beer mirrors the sweetness and drinkability of the juice, and the bubbles are swapped out for beer suds, providing the same mouthfeel of carbonation. Overall it is less tart/acidic and, in my opinion, finishes cleaner.

And like the mimosa, it tastes like it’s good for you, which goes a long way for morning morale.

One Couple’s Grace, Poured in a Pint Glass

You’ll feel good about yourself at Kailua’s newest craft beer tasting room — until you meet the owners.

DSC09989

Grace in Growlers owners Holly and Tim Veling.

Holly Veling feeds a worn twenty-dollar bill into the change machine, and I can hear the clinking as the quarters start to come out. It sounds like a casino, and in that moment, it makes a lot of sense to me, because for those that have come here seeking help, it is indeed the sound of a jackpot.

Holly and her husband Tim, along with a few other volunteers, are hanging out at a Kāne‘ohe laundromat for a few hours on a Saturday, paying for anyone who walks through the door. The outreach is an arm of the Veling’s Windwardside nonprofit, the ONEninetynine Initiative.

But to say it like that is a little bit misleading, because it insinuates that there’s something behind the curtain, that it’s not just Holly and Tim, choosing to spend their time at a laundromat, trying to help people who might not be able to afford to wash their clothes.

Most who show up are homeless. I can see clearly that Holly knows them all as she greets many of them with a hug. I take a bag of quarters and begin to load them into one of the washing machines. Having not been to a laundromat here, I was surprised at how expensive it was: Three bucks for a single load, then another three for the dryer. For someone struggling, I can understand why the stream or a public sink might start to seem like a more practical option.

Though their philanthropic efforts began well before, the Velings made them official three years ago when they registered as the ONEninetynine Initiative. At first, they raised funds by driving around the island and picking up large quantities of recycling from bars and restaurants, which they would then cash in. It was a good way to do double duty, to raise money and to recycle at the same time.

But the Velings always had their sights set on something bigger, something that could cement itself as part of the Kailua community and become a solid source of continuous funding for their nonprofit programs, like “Laundry Love” here today.
Lucky for us, they landed on a craft beer tasting room.

IMG_6264

Grace in Growlers uses electronic wristbands that allow its customers to pour their own beer.

Here, Grace Comes in a Growler

Tim and Holly’s idea was to pair the nonprofit efforts of their ONEninetynine Initiative with a for-profit business that would in turn fund the nonprofit (essentially rendering the for-profit a nonprofit itself, at least in theory if not by law).

“We didn’t want to be that nonprofit that’s asking for money all the time,” Tim said. “We wanted to be self-sustaining.”

While sitting at a packed bar one afternoon, the couple realized that the craft beer craze could be a bridge between their organization and the community. They envisioned a tasting room where local beers could be tried, where you were free to bring food and sit around and play games.

That was 2013. Last fall in October, Grace in Growlers opened on Hekili Street. The Velings’ decision and timing to open a tasting room was impeccable from a craft beer perspective, as O‘ahu is currently in the midst of a renaissance. In 2013, there were no functioning craft breweries on the island. Today, the number is approaching ten, and interest is booming.

The Grace in Growlers tasting room has 13 craft beers on tap that are constantly rotated as well as wine and local Sky Kombucha (Waimānalo) for a non-alcoholic option. It is decked out with recycled materials and carries what Tim describes as an “accidental school feel,” with wooden doors repurposed as tables, used lockers for coat and game storage, and old classroom desks and milk crates as seats.

The complete blueprint for Grace in Growlers, in addition to selling pints, is to also sell growlers of beer to-go, hence the (great) name. But selling beer for takeaway requires a separate liquor license, and Tim said it will be a few months until they receive the permit.

I’m sure it’s frustrating for the Velings, but to me, it’s a blessing in disguise. With the option for carryout absent, there’s no trace of transience. Instead, the place feels like a neighborhood pub, with people enjoying pints of beer, bringing their own food, sitting down with friends around a board game. There’s a sense of community. Tim said that several patrons have already volunteered their time to the ONEninetynine Initiative after chatting with him and hearing the story behind the tasting room.

“Sometimes people [we meet here at the tasting room] will come on a Saturday to help with our laundry service [Laundry Love], and then they’re back in here drinking beer again the next night,” Tim said. “Which is the most amazing thing. It’s exactly what we’re trying to do here.”

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You can bring your own food to Grace in Growlers.

Text Message to the Homeless

For the sake of transparency and good faith in its efforts, there is a 36-ounce limit per visit per customer at Grace in Growlers. It is also one of the 100+ establishments statewide to operate without foam and plastic as part of the Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants program.

“We don’t want to be that business that gets everyone drunk in the name of supporting a good cause,” Tim said.

During the days leading up to each Laundry Love event, Tim and Holly send out a text message to the homeless community with the location and time of the service, and their generosity has developed a regular following. Holly hugs another woman as she walks in, then brings out a chart and makes a note to order new shoes for her. As I watch them work, I begin to question my own path. Tim and Holly are the kind of people who can do that to you, make you stop in your tracks and wonder, am I doing enough good with my own life?

For me, the answer is probably not. But thanks to them, I at least now have a place to go for a beer, a place to go when I’m looking to feel better about myself.

From the Beer Blog to the Bottle Shop in Kaka‘ako

‘Beer in Hawai‘i’ Founder Tim Golden became Hawai‘i’s beer expert in 2013, when O‘ahu’s craft beer scene was in its infancy. In the wake of a major industry rebound, he co-opened the island’s first bottle shop and tasting room combo in 2016.

