When the Pig reaches for a cold one this summer, he'll likely grab one of the two newly released Pig Swig varieties now available at local Piggly Wiggly stores.
Stacks of the blue-plaid and red-plaid six-packs of Pig Swig showed up at the Sea Island Shopping Center Piggly Wiggly last week, and it wasn't clear whether the name of the beer coincidentally resembled the name of the store — no store logo could be found on the labels — but it was no coincidence. Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. had indeed released its own line of beer.
The idea took shape under the efforts of Nick Long, Piggly Wiggly's local beer and wine category manager, and Christopher Ibsen, the Pig's director of marketing.
"We've been talking about doing something like this for about two years now, and we felt like this was the right time," says Long. "We knew that there had been other retailers who'd tried private label beers and failed. It's a tough thing, because you debate whether to go super-high quality and kind of blow the price point out of the water or do you do more mainstream and lean toward the domestic side."
The company commissioned the Thomas Creek Brewery in Greenville to brew and package the Pig Pen Pilsner with a blue label and the Pig Tail Ale with a red label.
"We wanted it to be a local brewery. Piggly Wiggly has its roots in Charleston, and it's a South Carolina company, so wanted it to stay as local as possible. We liked what Thomas Creek was doing, and they were excited to be a part of it."
Long and Ibsen tried several recipes devised by Thomas Creek brewmaster Tom Davis before settling on the lager and ale. Long says they'll consider doing seasonals and different styles down the road as well.
"I think they nailed it. They're approachable from every aspect for all beer drinkers, but they also stand out as craft beers, and they definitely fall in that niche. We won't fit everyone's flavor profile, but I'm confident in these beers. They're both very, very drinkable."
Available for $7.99 per six-pack, the company calls Pig Swig "a high-quality craft beer at a great price." Very pale-golden in color, the Pig Pen Pilsner (4.5 percent a.b.v.) is light-bodied and light on malt flavor, with a hint of hop spiciness in the aroma and flavor. It finishes a bit dry and fast for the style. Slightly fuller in body and malt flavor, the Pig Tail Ale (5.5 percent a.b.v.) is amber/copper in color with a toasty, caramel malt aroma and a brown sugary, malty flavor. Compared to other current microbrews aiming for the same classic styles, these two offerings seem a little reserved, unassertive, and unremarkable, but the flavors are clean and the novelty of the grocery store brand is cute. They're both perfectly suitable for warm weather sessions.