The Spirit of Aloha

by Nov 28, 2018Brunswick County Life, Food & Drink, South Brunswick

The Spirit of Aloha

With Makai Brewing Company in Ocean Isle Beach, the southern Brunswick beaches welcome their first microbrewery.

“I’ll take a humuhumunukunukuapua’a single hop pale ale.”

There’s only one place in the region where a customer might place that order. Makai Brewing Company sports a name and ambience that reflects its owner’s love of Hawaii and all things coastal. The business, which opened in the fall of 2017, is at the corner of Union School Road and U.S. 17 south of Shallotte. It’s the first microbrewery to open in the southern part of the county.

“My wife and I travel to Hawaii,” says Makai owner and head brewer Lowell Puckett. “We love it there. One day we may purchase a home there.” Thus, when he decided to turn his home brewing hobby into a business, Puckett wanted to brand it with the atmosphere he enjoys in the islands. “Makai is a Hawaiian directional term for toward the sea,” he notes.

It’s no coincidence that Puckett’s current home is in the South Brunswick Islands. He grew up in northern Virginia in a family that loved to travel to the beach. With relatives in Jacksonville and Raleigh, N.C., they frequently traveled to Sunset Beach and Myrtle Beach. They ate dinner at Sunset Beach’s Twin Lakes Restaurant every time they visited.

Ten years ago, Puckett and his wife made the move south – but too far south – to Florida, where it was too hot and too far away from family. Leaning on their connection to Sunset Beach, they moved to Shallotte. By 2017 Puckett’s home-brew hobby was outgrowing his garage. It was the perfect time to leave a work field he found unrewarding and turn his love of brewing into a business.

Makai has a three-barrel system. They recently added one seven-barrel fermenter, which allows double batching. Puckett says the system is similar to home brewing but larger and more sophisticated with much more piping. The recipes are mostly Puckett’s own, but he’s also using recipes donated by his friend Jim Hill, a retired engineer and host of the Ocean Isle Beach Brew Club. Makai’s assistant brewer, Gabe Ashmore, also contributes recipes. With most batches selling out in about two weeks, there’s ample opportunity to experiment.

Makai’s current offerings are all ales. The Carolina Tropical IPA is the most popular to date, Puckett says. Island Falls Cream Ale is the lightest offering. Nightingale Coffee Dry Hops features Kona beans. Ula Ula is a red ale along the lines of an Irish red, and there’s the Blackbeard Black IPA. They also bring in brews from some of the newer small breweries in Wilmington and elsewhere.

Flight tastings are available, and for customers who have a wine drinker in their party, Makai offers six to eight wines by the glass. A very popular offering at Makai is kombucha, a fermented tea high in probiotics, by Panacea of Wilmington. “We have a huge following just for the kombucha. It’s a great offering. It’s healthy,” Puckett says. Customers stop by for a glass or a crowler.

For beer or kombucha, patrons can buy 32-ounce metal crowlers (not to be confused with glass growlers), which contain product directly from the tap and sealed to retain freshness. Poured correctly, Puckett says, it seals out oxygen so the life of the liquid is prolonged. Then you just pop the top when you’re ready to drink.

Puckett is pleased with the reception Makai has received. After spreading the word among friends and fellow brew enthusiasts, they had a soft opening in October 2017 to fine tune their operation before having the formal opening in January 2018. “That gave us a few months to bring in people we knew, time to dial in the tap system and to make sure everything was in place and working properly,” Puckett says. “We opened at a good time where we could meet a lot of locals. They’ve been very supportive.”

Along with drinks and trivia, Makai is also offering live music, art events, beer yoga and cookouts in conjunction with their neighbor, Butcher of Brunswick. “On occasion we put together events,” Puckett says. “He has a cooker for pulled pork and sandwiches.” Customers can also walk over to Butcher of Brunswick – there’s an adjoining door – and place an order for food to enjoy with their drinks.

“We’re a brewery, but we’re an event space,” Puckett says. “We’re finding exciting ways to bring the community in and to showcase the community.”

Puckett and his team are also keenly aware of the greater community in which they exist and are getting involved in it. In March they supported Julips and Jazz, and in April they were at Woodsong’s Porch and Art Stroll. They’re planning Octoberfest at the end of September and are looking for other events.

“We’re working hard to get things on the calendar for the year,” Puckett says. 

Want to enjoy a beer?

Makai Brewing Company
5850 Ocean Highway W., Ocean Isle Beach
(910) 579-2739

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