Photo Credit | Chrys Rynearson and CHSbeer.org
The Charleston region is home to innovative products, savvy startups, record-setting structures and some of the best food in America—but did you know the region is now also becoming a cluster for more “spirited” products?
Charleston’s spirits and craft beer culture may have gotten its official start in 1994, when South Carolina’s “beer-ioneer,” Palmetto Brewery was the first microbrewery to open in the Charleston region since Prohibition. But major changes have been made since then…
In 2009, South Carolina passed legislation that lowered the annual licensing fee for distilleries from $50,000 to $2,500, in addition to lifting the ban on on-site tastings and sales. Last year, Governor Nikki Haley signed the South Carolina “Pint Bill” which allows brewers to serve up to 48 ounces (3 pints) of beer to a customer while on-site.
Consequently, craft breweries and distilleries are growing rapidly. Charleston offers access to local South Carolina ingredients, homebrewing stores like Yeast in Mount Pleasant and Beer Engineer Supply in North Charleston, as well as a climate and culture ideal for creating high quality craft spirits and beers. The best local resource to learn more is: chsbeer.org/.
Here are a few highlights of this fast growing industry:
- World’s First Sweet Tea Vodka – Made on Wadmalaw Island, Firefly Distillery is responsible for the world’s first hand-crafted sweet tea flavored vodka. Made with real tea and real cane sugar, the distillery is committed to using local ingredients—the tea, for example, is grown at the Charleston Tea Plantation located five miles from the distillery, and happens to be the only tea garden in North America.
- Extreme Brewing – “Imperial Doughnut Break” and “Spicy Nachos” are just two examples of the many wildly-flavored craft beers created by Denmark-based Evil Twin. Both the international Evil Twin and its Mount Pleasant-based contracting partner, Westbrook Brewing, were recently featured in the New York Times. In the same full-flavored tradition, Holy City Brewery makes unique brews in its North Charleston warehouse, such as “Biscuits n’ Honey” and the “Notorious P.I.G.,” a bacon-flavored smoked porter that was featured in Food Network Magazine.
- Community Revitalization – COAST Brewing and Freehouse Brewing, both located in North Charleston, are part of the city’s ongoing economic diversification from a military town to a community with a variety of high wage industries and occupations. The Old Village neighborhood has been revitalized as a cultural hub for young professionals, entrepreneurs and families. COAST Brewing is situated across from Noisette Creek on the former Navy Base while Freehouse Brewing overlooks the Ashley River, where WWII ships once docked nearby.
It is little wonder that the Charleston region’s beer and spirits industry is now matching what the New York Times calls “One of the Great Eating Towns of the South.”