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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The top Charleston beer stories of 2014

Awards and expansion were the name of the game for local breweries this year

Posted by Timmons Pettigrew on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 10:46 AM

Palmetto Brewery updated packaging this year - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Palmetto Brewery updated packaging this year
As years of beer go, 2014 was a big one for Charleston. Here’s a look at some of the top stories, reported in no particular order.

The Laws, They Are A-Changing
The big one here is the Stone Law, which hit the South Carolina books over the summer. We ultimately did not land Stone Brewing, the law’s unofficial namesake, (the California company is setting up East Coast operations in Virginia), but that was only a fraction of the reason for the push. Breweries that have a DHEC-certified kitchen can now ignore the pesky three-pint, state-imposed limit for on-premise beer sales and also serve guest beers. Holy City was the first to take advantage of this, with Revelry following shortly behind and Palmetto well on the way.

At the local level, Charleston County’s zoning laws were amended, so breweries are now welcome to set up shop on commercial property. Sounds minor, but this opens up a plethora of land for new operations to spring up. And oh, do we have new operations…

Neweries
Two production breweries came online in 2014. Tradesman Brewing is the first brewery to open on James Island, and Revelry Brewing is only the second to open on the peninsula (alongside the stalwart Palmetto). Edmund’s Oast notably joined the brewpub ranks as well. This brings the local brewpub count up to three, and production brewery tally up to eight, and counting. Breweries-in-planning that already have an online presence include Fat Pig, Ghost Monkey, Good & Evil, Lo-Fi, and Oak Road, among others we probably haven’t heard of yet.

Nice Package
Holy City got into the canning game with Chucktown Follicle Brown and has since canned Pluff Mud Porter, Washout Wheat, and Bowens Island Oyster Stout. COAST just recently busted into the package game with 16-ounce cans of their flagships, 32/50 Kölsch and HopArt IPA. Palmetto has completely rebranded their labels and six-pack holders after 20 years. Freehouse released their first 750mL bottles. All this makes for wider availability of local beer, especially in retail settings, and easier distribution further away from the source. As an added bonus, we now get the warm fuzzies when we go to Bi-Lo.

All of the Expansion
The short story here is that everyone is growing, basically all the time. COAST’s long-awaited expansion has vastly improved their capacity, and we’re already reaping the benefit by seeing the beer on tap more often. Frothy Beard, Holy City, and Westbrook have tacked on more tanks. Revelry almost immediately left the “nano-brewery” moniker in the dust with the installation of a 10bbl system. Palmetto’s snazzy new wood-clad tasting room opened to the public. It’s almost like people are thirsty or something.

We’re on Award Tour
Holy City once again brought home a medal from the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colo., following up on their 2012 Gold Medal for Pluff Mud and a Bronze for Washout Wheat. The Charleston Beer Exchange remained in the top spot for U.S. bottle shops in the annual RateBeer Best Awards. Westbrook also did well with RateBeer, winning Top S.C Brewery and Top S.C. Beer for Mexican Cake; scoring world-rankings for Dark Helmet, Gose, and Gozu; and landing a spot in the Top 100 Brewers in the World. Meanwhile, Westbrook's Gose seemed to pop up everywhere, from Thrillist to Esquire.

Timmons Pettigrew is the author of Charleston Beer: A High-Gravity History of Lowcountry Brewing, and Co-Founder/Editor of CHSBeer.org. Follow him on Twitter @CHSBeer

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