Wednesday, June 29, 2011

South Carolina Brewery Map and Trailies

If you drive from West to East in South Carolina, it will take you about 8 hours to get to every brewery. Realistically, and of course if you have a driver, you could probably do the first three in one day. Then you could visit the four Charleston area breweries over two days. And finally, you could enjoy New South all by itself and then relax on the beach while you bask in your newly gained brewing knowledge.

Here's the list of the breweries:
A - Thomas Creek
B - RJ Rockers
C - Skull Coast
D - Holy City
F - Palmetto
G - Westbrook
H - New South

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Most Creative Beer Styles: Skull Coast Ale Company. They like nuts. I have no idea when or how you add nuts during the brewing process, but they make an almond pale ale, and a porter with macadamia nuts, so they must grasp the concept.
Best Beer Name: Fish Paralyzer, RJ Rockers. I haven't been able to discern the origin of it's name, but I imagine that a pet fish drank too much of it and thought he could jump out of the tank, only to come up short, hit the edge, and paralyze himself. Somewhere there is a fish in a wheel chair that despises RJ Rockers.
Most Interesting Beer: White Thai, Westbrook Brewing. I'll definitely be trying this beer the next time I'm in Charleston, or if it somehow miraculously gets shipped to my front door....
Best Label: HopArt IPA, COAST Brewing. Brewers generally have a love affair with the hop flower. There's no doubting that it can get weird and border on psychopathic obsession, but in this case, I think it's an homage. Also, do I see a pirate down there on the bottom row?

The Palmetto State is an up and comer in the craft beer landscape. On top of creating quality brews, the  breweries there are also embracing the concept of green brewing. None of them have too large of a distribution footprint, but if you are in the Carolinas or Georgia anytime soon, be sure to throw back a couple  South Carolina brews. Next up is a drive back up the East coast to New Hampshire.

Monday, June 27, 2011

South Carolina Breweries in Planning

After my first post this month, I emailed Westbrook Brewery to find out more information about their White Thai beer. One of the owners responded and she told me how they came up with the recipe. Here is the story she told me;
It's funny that you asked about the White Thai! The White Thai is a whit bier, but with a fun twist. We used lemon grass, Sorachi Ace hops, and ginger instead of the traditional orange peel and coriander. The reason I say it's funny you asked about it, is because this is one of our home brewing recipes! This is probably more info than you want to know, but here is it's story:
Edward and I were making (Thai) curry one night and he was talking about what beer we would pair with our dinner. At the time, I loathed IPAs (What was I thinking?! Don't worry, I grew out of it!). He kept insisting IPA was the best beer to pair with dinner. I was begging Edward, "There has to be something else that would be good and not hoppy!". I was peeling the ginger and he and I glanced out the kitchen window and saw the large lemon grass bush growing there. We cut it down, saved the ginger for brewing, and there you have it! A beer that is completely versatile and great for the Charleston summer heat!”
So, they changed the general whit beer formula and used lemon grass and ginger instead. I’ve yet to have the White Thai, but she assured me that it was “bad ass.” So, their creativity paid off in this case. 
But coming up with a great recipe and then brewing it is not always that easy. They were homebrewing for six years before they started their brewery. Over that time I’m sure they came up with a bunch of different recipes for other beers that they didn’t quite like as much. But they kept experimenting, learned from some of the other breweries in Charleston and since they were doing what was exciting to them and what they were passionate about they cared enough to make sure it succeeded. One of them even went to grad school to get the business side of things down. They work a lot, but they have fun doing it, and that’s something I think everyone has the desire to do. Check out Westbrook if you are ever in South Carolina. They have been really interesting to talk to.
I think it’s great to find people with such passion about something that they are willing to give it a try, even though others might be saying “why don’t you just get a job at x,” or “that sounds like it’s pretty risky.” Yesterday at the Manayunk Arts Festival right here where I live we happened to stop in the booth of a guy who made bow-ties. Within two minutes I could tell that he truly loved making bow ties. He was saying stuff like “we need to figure out how you are feeling and what statement you want to make with these bow-ties.” And he was asking specific questions about people in an honest effort to find them the right bow tie. He couldn’t have cared less about the money that he would make if the person bought a bow tie. He just really wanted to find a bow tie to fit each person's personality. The guy was awesome. I’m thinking about emailing him and asking him to be my life coach or something. 

