Let's be clear: Edmund's Oast is not starving for attention. The Morrison Drive hot spot is just over a year old, and their praises have already been sung from sea to shining sea. From Imbibe to Eater, The Washington Post to The New York Times, the press loves to talk up Edmund's food, cocktails, and unhinged beer selection. However, something often gets lost in this flurry of well-deserved fluffery: it's a brewpub. The food literati may gush about everything else, but some folks forget that a rotating selection of fine house-brewed beers sits atop the draft menu.
Like any brewpub in South Carolina, Edmund's house-brewed beers aren't available for sale outside of the eatery's four walls. While their 40-plus taps showcase a number of weird rarities that'll keep the most seasoned beer folks guessing, the house-brewed options are available for an affordable $5-$7 a pour. And we're not talking about corporate brew-pub throwaways, either. This is beer worth seeking out.
Cameron Read is the man responsible for all things liquid at Edmund's. You might even say the brewery is his brainchild.
A native of Anderson, S.C. Read caught a permanent case of home-brew fever in college and took his first crack at the industry as a server at Southend Brewery & Smokehouse on East Bay. He was able to do some brewing there, but it wasn't a great fit. Meanwhile, co-owners Scott Shor and Rich Carley opened the Charleston Beer Exchange a few blocks away, and Read quickly befriended them. Later, after helping CBX with some of the original Ted's Butcherblock beer dinners, Read made his way to Greenville to open and manage the Greenville Beer Exchange. As the idea for Edmund's Oast picked up steam, Read was brewing pilot batches in his mom's garage in Anderson. Today he's the director of beverage operations for the Morrison Drive pub.
Although Edmund's opened in February 2014, six months passed before the on-site brewery was operational due to some technical issues. During that time, six of Read's recipes were brewed in single 15-barrel batches at Westbrook Brewery Co. This also gave Read time to make sure the rest of the beverage program was running smoothly.
Today, 30 batches have been brewed at Edmund's Oast, covering approximately 15 different styles. Those beers have occasionally been interspersed with an aged version of one of the original six batches. "Golden Child, Voodoo Child, and Dagger & Doll are all actually the same beer; they just had different barrel treatments," says Read. Golden Child is an aggressively sour blonde ale, while Voodoo Child is a bourbon barrel-aged variant and Dagger & Doll spends time in wine barrels.
As for the much-beloved sours, only one has been brewed in-house, Julian Was Here, a collaboration with Evil Twin Brewing named for a rather famous Kentucky patron of their 2015 Charleston Wine + Food Festival Signature Dinner (hint: his name rhymes with wrinkle). Two strains of Brettanomyces and an apricot addition punctuate the beer with fruity funk.
Read clearly favors beers like these, but the long fermentation time required for wild ales can be the enemy of a brew pub. A very limited capacity and a need to constantly have house beers on tap creates a need for ales fermented with regular yeast. That's where beers like Fresh to Death, a wheat IPA made with Belma hops, and the ever popular Peanut Butter and Jelly come into play.
Read describes the latter, his ode to the lunch box staple, as the beer he loves to hate. Basically, Read has to break all the rules of good brewing to make it. There are massive additions of PB2, a powdered peanut butter that is more conducive to brewing than the creamy or chunky variety. The beer is also unstable by design and will never produce a good head. Plus, Read says, "It makes the whole brewery reek of peanut butter." Technique aside, people love the stuff, have called the restaurant to see if it's on tap, and gotten angry when the answer is "no."
That balance between experimentation and people-pleasing is a delicate one, especially when it comes to the savvy drinkers that frequent Edmund's Oast. The plan from the beginning was for Read to brew completely unique beers, both for his own enjoyment and to avoid duplicating styles that local breweries were already producing in spades. That is still the goal, but Read says, "It's very difficult, if not impossible, to think of a beer concept that no one has thought of before." Along these lines, he recently brewed Viridi Rex, a double IPA bursting at the seams with tropical mango and citrus notes. It's a truly excellent version of the style, and it's garnered enough praise that another batch is already in the works. As it turns out, there is room for one more hop bomb in this town.
To keep up with production, and to preserve his sanity, Read recently brought Sebastian Los into the brewery to lend a hand. Los was already working full time at CBX, and he has started brewing part-time on top of that. Read says Los is a great fit. "He's in a unique position," says Read, praising his existing brewing skill, willingness to learn, upbringing on a farm, and the fact that they're just compatible. "It probably wouldn't work with almost any other person."
Existing Edmund's Oast patrons may have noticed a small bit of text about growlers "coming soon" on their menus. The restaurant has the empty glass containers, but for now, they literally cannot make enough beer to fill them. Read's house beers outsell everything else on the tap wall, and adding growlers to the mix would make it impossible to keep up with on-premise sales. For now, Read promises they will be hand-bottling some beer soon and offering it for sale to-go — in limited quantities, of course.