Hinano, Tahiti’s national beer, was born in the heart of the South Pacific and has a great deal of history and culture behind it. It was first created in 1955 and launched during the Heiva I Tahiti in July (then known as the Tiurai festival). Since this year’s Heiva I Tahiti is going on right now, we thought we’d crack open a beer with you and share the story behind the Hinano we all know and love.
Hinano has been around for nearly 60 years. It was created in 1955 and launched by Yves Martin during the island’s annual festival, Heiva I Tahiti. Soon after, it achieved international recognition and expanded its distribution to China in 1960, Japan in 1991, and France in 1992.
Today, Hinano is known for being a deluxe lager with a light, golden color and a slightly bitter taste. It’s made with 5.0% alcohol content and brewed at a highly advanced production site in the Punaruu Valley of Tahiti, Brasserie de Tahiti. This advanced technology guarantees its quality; and Hinano was even awarded with a Gold Medal at the Luxembourg International Beer Awards in Brussels in 1993.
Although we recommend trying Hinano for the first time when you’re in Tahiti, you can also find it in England, France, Japan, Wallis and Futuna, New Caledonia, Hawaii and California.
The art on Hinano’s label was first designed in 1953 by a Swedish artist named Pierre Heyman. It featured the now-famous vahine (Tahitian for “woman” or “girl”) and was initially engraved on each glass bottle. A few years later, the symbol was adapted by Pierre Pothier and printed on the first paper label in 1957.
Since then, this iconic logo has gone through a number of slight modifications, but the basic design has remained the same since its inception. The latest update was in 2005, marking the 50th anniversary of the beer. In addition, the labels or cans themselves often change for special events. Over the years, Hinano has released a range of collector bottles and cans, including designs for the Heiva I Tahiti — the event responsible for first launching the brand.
Hinano is actually the name of a white, tropical flower that comes from the male Pandanus plant. Indigenous to the South Pacific, this palm-like tree has a very distinctive appearance because of its thick, spreading roots that are visible above the soil. The leaves of the plant are frequently woven into items such as hats and baskets; but most notably, they are used to construct the roofs of most overwater bungalows in the region.
In addition, Hinano is one of the most popular first names used in French Polynesia. When Yves Martin was seeking a name for his beer, he wanted a Polynesian word that was easy to say in most common languages (i.e. Tahitian, French and English), so he opted for the name Hinano.
Hinano even has a theme song dedicated to the brand. “Oe Hinano,” which originated in 1955 when the beer first launched, boasts the lyrics: “Hinano, Hinano, it’s the beer we need.” The song was composed by Yves Roche and originally performed by Alain Mottel. Here’s a version by the Tahitian group, Tamarii Punaruu:
Here’s also a modified version of “Oe Hinano” from 1989, performed by singer Andy Tupaia:
In 2005, to coincide with the beer’s 50th anniversary, the company hosted the “Oe Hinano” Song Contest, giving professional and amateur singers the opportunity to remake the original version of the song. The grand prize was awarded to a local group named Les Métis, which consisted of two girls from Tahiti’s peninsula area. Their version of the song, however, is not available online.
Beyond the beer, Hinano has become a complete lifestyle brand in Tahiti, with a line of inspired clothing and apparel for both men and women. The brand sponsors a number of athletes and events and is very much integrated into the everyday life and culture of French Polynesia.
Even though you can try Hinano in other parts of the world, we recommend drinking it first in Tahiti. The flavor is only enhanced by the environment you’re in, and Hinano was meant to be enjoyed on a tropical beach or a private “motu” while watching the sunset or enjoying an afternoon in the sun. From there on out, the flavor will forever remind you of your time in paradise.