But it's not just that guy or Westbrook Brewing that are passionate. There are thousands of breweries in the U.S. trying to make true quality beer. One of the newest is Holy City Brewing, which is located in North Charleston and is the only brewery that I could find in South Carolina that is currently in the planning stages. They were established this year and for now they will have two year rounds, with one rotating seasonal. The year rounds are Holy City Pilsner and Pluff Mud Porter. Pluff Mud is a local term for the mud in the marshes. Holy City is planning on becoming a self-sustainable brewery, so I asked them what that meant. What they said was that they are starting out by using a bio-diesel fueled burner, recapturing as much water as possible, using a hot water tank, and recycling their spent grains by donating them to local farmers. That's a good start and they said that they will do what they can to get closer to full self-sustainability.
There may be more, but I was able to find eleven brew pubs in South Carolina, most lacking a full website, so we'll pass this month. Later this week, I'll post the brewery map for South Carolina, I'll hand out some Trailies, and I may have some loose ends to tie up. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

South Carolina - Breweries and Road Trips

The northern part of South Carolina is known as Upstate, while the areas around Charleston are called Low Country. Three of the remaining four breweries in South Carolina are Upstate, and the fourth is in Myrtle Beach, which is not really recognized as either, but probably wants to be part of both.

Thomas Creek Brewery, Greenville:
Founded in 1998, they make 8 beers. Their mottos are "Sink the Status Quo" and "Don't Be Typical." Slightly redundant, but maybe they are from Myrtle Beach and just couldn't figure out which one they liked best. They are distributed to 5 states in the Southeast. Their labels are simple which can be good or bad. I do like the "Up the Creek" Extreme IPA label. It's a guy in a kayak going through rapids, and he has just lost his paddle. He probably had one or two of those beers, which are 12.5% ABV, before he started kayaking. I was just reading on Daily Beer Review that Thomas Creek is now contract brewing a new Cuban Style Ale for Bacardi. It is called Cerveza Hatuey and Beer Drinker Rob over at DBR was at the first tasting so check his site out if you want to know more about it. It sounds like it's only going to be in South Florida for now, so if you are there and happen to see it, you'll know that it actually came from a microbrewery in SC.

RJ Rockers Brewing, Spartanburg:
"Handcrafted. Every beer. Every drop. Every time." They take this seriously, as they say that their owner is involved in every batch. I've just started to see RJ Rockers up here in PA. They don't list it on their site as a state they distribute to (CT, GA, OH, TN, DE, MD, NC, SC, VA, and DC are listed.) They might just be lagging a little behind on their website updating, although it's more likely that I'm breaking the news of a large scale, mob run, craft beer black market that is allowing us to enjoy RJ Rockers in the Keystone State. You heard it here first. They started as a brewpub in 1997 and became a full brewery in 2002. Similarly to the other breweries in SC, they are very environmentally conscious. They make upwards of 25,000 barrels a year of their 11 beers using water that is preheated by a solar energy system. So far I've had the Bell Ringer IPA and the Son of a Peach, which I was pleasantly surprised by. It didn't have an overwhelming amount of peach flavor and it was really smooth. They also have a Belgian Pale Ale called the Fish Paralyzer. I'll dig into the origins of the name, but in the meantime go enjoy a Rocker.

Skull Coast Ale Company, Fort Mill:
Another pirate themed brewery. "Drink Life Unfiltered" is their slogan and they have pretty cool labels. They don't have too much information, but what they did have intrigued me. The three beers they had listed sound pretty interesting. The Maelstrom IPA is made with seven different hops varieties. The Gallows Point Dead Man's Porter is made with real chocolate and macadamia nuts. But the one that I'm really interested to try is the Scallywag Extra Pale Ale. It's an almond pale ale made with real almonds. I've never had an almond beer, but I eat them every day. Hopefully my work will let me substitute a couple Scallywags in place of my usual 9:45 almond snack. They are distributed in bars and restaurants all over NC and SC.

