From Central PA to the Pacific: A Beer Lover’s Hawaiian Journey An Interview with Alexander B. Gates

From Central PA to the Pacific: A Beer Lover’s Hawaiian Journey An Interview with Alexander B. Gates

Alexander B. Gates

Alexander B. Gates

Before we jump into Paul R. Kan’s article, I thought I would interject myself (B. Kline) here first. Paul has written a couple of articles for us here at The Beer Thrillers [both are book reviews: Book Review: Beer and Society: How We Make Beer and Beer Makes Us (Eli Revelle Yano Wilson and Asa B. Stone) and Book Review: A Woman’s Place is in the Brewhouse – A Forgotten History of Alewives, Brewsters, Witches, and CEOs (Tara Nurin)], and we have been talking about him writing more for us in different capacities and types of articles. He recently traveled to his homeland of Hawai’i, and he told me how he would like to do an interview on Alexander B. Gates for the blog. I immediately gave him an emphatic yes to this idea.

I’ve known Alex in a round about way over the last several years. He grew up and went to school with a co – worker and boss of mine at the casino, as well as having gone to school with my ex – wife at Palmyra High School. I’ve gotten to pick his brain a few times about craft beer, writing, and the beer industry as a whole. His social media posts and blog entries he writes for other publications and websites are very interesting, and of course his photos of Hawai’i are always gorgeous (how can photography from there not be considered gorgeous?). So when Paul approached me about the idea for this interview I thought it was a slam dunk idea. Chronicling how a native Central PA (Central Pennsylvania) made his way to Hawai’i and continued his love for craft beer sounded like a perfect fit for an article here on The Beer Thrillers. So without further rambling or ado I present Paul R. Kan’s article. (First with the biography of Alexander B. Gates at the start, and then with Paul R. Kan’s at the end.)

-B. Kline

Alexander B. Gates’ Biography

A quick biography of Alexander Gates: A Native of Palmyra, PA, Alexander lives in Honolulu, HI and is a regular freelance writer for Frolic Hawaii and Honolulu Magazine where he covers Hawai’i beer, breweries, and events. He has been published in Good Beer Hunting, Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine, and BeerAdvocate Magazine. In 2018, he won a North American Guild of Beer Writers award in the Best Beer & Travel Writing category for “Where to Drink in Honolulu, HI”. You can check out his work here and follow him on Instagram @alohastatebeer.

From Central Pennsylvania to the Pacific

Bagel (Alexander B. Gates’ dog) is overseeing the beers by the beach.

Hawai’i is not always sunny. When Alexander and I (along with his dog, Bagle) sat down last month at the Aloha Beer Company in Waikiki, it was between bouts of heavy rain. Ducking between the umbrellas at our table and the nearby building to shield our beers from the downpour, we were grateful that we weren’t shivering in a Pennsylvania winter. “At least we can sit around outside in shorts,” said Alexander.

Drinking outdoors in shorts during winter isn’t the only difference between enjoying beer in Hawai’i and Central Pennsylvania. Alexander’s Keystone State roots and his work in the Aloha State’s beer scene has given him a unique perspective. He explains that Hawai’i’s beer scene “is a mix of locals and visitors; it’s a dynamic that’s unique to the state. Beer customers are all looking for different things so that leads to breweries catering to diverse needs.” Although diverse, he adds that “the beer scene in Hawai’i is small.” He’s right. There are only 20 breweries scattered among four islands; a person could visit all the breweries in under a week. As he noted, “you can’t do that in Pennsylvania.”

Growing up in Pennsylvania, Alexander was always around beer. Alexander remembers his time at Penn State where he drank Yuengling and Lion’s Head but it was Otto’s Pub & Brewery that helped him appreciate local craft beer. He continued to find local brews after graduating, including his Peace Corps days in Thailand.

After moving to Honolulu in 2013 for work, he dove deeply into any opportunity to be involved with the local craft beer scene. Through Untappd, bottle shares and brewery visits, he grew to become part of the beer community of the state. To celebrate his 30 th birthday he drank 30 beers on a brewery crawl throughout Oahu. “They were in flights, not pints,” he assured me.

