In Honolulu, Hawaii, Glen Tomlinson looks at the pictures of the World War II veterans hanging on the wall of his Brewseum and Home of the Brave Brewing Co. and has one thought: “I can’t let these guys down,” he said.
Tomlinson’s family has given tours to nearby Pearl Harbor and other historic sites around Oahu since 1991. As part of the tour he would include visits to the Brewseum which is outfitted with all types of World War II-era memorabilia, including a 1942 Army Jeep used in the movie Pearl Harbor, a Japanese rifle, old military uniforms, medals and treasure chest of wartime photos, including hundreds of veterans of the Second World War.
He added a brewery to the operation in 2009 — first contract brewing then adding its own one-barrel electric brewing system –to give the place an added attraction. In 2014, a full style brewpub was added next door.
But the end of the military base tours and lack of parking at the Brewseum and are threatening to turn lights out on his operation.“I’m looking for someone, something to save us,” said Tomlinson, who can tell a story behind almost every artifact and picture in the two-story Brewseum and Home of the Brave Brewing Co. The fantastic stories he tells with gusto make his museum special and entertaining, and make learning about the war fun.
“This place is about keeping their memories alive and all their incredible stories of bravery,” said Tomlinson, 56, whose uncle and dad both served in the military and have their pictures hung prominently on the wall. Over 100,000 veterans have visited the Brewseum since it opened.
In a city where World War II comes back to life at nearby Pearl Harbor, the Brewseum is about more than the war. It’s the brave young men who won it. With dwindling numbers of World War II vets still alive, Tomlinson said it’s museums like this that keep their story going to the next generation of Americans who remember the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack but who only vaguely know anything about Dec. 7, 1941 and the heroic men and women who answered the call from that surprise attack.
The Brewseum is a hidden gem in every sense of the word. All the items in the museum were donated from veterans or their families as a way of sharing their experience. “I don’t want these stories forgotten,” Tomlinson said.
Inspired by stories of Pearl Harbor veterans who he met while working for another tour group, Tomlinson opened the Brewseum in 1991 as part of his family’s own tour operation to historic WWII sites on Oahu including Battleship Missouri, USS Arizona and National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Each tour finished at the Brewseum where many on the tour—including veterans- would come to tell their own personal stories and experiences from the war and life in the Pacific.
Due to heightened security, Tomlinson no longer offers the military base tours but the private museum is still open with a secret upstairs speakeasy/tiki bar as is the brewpub next door most nights.There, not only can you learn about military history at the Brewseum, but there’s also the history of beer in the Hawaiian Islands which dates to 1812.
Home of the Brave typically offers a couple of house made beers along with a selection of other craft beer. Their flagship Pilot Pale Ale was developed in 2009 along with Remember Pearl Harbor 70th Anniversary Commemorative Dark Lager. Then came 442 Go for Broke IPA, which honors Hawaii’s local heroes who fought in World War II.
Every beer has a story and a homemade tap handle. The Zamperini Extra Special Bitter honors Louis Zamperini who was featured in the bestselling book and movie Unbroken. For the holidays, they have Tannenbaum Ale Spice Beer to remember how on a cold Christmas in 1944, a group of lost and injured American and German soldiers put down their guns in a truce to share a small hunting cottage with a young boy and his mother.
The brewpub, which looks like a World War II style officers club, serves pretzels and popcorn and other snacks. Flights of beer are served on a mini propeller wing. Overhead, model bomber planes circle the room on an old fashioned brass and wood pulley system. Along one wall are 1940s style telephones. When their receivers are picked up, you can listen to real archival radio transmissions made during the war.
Home of the Brave has ties with several craft breweries, including Maui Brewing, which used to make beer for Home of the Brave, and Durango Brewing Co. where Tomlinson’s son, Baron, now works as sales and marketing director.
Among the many collectibles, it’s the faces of veterans – as young and older men – that grab you. Forrest Glenn, radio man, USS Wisconsin, 1943-46. Wayne Duncan, USAF 1939-1971, President Coolidge Troop Ship, Retired Lt. Col. Martin Maude, Army Air Corp 1942-1945, Truck Driver.
These tales of heroism and other exploits of life during World War II deserve a place like the Brewseum where tourists and residents can keep their memories alive everyday, and best enjoyed with a cold brew.
Phil Galewitz has been writing about the the craft brewing industry in the Mid-Atlantic states since 2011. He lives in Washington D.C. and South Florida. Twitter: @philgalewitz Instagram: Philmorebeer. He visits over 300 breweries a year across the United States.