New South Brewing, Myrtle Beach:
These guys were draft only from their inception as a brewery in 1998 until November of 2009 when they started canning their White Ale, which is an American/Belgian wheat. They say that canning is "more portable, better for the environment, and most importantly, better for the beer." They make six beers, none of which had a label posted on the website, most likely because they are only available on draft. They distribute to SC and NC. If you can't get their beer where you live, you can at least download one of the several desktop wallpapers that are available on their website. They have nothing to do with beer and don't have the brewery's logo or name on them. Slightly weird. Almost like their computer got a virus and they can't figure out how to get rid of that one part of their site.

Road Trips:
Like I said, I've only been to Myrtle Beach and to Charleston, so I don't have a whole wealth of experience to base my recommendations off of. However, if you are planning a trip to South Carolina and you like beer, you cannot miss out on Charleston. I'm sure that you can find beer from every SC brewery on tap at at least one of the many bars and restaurants downtown. From downtown you can walk to the East Bay neighborhood to see Rainbow Row and the park along the water, or go the other way and walk around the College of Charleston. There are plenty of choices for food in Charleston, but if you want a classy southern dinner, try Magnolia's.

On our way back north we drove through the Francis Marion National Forest. Think backwoods, and then double what you were thinking. That's half as backwoods as this stretch of South Carolina is. I don't know if it's in my blood to be intrigued with areas where it's quiet and calm, or if it's because I have always lived in really busy, congested areas, but I love driving through places like that and trying to put myself in the shoes of the people that live there. It is a nice drive. No traffic whatsoever. Plus, if you go this way, you can drive through Myrtle Beach.

Next week I'll talk about the one brewery in planning and follow up on a few things I've left open from the last two weeks. Hopefully I'll find out how Fish Paralyzer got it's name.

Monday, June 13, 2011

South Carolina - Breweries and Music

Charleston seems to be the epicenter of culture in South Carolina, so I'll start with the breweries in and around the city. The one time I was in Charleston, I failed to try any of these beers, so hopefully within the next year or so, I can get back down there and sample them all.

COAST Brewing, Noisette. Charleston has an environmentally friendly vibe to it and COAST is definitely part of that. They are located in a sustainable community in North Charleston, about 7 or 8 miles outside of downtown Charleston. They use organic and local ingredients whenever possible, and brew their 17 beers in a biodiesel-fired brew kettle. I know a few people that run their cars on biodisel and their exhaust always smells like french fries, so I wonder how the brewery smells, or if they have a good way of containing the smell. Their slogan is perfect for a beach town; "Slow Down, Relax and Enjoy Life...And a Good Beer. Good Surf too.." I really like the Warhol inspired HopArt IPA label art. Also, as someone who really likes a heavier smoother beer, I would like to try the Porter, Smoked. It's brewed with malt that is smoked with cherry wood and has low bitterness. Right up my alley. They have been brewing since 2007 and are available all over North and South Carolina.

Palmetto Brewing, Charleston. Open since 1994, they are the oldest brewery in the Charleston area and as such, their slogan is "Charleston's Original Beer." The original Palmetto Brewing operated from right before the Civil War to the early part of the 20th century. The new Palmetto makes four beers which are distributed in the greater Charleston and Hilton Head areas. They make an Amber, Pale Ale, Lager, and Porter. Each label features a Palmetto tree and different background colors depending on the beer. Pretty basic artwork, but not offensively bad. As long as the beer tastes good, I'm cool with it.

Westbrook Brewing, Mount Pleasant. The newest addition to the Charleston beer scene, they began production in December of last year. Their website says that they are still tweaking their recipes to try to reproduce some of their previous successful homebrews on a larger scale. It looks like they have a really nice tasting room, and they are available in South Carolina. They make three year rounds; an IPA, a Belgian Pale, and what they call a White Thai, as well as 1 seasonal and 3 specials. I was interested to see what exactly the White Thai was, so I emailed them. Hopefully in my SC wrap up post, I'll tell the story behind that beer and get into a few more beers/breweries on a more in-depth scale.

I enjoy many types of music and South Carolina lets me indulge in both country music and indie rock. Here are two of my favorites from the Palmetto State.