As he enjoyed the emerging beer community on Oahu, he began to write about his experiences and approached a few local media outlets who were happy to have him on board. “I started writing reviews on my blog and slowly by pitching story ideas to a few local publications.” He is now a significant and recognized figure in Hawai’i’s beer scene.

During my recent visit back to Hawai’i, Alexander included me in a couple of get togethers. Each of them highlighted how he has become part of Hawai’i’s beer scene. A bottle share on a Sunday afternoon in Kaka’ako, the beer brewing heart of Honolulu, included the authors of Beer Hawaii, the first book about the Islands’ beer scene written in Japanese and aimed at that important tourist market. During a trivia night at BeerLab Hawai’i near the University of Hawai’i, the DJ made sure to give him and his blog a shoutout.

Becoming integrated in any community in Hawai’i isn’t easy, especially if you’re not originally from the Islands. Over 4700 miles separate Pennsylvania and Hawai’i, the most isolated land mass on Earth. Although Hawai’i is the fiftieth state, it’s distinct history, culture and traditions can often make the place feel like a different country. Given the distance and the difference, I asked Alexander if there’s anything about Pennsylvania that he still carries with him. “My cell number,” he joked. It’s his lightheartedness that is a natural fit for his journalism in Hawai’i’s craft beer scene. Being too serious at the expense of personal connections and not being able to “talk story” (slang in the Islands for “shooting the breeze”) is a sure way to alienate yourself in Hawai’i. Beer also helps bridge the gap between people. Alexander has used his appreciation of beer to bridge the geographic and cultural distances to tell the stories of Hawai’i’s beer community through his writing. “I love writing about the Hawai’i beer scene because it’s still new and growing. The location makes it hard for new breweries to open, so the ones that make it are something special.”

As we were getting ready to leave Aloha Beer Company, the rain began to stop. We settled our tab and strolled around Waikiki with Bagle. At the small park at Ainahau Triangle we said our goodbyes. I felt grateful, not only for our time together, but for having such a talented individual telling the stories of my home state’s breweries. I also felt eager to see where Alexander’s beer journey in the Islands takes him next.

Drinking at Aloha Beer

Biography of Paul R. Kan

Paul grew up in Hawai’i and knows its unique culture, traditions, and history. He is the author of Hawai’i Beer: A History of Brewing in Paradise, which the North American Guild of Beer Writers awarded second place for Best New Book of 2021. He currently lives in Carlisle. PA but was able to catch up with Alexander during a recent visit back to the Islands.

For more articles written by Paul R. Kan:


To read more interviews we’ve conducted through The Beer Thrillers, you can check out the following:

The Battle of the Breweries

Before I get to our closing ‘thanks for reading’ segment, I just want to bring up about how we are currently having our annual Battle of the Breweries here at The Beer Thrillers. We are currently in the round of 8 remaining breweries in each conference. The voting for this round will end Sunday March 19th at 11:59:59 PM EST. You can find the overview page for the Round of 8 here:

In that page it links you to all of the voting pages, the rules, the past results, and everything else you need to know.

Thanks For Reading

B.Kline here again, and I would like to thank Paul R. Kan and Alexander B. Gates for the fabulous article. Was great to get their story here and to publish here on the blog. Paul has talked to me about many different articles he would like to do here at the blog, including some brew hopping visits with a friend of his, some more book reviews, and more. I can’t wait to have them here for everyone to read.

And thank you to Alex for the insightful talk with Paul. I hope to someday get to visit Hawai’i and check out the islands and breweries there. Fingers crossed its sooner rather than later.

As shown above, we are currently hosting our Battle of the Breweries. Its our annual event that pits breweries that I’ve (B. Kline) been to in a competition to see which is the fan favorite. This is our third year hosting it, once again you can vote here: The Battle of the Breweries (2023) Round of 8 Overview.

For the complete tournament overview, visit here: The Battle of the Breweries (2023) – Our Form of March Madness.

Once again, I would like to thank everyone for coming and reading the blog. It really means a lot to us to have you all here, reading our articles, sharing them, commenting on them, and liking them. Please follow us on our social media pages, as well as bookmarking the blog, and following and subscribing to the blog to stay up to date on everything going on with us. There is always a lot of fun content coming. We are also hoping to soon offer a lot of resources and things (like maps, PDF files, charts, and other things for brewery traveling).

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Last Updated: March 15, 2023By Tags: ,

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