It was hard to think of how to sum up the whirlwind of the past two years. To be honest I’m exhausted. We’ve had to deal with so many unforeseen obstacles besides the obvious of building a new brewery during the pandemic.
There was also the ratmagnet reckoning back in May that didn’t seem to touch Hawaii – which was heartbreaking. Back in May there was a tornado of sexist and misogynist stories that finally clapped back to the beer industry. One of the stories was my own. I was mocked, slandered, and further bullied for coming forward. Yet I was the first among 7 others to come forward about the same person. Thousands of people came forward and shook beer world as we once knew it. Through our collective pain, we found solace and are still working towards change today. I’m happy to say we have since promoted someone to be our Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity.
I first got into beer because within the beer industry I found family. I had been abandoned by my biological family and found this new family that rebuilt me. I grew up Mormon and when I started studying beer I was told that I was studying trash, how could they ever want to support me or be happy for me? So, I continued on and found my own way. In my studies I learned that monks at monasteries brewed beer as a part of their religious practice – to fund their life’s work and to drink for sustenance while fasting. Such a different perspective of religion compared to what I was raised in. Beer showed me how beautiful the differences in the fabric of our humanity is.
When Josh and I were thinking what kind of mark we wanted to have in beer world as we were building Hana Koa, we knew we wanted to shake up the status quo. Within our space we wanted to hear everyone’s voice that were otherwise not the majority of beer world – women, people of color, indigenous peoples, LGBTQ… and we made sure to listen. Listening to employees, making sure they were included in this family. Listening to our patrons and what issues they were facing and how we could help. Listening to our community to ignite unity.
You see, I come from nothing. I worked from the age of 7 cleaning apartments to earn money for school clothes at the goodwill. I learned how to cook from food storage assistance as early as I can remember. Honestly, I'm grateful for my upbringing because I learned very young that I could grind and make my own way in the world. But the beer industry gave me a bigger reason to grind. We didn’t open this brewery to get rich. We built Hana Koa to add more kindness to the world, because we truly believe that empathy can cure all.
Along with any story comes struggle. I’ve been met with people along the way that have wanted to destroy my empathy and knock me down. I’ve put up walls, hell I’ve built a fortified compound where I’ve been in solitude with the hate that’s been thrown at me. This 2nd anniversary, if I’m being honest, I’m completely exhausted. Not from long hours and lots to do, which is also true, but I’m exhausted from holding other’s words towards me that drip with disdain.
I think it’s important to be open and honest, even when it’s unpretty. If anything, maybe it will make others feel less alone.
Art is meant to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed,
and this brewery is my art.
One of our core values is Authenticity. I would be doing a disservice if I wrote a surface level post. I bring all of this up because when I say this has been a labor of love, it truly has been an everyday struggle with my entire heart. I would not still be doing this work if it weren’t for the kindness and camaraderie that’s come back my way. Every single employee is an integral part to our mission, and I am so ecstatically grateful that we have such amazing people on our team.
We have been so lucky to partner with so many foundations that do vital work in our community. Working with these foundations have filled me back up – their work and my hope to help has literally picked me up off the floor when I felt like I couldn’t go forward anymore.
I guess this 2nd anniversary, my collective thought is that the work will always be exhausting, but the exhaustion turns into fuel when granted the opportunity to give back. I remember what it was like to be unheard, so while I have a voice I’m going to elevate the vibrato of the unheard. I remember what it was like to be homeless, poor, and starving, so while I have the means I will give as much as I can to take some of that struggle from others. I’ve seen the effects of sexual assault, addiction, and suicide, so I will lend support in those critical moments to those that need it, working to make people feel less alone.
I’d like to recognize some of our most treasured collaborations:
Shine a Light: benefitting End the Backlog – to end the backlog of untested rape kits. After reaching out to the community I learned about the Hawaii SATC and how many people I personally know that they helped through the aftermath of their sexual assaults. These foundations are so important and their mission is vital.
Electric Twilit Maze and The Longest Wave: benefitting Find Your Anchor – Ali is such a gem for starting this non-profit to lend support to those battling suicide. She has left sticky notes in our shipments of Anchor boxes and they’ve honestly helped me through my own mental health struggles. These boxes have sparked so many crucial conversations that I am so thankful for.
Chee Hoo Chongers: benefitting METAvivor – to help with research of metastatic breast cancer and improve quality of life with those affected. Lindsay and Camille are incredibly inspiring, welcoming, and have forever impacted my life. Their kindness helped erode away the wall I’ve built from these rough two years.
Surf Pup: benefitting Oahu Dog Adoption agencies – Fur Angel Foundation, Oahu SPCA, K9 Kokua, Aloha Animal Outreach, and Hawaii Dog Foundation. These non-profits are made up of volunteers that are so kind and do an amazing job with dogs that need our help. Their collaborative spirit is inspiring.
Rainbow Mist: benefitting Hawaii’s Legacy foundation – for LGBTQ alliance, support, and resources. Love is love. The LGBTQ community is something I am so thankful for and a great example of empathy and acceptance.
Thanks to all who have been along for the ride. It’s been a wild one, but there’s so much more coming!