Some things are inevitable. Time passes. Seasons change. Plants grow. More breweries pop up in the Lowcountry. The latest additions to the ever-climbing number of local breweries are Tradesman Brewing Co. and Revelry Brewing Co., bringing our current total to eight breweries.
Tradesman is a family business in the truest since. Owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of Scott and Sara Gayle McConnell, Tradesman began after the McConnells spent five years mastering the art of home brewing. After they dabbled with extracts and kits for a year, they began to come up with their own recipes. They even began milling their own grains. When Scott began to eyeball a career change, the pair started to take idea of opening their brewery seriously.
Even with six operating breweries in the area at the time, no one had set up shop on James Island, the couple's home turf. The McConnells found a listing on Tatum Street, right off Folly Road, with a modest storefront and warehouse space for brewing. In April, Tradesman Brewing opened its doors to the public.
The McConnell's have instilled Tradesman with a working-class vibe, from the brand's wrench-adorned logo to the names of the beers themselves. Scott says their aim is to "celebrate the people that built this country and really make it work," a noble cause indeed. Of the nine beers released so far, the names include Bricklayer's Red Ale, Circuit Breaker IPA, and Pipe Wrench Porter. There's no ambiguity, no ironic winking, just beer named for tradesmen. If you're looking to escape hipster-dipped irony, this brewery may be the place for you.
Not unlike the names, the brewery's styles are largely traditional, with a "new and refreshing look ... and a few twists and turns along the way," as Sara Gayle puts it. Their mission is to elevate brews like red ale and porter above the more extreme craft beers on which many of today's breweries hang their hats. At the Tradesman, an agave wheat ale and a farmhouse ale brewed with figs are their funkiest offerings so far. Beyond that, the tasting room's suggestion board gives patrons a chance to have some input on the process.
Future plans for the Tradesman include building a kitchen to take advantage of the Stone Law's lifting of on-premise serving limits, adding larger tanks, and bottling their concoctions. For now they're draft-only and available at a few spots around town. If you really want the goods, pay them a visit at 1639 Tatum St., Tues.-Fri. from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Sat. from 12-8 p.m.
Meanwhile, over at 10 Conroy St. (between Meeting and Morrison), Revelry is only the second brewery to set up shop downtown. The trio of proprietors, Ryan Coker, Jay Daratony, and Sean Fleming, had originally planned to open shop on Johns Island, but they ultimately settled on the peninsula. Fleming spied an affordable spot in an area they never dreamed they could afford, a "perfect compromise" as Ryan puts it. Things got even better when they realized the pre-existing kitchen on their property allowed them to take advantage of the Stone Law after a quick DHEC inspection.
So far, Revelry has been brewing on a one-barrel system, making them a "nano-brewery" in production terms, but a 10-barrel system is already on site and they're getting ever closer to using it. That said, the starter system has not held brewer Ryan Coker back. Roughly 15 beers have been released during their pop-up tasting hours, and he has "maybe 50 more recipes that are tried and true" waiting in the wings. Starting on a one-barrel system has allowed Revelry to develop a deep bench before taking the plunge into 10-barrel waters.
Coker describes himself as "half mad scientist, half kooky artist," a dichotomy that describes his profession well. For the brewer, recipe development is an exercise in reverse engineering, as he moves from the desired result to what flavor components could be utilized to achieve the result to what style and technique he needs to apply to bring that concept to life. Coker says, "Brewing is cooking, for the first part at least."
Long-term sights are set on packaging, expansion, and other tasks, but for now the Revelry crew is proud to be bringing their business, three-years-in-the-making, to life. If you're looking to pay Revelry a visit, keep your eyes on their social media accounts. Although construction delays have held back their 10-barrel brewhouse, limiting their production, they've hosted periodic pop-ups whenever they've had enough beer on hand, generally on random Fridays or Saturdays from 4-10 p.m. When the new system gets up and running, the brewery will begin establishing regular business hours, likely six or seven days a week.
You may ask, as some people have, "Are eight breweries too many?" There are certainly folks betting against that notion. Fat Pig Brewing is on the cusp of getting established, after already collaborating with Tradesman on a few beers. Other startups like Ghost Monkey Brewery, Hungryneck Brewing Co., Oak Road Brewery, and Olde Charlestowne Brewing Co. already have a web presence.
"There is plenty of room in the sandbox for others at the moment," says Coker. "The catch is going to be who can continue to provide an innovative, consistent, quality product."