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Village Bottle Shop Owners Tim Golden, left, and Daryn Ogino.

There’s an old German song in which the singer laments that he cannot marry his sweetheart because she wants to honeymoon in Hawai‘i, where there’s no beer.

The song, titled “There is No Beer in Hawai‘i,” was written more than fifty years ago in 1963. Here in 2016, things are substantially better. Hawai‘i Island’s Kona Brewery and Maui’s Maui Brewing Company are distributed nationally, and O‘ahu is closing in on ten craft breweries.

Which makes it hard to believe that just a few years ago in 2013, exactly fifty years after it was written, that song was once again kinda-sorta true – at least on O‘ahu.

Craft Beer Comes and Goes 

On August 22, 2013, Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room Co-Owner Tim Golden responded to a comment on his blog, Beer in Hawai‘i. The question pertained to whether or not there were any locally-owned craft breweries selling kegs.

“Right now on O‘ahu,” Golden wrote, “We don’t have any functioning breweries.”

villagebottleshopIf you’re like me, a casual beer drinker, that answer may have surprised you. But it’s true. Though craft beer had reared its head several times before on O‘ahu – going all the way back to Ali‘i brewing in 1993, for example – 2013 was a dark age of sorts, a transitional time when one wave of brewers was giving way to another.

The lull came after an active period between 2005-12 in which several craft breweries opened and closed, their demise attributed to a variety of factors, some combination of lacking quality and community disinterest.

What’s more perplexing about O‘ahu’s craft beer bust of 2013 is that the local beer scenes on other islands – namely Hawai‘i Island and Maui – had been on their feet for nearly two decades despite smaller populations.

“Hawai‘i is very unique in that there’s 150 miles and an ocean separating Kona from Honolulu, and you can’t drive like you can between San Francisco and L.A.,” Golden said. “For a long time, none of the love for craft beer was spilling over to O‘ahu.”

Beer Blog Begins 

After growing up on O‘ahu and graduating from Waialua High School and University of Hawai‘i, Golden spent several years living in Los Angeles. When he returned to the island in October of 2012, he took notice of the floundering beer scene, but also made another realization: There was no centralized source of information for beer on the island.

This realization – no doubt a contributing factor to the aforementioned lack of community interest – inspired Golden to start a blog, which he simply named Beer in Hawai‘i.

“I wanted the information, and no one else was doing it,” a humble Golden said of the blog’s beginnings. A look at the earliest entries confirms this intent. Most are updates about what stores are carrying what beers.

But his friend and now business partner, Village Bottle Shop Co-Owner Daryn Ogino, paints a much more influential picture, one where Golden became the point man for an industry lacking a true spokesman.

“People weren’t talking too much about craft beer in 2012. The scene just wasn’t there yet,” said Ogino. “But then Tim started his blog.”

Locals and visitors began to find Golden’s blog online, as did the local media. Before long, Golden became Hawai‘i’s go-to beer expert, and was contracted for beer columns by the Star-Advertiser and Honolulu Magazine.

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To-go selection, organized by style, at Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room.

Craft Beer Battles Back

Regardless of where you want to dish credit –  some to Golden, some to the hard work of local brewers, some to the Hawaiian Gods and Goddesses – craft beer began its present-day resurgence in late 2013.

“The timing was finally right,” Golden said. “The public was more aware, they had gotten a taste [a few years earlier]. The dynamics and demographics of the island had changed. Places like Whole Foods were beginning to sell craft beer from the mainland.”

“It’s like a hurricane,” Golden said of the many contributing factors. “You can’t just have warm water. You need wind and open ocean and hot air.”

Today, O‘ahu is approaching ten craft breweries that range from full-on brewpubs like Honolulu Beer Works in Kaka‘ako to small, garage-door style operations like Stewbum & Stonewall in Kaneohe and Lanikai Brewing Company in Kailua. Home of the Brave Brewing, a “brewseum,” pairs beer with WWII history.

The Power of Suggestion

Golden said the main purpose of the blog, both now and in the past, is to give people options and harness what he calls the “power of suggestion.”

“It’s about what makes you happy,” Golden said. “Beer shouldn’t be polarized.”

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Selection of beers at Village Bottle Shop.

The concept for Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room, opened August 11th in SALT at Our Kaka‘ako, is much the same. In addition to the selection of 500 to-go bottles, the shop has 16 beers on tap. The vision is for customers to try beers on tap and then peruse the fridge for similar ones to take home.

“When customers come in, I want to introduce them to new beers,” said Golden. “Sort of, ‘Well, if you like this, I think you’re going to like this, too.’”

In this way, Golden has a lot of things going for him. His “power of suggestion” theory lends him an open mind, so you can expect genuine, unbiased recommendations.

He’s also got the expertise to back them up. He’s been a homebrewer for a long time, and one year ago, he became a certified cicerone – the beer industry’s equivalent of a wine sommelier.

Golden’s dedication to creating stability and community for an industry that has been historically tepid here on O‘ahu is inspiring. When you meet him at the bottle shop, it’s clear that his stake goes beyond making a living. His mission is admirable: To brew up beer lovers that will support local breweries.

“I stock beers I know will be tough to sell,” Golden said. “Because I want to introduce people to new beer and the only way to do that is to carry creative beers you can’t find anywhere else.”