Hootie. Everybody knows him and I don't know anyone that didn't at least tap along to Only Wanna Be With You back in the 90's. I still do. Now, under what I can only assume is a stage name because country fans wouldn't accept his real name of Hootie Andtheblowfish, Darius Rucker is back to making good music. It could be classified as pop country, which I generally detest, but he's got a great sound and his lyrics are honest and not overly corny. His newest album is called Charleston, 1966 because he is from Charleston and he was either born in 1966 or he has 1966 cars because he is filthy rich. 
Band of Horses has become one of my favorite bands, and they are now based out of Charleston as well. Ben Bridwell, the lead singer, grew up in South Carolina, but formed Band of Horses in Seattle before they moved back East recently. My wife thinks his voice is too high, so I went through their 32 songs off of all three records and found every song in which I thought his voice was at an acceptable octave.  I found 11. So, ok, he likes to sing a little high. You’ll get over it when you listen to the music because it's awesome. I've heard a lot of people compare it to My Morning Jacket, but I find it to be much different. The lyrics can be hard to hear and the meanings even harder to really figure out, but once you love their music, you’ll go check out the lyrics and read your own meaning into them. Which I’m pretty sure is the point of most music.

Next week, the rest of the breweries and some places you have to check out if you are in South Carolina.

Monday, June 6, 2011

#8 - South Carolina, "The Palmetto State" - Intro

I've been to South Carolina twice in my life, not counting the time my family passed through on the family driving vacation to Disney World that pretty much any East Coast family does at some point. The first time I went was after I graduated high school. I spent a week in Myrtle Beach with my friends. I don't think I ventured farther than a mile from the house we were staying in. I'm sure I went to the beach every day, but I remember very little about the sand and ocean. Instead I have fond memories of beer-amids, broken kitchen tables, and beach-tricycle gangs. Someone please remind me in like 20 years to never let my teenage children out of the house.

My second visit to SC was last year. My wife and I drove through Columbia from Charlotte and spent one night in Charleston, and I would have been perfectly content just staying there and never coming back. We both loved it. The weather was great, the town has a ton of charm, and the food was awesome. We will definitely be going back.

Beer Stats for South Carolina:
# of Breweries: 8
# of Brew Pubs: 10
# of Planned Breweries: 1
Population: 4.6 million (24th largest)
Notable Cities: Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach
# of interesting sights I saw in between the major cities on my drive last year: 0. It's as if the only people that live in rural south carolina are some hybrid between hillbillies and the Navy Seals. They love living in the woods, don't farm, and blend in so well that you don't know they exist until they're right behind you and they are holding a weapon. I've never been mugged in South Carolina, I just assume that if you stumble onto the property of one of these Hillbilly Seals, you automatically end up with a firearm pointed in your vicinity.

After reading over the South Carolina laws pertaining to alcohol production and consumption, I found far fewer crazy antiquated beer laws than I thought I would. I had read somewhere that the ABV is limited to 6% for beers produced in SC, but I wasn't able to find that in the laws, so maybe that was a recent change for the better. The only interesting law I found is that Brew Pubs are limited to a maximum of two thousand barrels per year to sell at their restaurant. I have no idea if that is enough to sustain and grow a restaurant business, but I did see a relatively large number of brew pubs during my search that had closed in the last few years, so maybe that restriction held some of them back.

South Carolina doesn't have a huge brewery contingency, but it's fairly respectable. Of the nine full fledged breweries, four are in or near Charleston. Fort Mill, Greenville, Myrtle Beach, Spartanburg, and Hilton Head each have one apiece. I've only had beer from one of the breweries and that was only this past weekend. I'll have to see if I can seek some out before finishing this month.

Next week I'll be giving some music recommendations and writing about 4 or 5 breweries, including COAST Brewing, which seems to be a local favorite in Charleston.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Gonna Change My Format

So, I'm changing my format. It only took me over 6 months to figure out that really long blog posts are really boring. Plus, no one remembers where your blog is if you only post once a month. So, I'm going to try to cover the same material, but do it once a week so that it's not as much to read all at once and so I'm not editing for like 3 hours on the day I want to post.

I'm going to try to do 5 posts a month.

  1. Any updates from previous states/ Intro to the new state.
  2. Profiles of the first half of the state's breweries / Music I like from that state.
  3. Profile of the second half of the state's breweries / Road trips that might be cool near the breweries.
  4. Breweries in planning / Any cool brew pubs / Any extended profiles of breweries or beers that I like.
  5. Map of the breweries / Trailies
If this change sounds either awesome or terrible, leave me a comment and let me know. If you don't care either way because you don't read what I write anyway, continue your indifference and don't leave me a comment.